Saturday, November 5, 2011

Visit to Chail

As I stumbled sleepily out of bed on a holiday morning, my parents announce that we are visiting Chail today. "Uhh.. ehh..ok" is my sleepy response. I had not even heard of the place but sure, why not? Situated about 50km from Shimla, Chail is a hiker's delight. That's a different thing that we did no hiking there. But still, that's pretty much the only thing one should go there for because there is nothing there apart from hiking, despite what the brochures tell you. Chail does have a gossip lover's history though. 

Once upon a time in 1891, Shimla was the summer capital of the British in India and Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala had a flirtatious reputation. His heart was captivated by the daughter of Lord Kitchener, the Viceroy. Now Shimla has only one touristy road which is the Mall road. One fine evening, when she was taking a stroll at Mall road, the Maharaja either kidnapped her or eloped with her. The versions differ but that's not the point of the story. Elopement has been a standard Indian tradition which has gained approval from the Gods themselves. 
Clearly, Viceroy Kitchener was not very favourable towards the whole concept. He heard about this and was outraged. He banished Bhupinder Singh from Shimla. Since then, that spot, which is the highest point on the Mall road, has been bestowed with the name Scandal Point (no surprises there). Statue of Lala Lajpat Rai has been erected afterward here for some god-forsaken road. Still, Scandal Point is the hub of Shimla's social life. Tourists and locals lounge here in the sunshine, eat nuts and gossip merrily. Someone speaks from experience -
"The transmitters of gossip are ever at work and savory and unsavory secrets of our society are flashed to the uttermost limits of Simla with all the speed of wireless."

Now, the Maharaja was furious about his banishment. He decided to build a summer capital all for himself and so he decided upon the panoramic town of Chail which is also on a hill decidedly higher than Shimla.  And this is where we decided to go.
The much spoken about Maharaja's palace is a tourist bluff. There is a Rs.100 fee at the entrance of the uphill road and there's absolutely nothing there to see in the palace or around unless you book a room in the palace-converted-resort. People reach there, enter the palace hall, where there's nothing, and go like - "Alright. What next?" Haha! Gotcha! There's no next. The spread out gardens look pale in comparison with the lush hiking trails all around the place. The frustrated tourist then decides to eat at the restaurant there to extract some value for money. Sadly, the food ruins the mood further. Thankfully, we were forewarned by Ma (who has had many trips here) and avoided this debacle. 

Chail is home to the highest cricket ground in the world. The highest cricket ground in the world looks like this with the sporty monkeys practicing their strutting skills.

Cricket ground at Chail with the monkey

Now, we march on to 'Kali ka tibba', a name which I found risible, which is a temple on top of a hill. Constructed only 6 years ago, it's one of the cleanest and minimalist temples I have ever seen. It is also very environment friendly with solar panels installed all around for water heating and street lights. 

The Solar Panels at Kali ka Tibba

We did miss out on hiking through brilliant trails which we passed along. Someday, someday...

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