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The city of Shimla is located only 340 km from Delhi, but… It is very different from Delhi and the typical image of India as whole… 3 days in this city is exactly what I needed now! I am impressed! There are so many things in Shimla that Delhi, unfortunately, lacks…Which is strange, because Delhi is the capital, and we are used to expect the best from the capital. But…In India, everything is a bit different. Nobody here will surely call the capital as “the cleanest” or “the safest” city in the country, even opposite. In general, this post will be more of a comparison of Shimla and Delhi. Today I will write about the pros, and in a while about the cons of Shimla, according to me. So, pros:
✔️ Nature. Shimla is located high in the mountains, so it’s quite cold there, especially after Delhi, where even now – in November – there are mosquitoes and still possible to walk in T-shirts outside. Not a Siberian way cold, of course, but it was 9 degrees (Celsius) at nights, although 20 degrees in a day time – similar to my home town Krasnodar (in the south-west Russia). It even snows in Shimla in winters, but the temperature does not drop too much below zero. Shimla has normal clean air, and Delhi almost every day “leads” as the city with the dirtiest air IN THE WORLD 😒 – especially now, after the Diwali holiday – the air condition was called critical. In Shimla it doesn’t smell bad how it sometimes does in Delhi, I don’t know how about the summers, but now it doesn’t. In Shimla you can see the clear blue and high sky, beautiful clouds – in Delhi you can see only smog, unfortunately. In Shimla there are colorful sunsets – in Delhi they are rare and not that much colorful. I don’t know if there are malaria mosquitoes in Shimla, like in Delhi (malaria is curable in India, but still) but as I have mentioned above, there are no mosquitoes in Shimla now.
✔️ Infrastructure. After Delhi, to see the clean streets (of course, there is some dirt in some places, but it is so much less than in Delhi and it is more visible in the markets), dustbins (there are really very few of them in Delhi, therefore it’s dirty), benches (no, not so, REALLY MANY benches! In Delhi, they are only in parks and in shopping centers, and in Shimla there are really everywhere, on normal streets), roads where the cars are prohibited to go, and many people who walk a lot (after you know how many people in Delhi don’t like long walks – because it’s hot) is was all a complete surprise for me!
In Shimla there are no rickshaws, no Uber, no thousands of street vendors, no cars that park “where they fit”, occupying half of the road and killing the concepts of sidewalk and space completely, as it happens in Delhi. For Delhi people, the lack of cabs, rickshaws, and street food stalls is a lack of “comfort.” But in Shimla there is a SPACE, which is so lacking in Delhi!
There are much fewer people in Shimla: the population of the city is only 170k people, which is very less for India – the population of Delhi is 19 millions (and there are no skyscrapers in the same time due to the seismic zone, which makes the roads narrow and the city not compact). In Shimla, the roads are also not wide but more because of the mountainous terrain (the slopes and climbs in the city are much steeper than in Istanbul, suppose), and not because of the lack of space. In Shimla, there are stairs everywhere around the city that connect streets of different levels, so there is no need to walk far to get up – I liked this thoughtfulness.
On many streets, especially on the most popular street of the city – Mall Road, cars are not allowed to go and (oh my God!), local Indians do really follow this! And, of course, in Shimla it is much quieter than in Delhi – you cannot hear the constant buzz of the cars. There is a city parking lot in front of the Mall road, and people park there normally, not crazily…
Some buildings in Shimla reminded me the buidings in Russia, and some are like they were in Russia in the past (or can still be found somewhere in small villages): wooden painted in different colors windows and doors made in so called “chocolate” carving (I wonder that they probably have stayed there from the British times). Well, also there are sharp roofs like we have in Russia. After the Delhi iron windows and doors with many bars, as well as flat roofs (there is no snow in Delhi which requires sharp roofs. And, as the locals say, flat roofs were made in order to add the floors with the expansion of the family, as in some Arab countries. But now in Delhi, it is forbidden to make buildings of more than 3-4 floors in most cases) – in general, it is very unusual to see it such way in India, but in Shimla the architecture is somehow closer to me by it’s spirit.
There are no McDonald’s in Shimla (!), but there are a lot of local cafes, as well as a lot of hotels – the city mainly is touristic. There are also quite many of public toilets that look more or less clean – and there are very few of them in Delhi, but most of them look that way that even locals don’t want to go in there, so in Delhi you can often see “peeing men” even during the brightness of the day 😒
By the way, during 3 days in Shimla I saw only one cow – in Delhi during this time it is simply impossible not to notice at least a dozen of them (you can read about the cows in India Here)… but the cow in Shimla also ate from the garbage, unfortunately. At the same time, there are REALLY many monkeys in Shimla, and there are practically none in Delhi – as people say, there were a lot of them in Delhi before, but people were scaring them away and now they are almost gone. People don’t try to scary monkeys away in Shimla, so they can be found there everywhere: on the roofs, on fences, on the streets, on stairs, in groups and alone. I was very surprised that the monkeys live in such a cold climate…
✔️ People. People surprised me in Shimla, perhaps, the most. They are much calmer than the people in Delhi, speak quieter and (foreigners who have been in Delhi won’t belive) DO NOT STARE !!! (literally a few people stared at me in 3 days and, perhaps, they were tourists from other regions of India). For a long time I have felt myself just a human being, and not as something….just “something”, like I feel in Delhi where almost everywhere I go, I get dozens of stares irrispective of not dressing up openly.
Elderly people in Shimla seemed to me less judgmental to young people than elderly people in Delhi. People also say that Shimla is much safer than Delhi: for women and in terms of robbery. Delhi generally has not so good reputation in this regards: people come here from all over India and many have to “survive”. Sellers in Shimla are not intrusive at all – this also surprised me quite much. And there are very few beggars in Shimla (also because it’s cold – they simply won’t survive on the streets in winters, as they easily do in hot cities). Beggars in Shimla, by the way, are also not intrusive. I haven’t seen begging or selling small things on the roads of Shimla children as well, but won’t say for sure.
Shimla people, in my experience, know the city very well. Many people, even children, know not only the streets, but also every single hotel. If they see your uncertain look in search of a hotel, they will for sure help you. And yes, they will not send you in an unknown direction “out of politeness”…
By the way, another amazing fact: in Shimla there were a lot of groups of elderly tourists from Europe. Exactly the elderly — there were many more of them than the young tourists. But in Delhi, elderly tourists aren’t seen that much.
✔️ What about traditions? It’s still India, isn’t it? I don’t know, honestly, how people live in Shimla at homes, how strictly they follow traditions (in India in different states everything is different in this regard), I can only say what I saw from the outside. People in Shimla wear traditional clothing relatively less than I see in another cities and in Delhi because it is cold, and Indian traditional clothing is not completely adapted to the cold. In Delhi in winters, and in Shimla now, elder women wear cardigans over traditional clothes, and youth and men mostly dress up in sweaters/ jackets and jeans.
By the way, winter clothes in Shimla can be bought for very cheap (if you underestimated Shimla’s cold us we did). Sweaters on the markets can be bought for 150 rupees (a little more than 2 dollars), and winter jackets can be bought for 800 rupees (11.5 dollars).
I can say that this city doesn’t feel like too much Indian – but if to see it from the stereotypical perception of India, of course. However, Indian goods and markets give the vibes that you are still in India – if not for them, I would feel like I am in another country, probably….
P.S .: I really do recommend to visit the city of Shimla – especially to those people who want to see India, but have hard times to deal with the dirt, seeing a lot of beggars or staring.
P.P.S .: I have heard a lot of great reviews about the hilly towns of India, especially from Delhi people, but I was a little skeptical about it, to be honest. Therefore, this city really did impress me a lot!
Unfortunately, I have not been to other mountain places in India (yet!), but I hope to visit Manali, Massuri, Ladakh and others and write reviews about them too!
To read the second part of this article, please Click Here.