on December 27, 2012
I didn't want to go to the Hotel Sukh Sagar Regency. I tried to get out of it but the company who 'organised' (I use the term fairly loosely) our trip seemed seriously disinclined to pay any attention to my requests to be somewhere else. However, on balance I didn't want to go there less than I didn't want to go to the first place they suggested which had one of the lowest ratings I've ever seen on Tripadvisor. I had booked with the website 'makemytrip' before and found them difficult to deal with but they were the only company I could find that was offering the length of trip and destinations that I wanted for a trip to Himachal Pradesh. Dealing with them was a necessary evil – but quite a cost effective evil none the less.Our tour started with two nights in Shimla, the historic summer capital of the Raj. We've been there before and we knew we'd love to go back again but I couldn't understand why the tour company were so determined to keep us away. The hotel they offered was in an area called Tara Devi, a sort of suburb (but not really) and most definitely not in Shimla itself. I argued that I wanted to be IN Shimla, not 20 minutes drive down the road and that if I had to pay more, then I'd pay more. The multi-email argument went something like this:Me: "Why are you trying to send me to a hotel so bad that the reviews on Tripadvisor are suggesting I'd be better to sleep in the car?MakeMyTrip: thank you blah blah blah, have you noticed that we're ignoring you?Me: Why can't I stay in Shimla instead of down the road?MMT: La la la, we're not listening, when can we call you so you can give us all the money?Me: You're not listening, are you? If I HAVE to stay in Tara Devi, you can stuff your suggestion and put me in the Sukh Sagar Regency instead.MMT: OK, Sukh Sagar Regency it is.See what I mean? A 'partial' success. I lost on location but won on the hotel. Seriously if you want to have a laugh sometime, go take a look at the Tripadvisor reviews for the Quality Inn Himdev in Shimla.My husband has a theory that he trots out every time we walk round our village. There's a beautiful old house that overlooks a block of ugly flats. Hubby's theory is that it would be better to live in the ugly flats looking at the gorgeous house rather than the other way round. I told myself that this would be the philosophy for our visit to the Sukh Sagar Regency – we would be in in the ugly part outside of Shimla but looking at the gorgeous view of the city. After all, if you stay in Shimla, you can't get a nice view of the place because you're already a part of that view. We arrived late in the afternoon on the first day of our trip. We'd met our driver earlier in the day and were still in the phase of wondering if he didn't speak English or he was just the 'strong but silent' type. Mr Singh was a man of mystery. He'd never heard of the hotel and his face told us he was quite concerned about where MakeMyTrip were putting us. Luckily I knew Tara Devi would be on the road before we got to Shimla itself so I had my eyes open, watching out for it. My cry of "Mr Singh, Mr Singh, over there" was well timed to be just too late. We had to go up the road and come back down again. The sun was setting in the distance, a beautiful bright moon was rising above the mountains and I could see that the hotel would indeed have a great view over towards Shimla. I was ready to give it a go and hope for the best.Once we parked up I wasn't quite so sure we'd done well when it became apparent that we'd turned up in the middle of a wedding party. Indian weddings are noisy affairs and music was pumping at speaker-distorting volume throughout the hotel. The reception was stuffed to bursting with wedding guests in glorious outfits. As two scruffy tourists who's been in the car for nine hours, we were seriously out-dressed. Check in was fast and efficient with the hotel taking photocopies of our passports so we wouldn't have to stand around too long filling in the guest details. The staff on the reception were polite and friendly and later became life-savers in our attempts to communicate with Mr Singh, the driver but helping us to arrange the times to meet him. We were given room 404 on the second or third floor above the reception and headed up in the glass lift.The reception area is an atrium reaching from ground level up to the top of the building. The upper floors are laid out around the atrium with the rooms off corridors which overlook the public areas below. This meant that there wasn't much protection from the noise greeting the party-goers and when we first arrived there were lots of children running around the corridors. However, once we were in our room we barely noticed any more noise. The room was large with enormous windows which overlooked a tree-filled valley. We couldn't tell too much about the view until the next morning when the sun rose and we found that cricking our necks in one direction meant we could see the city of Shimla clinging to the mountainside in one direction, and looking the other direction would give us a view of Tara Devi train station, one of the tiny places where the equally tiny Kalka-Shimla toy train, one of the UNESCO World Heritage railways, stopped throughout the day. The train gives a glorious cheery hoot as it arrives and leaves which I loved to hear. If views are your 'thing' it's worth knowing that taking the lift to the fourth floor brings you to a roof terrace from which you can look across the valley towards Shimla and from which I might have got great night shots if I'd had a better tripod.Back to the room which was furnished in a rather modern style and was surprisingly 'un-Indian'. The furnishings were a bit worn in places but the standard was good. In the entrance to the room the floor was tiled whilst the rest of the room had laminate flooring which is not something you see all that often in India. There were two soft chairs and a coffee table next to the windows from which we could enjoy the views. The bed was at least king-sized and had the lumpiest and most unpleasant mattress I've experienced in a long time. I like Indian mattresses as they tend to be quite firm but this was full of nasty lumps. These were not 'Princess and the Pea' type lumps – they were 'Am I lying on bags of cement?' lumps. The bed had a warm fleecy blanket in a bright design and a top sheet that was oddly too short for the bed so that our feet stuck out the bottom. Either side of the bed there was a large bedside table with a light. Had we needed it, there was an additional duvet in the wardrobe. Indians go to Shimla for the novelty of getting cold but to us it was warm enough to not need more than the fleecy blanket. There was a flat screen TV on the wall with a few English channels as well as a wall-mounted fan which would have been ideal in the mornings when the room warmed up very quickly as the sun came through the valley. Sadly the fan didn't work so it's a good thing we weren't in the room much during the day.
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