The Hill station is a uniquely Indian phenomenon. Built to escape the building heat of the subcontinent's dry season people gather here to enjoy the cool mountain air, and gaze at the sensational vistas of the Himalaya's.
Nainital must be one of the most beautiful, and is set arond a dramatic crater lake 1938 feet up in the mountains. To come here offers a respite from the rigours of Indian travel as well as a festive air brought about by Indian families enjoying themselves. If you are travelling through northern India, make time for Nainital, it also gives me the excuse of showing some of my favourite photo's of India.
Hindu legend states that the Tal (lake) was formed from one of the eyes (Naina) of the goddess Sati as she was carried by Shiva up to the Himalayan high peaks. But the British were the first people so build up Nainital and it became a fashionable resort for them as they escaped the sweltering heat of the Gangetic plains. The bungalows of the 'mem' and 'burra' sahibs spill up the side of the lake. A promenade named 'The Mall' (very British) connects both ends of the lake. And at the southern end is Tallital (Foot of the lake) with its bus stops and tour agencies. And at the far end is Mallital (head of the lake) which contains most amusements and the yacht club.
Wherever the Victorian British went, snobbery followed soon after and in Nainital it came in the form of the yacht club where the rulers of the Raj would moor their craft. The place was so exclusive that the hunter Jim Corbett, a native to the area, was blackballed for years. You can easily rent a boat to go out onto the lake and I would strongly recommend this as the views of the surrounding pine-encrusted mountains are amazing from its centre.
But for me the attraction is the atmosphere.There is a real jolly atmosphere formed by the Indian tourists enjoying themselves as they strolled along the Mall eating Candy Floss or corn-on-the-cob. We must have been the only westerners there and the other tourists were very friendly and we spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening getting caught up in it all.
Lining the Mall were bookstalls, trinket-stands, music-shops, musicans, snake-charmers and dancing bears. When we reached the yacht club in Mallital the monsoon cleared and the clouds parted to real an impressive view of the Lake. The sun sank behind the Himalayas and the sky turned grey, then yellow and then pink. And as it finally disapeared; the crowds, bungalows and drawn-up boats were coated in a luminous blue as it slowly turned to night.
You may not of thought of Nainital as being on your itinery, but if you brave the journey to get there, you will leave with some fantastic memories.