There has been a slow but steady migration of tourists from the erstwhile hill stations of India. Shimla used to be the prime honeymoon destination for every newlywed middle-class couple in India. But today, the four laned roads leading towards Shimla are choked with dust and traffic. Massive chunks of stone and trees have been gouged off from the face of the mountains. The reason is the intense commercialisation due to ever increasing tourist traffic. Although people may blame the government for the same, I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Indian public. There is no need to visit every damned hill station in search of wanderlust. Stay in your homes and do your job instead of trying to find the meaning to your lives by drinking and smoking up in the mountains.
To combat this problem, people are now making smaller hill stations much more important. Chail is one of these places located about two hours from Shimla. Chail draws its history as being the summer capital of the King of Patiala after he was ousted from Shimla by the British. In his grief, he created a replica of Shimla in Chail. With dense coniferous forests, he could actually see Shimla from his palace in Chail.
Why I hated the Chail Palace?
The palace in Chail has been taken over by Himachal Pradesh Tourism and converted into a heritage hotel. Now I have been to quite a few heritage hotels and the Chail Palace is probably one of the worst experiences I have had. The first order of things is the entry fees. At INR 100, it is probably one of the highest ones in India for any monument. The 100 rupees price tag raises our expectations but the palace falls flat like the blatant misuse of molecular gastronomy, all air, and no taste. Although the lawns, have been beautifully manicured, but the palace itself falls flat on its face.
Royalty (Not Really)!
The entry to the hotel is maintained by a four looking government employee who probably is very safe with his job. His dialogue nearly blows my lid off “This is the whole part of the snow-clad is no museum or guided tour here.” I literally paid INR 400 to see a few chandeliers and some wooden furniture from a bygone era. I have seen more artifacts at newly built forts which are trying to fashion themselves as heritage properties. I saw one of the servers rescue a bottle of Kingfisher 650ml bottle from the ironically named “Royal Bar”. There is hardly any sense of royalty at Chail Palace. It is mostly a few pieces of old furniture polished and kept on display.
I did not dare to even try out the food or the rooms here. The only redeeming feature of the Chail Palace is the parking lot which gives you a perfect vantage point to see the snow clad mountain tops. But will I pay INR 100 for this pathetic piece of royalty? Definitely not.
Image Credits: Salt And Sandals