As many of my friends and family know, I’ve gone to India to catch up on my Microsoft certifications.

Now, comfortably settled into my hotel in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, I’m ready to get my learn on.

It’s been an interesting trip to say the least.

Food poisoned by the in-flight meal (thanks to a flight attendants’ quick thinking I killed the nasty bugs with a few glasses of non-bubbly coca cola to kill the germs). I then arrived at to 2 am in the morning only to be driven to a shady rundown “service apartment” in a very slummy area of New Delhi. After waking up everybody from my phone list I managed to get a ride to my actual hotel and settled in at 4 a.m. sheesh.

Although I had a scheduled tour of Delhi at 9:30 I kindly asked the concierge to pick me up at 12 so I could get myself some shut eye.

Nice and refreshed the next day I was taken for a tour of Delhi. The guide quickly rushed me through some of the sites, some of which I only saw from the outside because he dismissed them as not being very interesting. In actual fact he was just peeved that I didn’t want to dole my cash around at the obligatory luxury art & crafts store “Saga” where both he and the salesmen there were very pushy. Sorry I’m not very interested in a 900 euro rug thank you very much. Anyway, I did get to see the following:

Sad to say I only got to really visit the first three, my guide got fed up with me and told me that the others weren’t open to visitors. Naturally I tipped him badly, suits him right for begging all the time. In contrast my ever quiet and conscientious driver was tipped quiet handsomely. ;P

After an early turn in I woke to the sound of my alarm at 4 a.m. time to get ready for the train trip to Shimla. The taxi ride to the station was a breeze and the Koenig rep was very kind and very helpful, even offering to carry my 20 kilogram (!) suitcase up the stairs for me.

As for the train ride itself, it was more or less straight forward. The trip from Delhi tot Kalka was in a standard AC coach, but because of the reservation requirement no unsavoury types made it into the carriage. The two armed railway police travelling in the same car kind of made sure of that.

At 11:10 I arrived in Kalka where I boarded the real Himalayan Queen Express: a tiny small gauge train with 4 cars: 2 “general class” (wooden, no windows) and 2 “first class” (somewhat isolated polymer and glass windows). Thank god for those windows because as we rose up the mountain the coal burning locomotive couldn’t heat up the air enough. Cough.

The ride up the mountain was spectacular. With the plains stretching out as far as I could see, with deep ravines and eventually picturesque snowy white scenes it was a ride I’ll never forget. It was well worth the 5 hour ride!

Arriving in the hustle and bustle of Shimla station I pushed my way through the very aggressive porters and found my driver who took me up to my hotel. It turned out that I had brought the snow with me: it hadn’t snowed in Shimla for a while, directly attributed to global warming.

After grabbing a rewarding good ol’ Domino’s pizza (Indian style, mind you) I turned in for my first day at “school”.

More on my first day soon….