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Tuesday, December 09, 2008


A warm-weather lover's guide to Mussoorie

I'd prefer to be stuck in 40 degree heat than ten degree cool. For the past six years or more, I've happily avoided temperatures below 15 degrees. And now I find myself in this hill station at the foot of the Himalayas—Mussoorie. The people of Delhi (or at least the well-heeled ones) flock here by the thousands during the heat waves of India's summer months. But I'm not visiting during the summer months. I'm here during early November, the start of India's winter.

My first three days in Mussoorie were spent at Hotel Padmini Nivas which was once the palace (or at least holiday home) of a maharajah. Much of Mussoorie was built on steep hillsides and my room was built to take advantage of excellent views. There is a sun room at the front with floor to ceiling glass. It warms up beautifully during the day and keeps the whole room warm during the night. This hotel also has a reputation for its excellent Gujarati vegetarian food.

Most of the action in Mussoorie centres on The Mall. It's supposed to be for pedestrians and rickshaws only but somehow many motorcycles and a few cars find their way in too. Young guys on motorcycles are not always cautious but they usually sound their horn before they run you down.

Even at this time of the year The Mall is full of tourists, mostly Indians. It also has many vendors and shops selling food, souvenirs, clothing and just about anything else you might need. The Mall winds a bit and goes over a few hills as you might expect here in the mountains. There are also many places to take advantage of the spectacular views.

The booking at Hotel Padmini Nivas was only for three nights because a religious convention was booked in after that. Looking at some other hotels on the mall, Hotel Garhwal Terrace had nice rooms at a better rate than Hotel Padmini Nivas but I think this was only because Garhwal Terrace had already switched to off-peak rates. Hotel Padmini Nivas were due to bring their rates down a week later.

Instead of staying at the Mall, I ended up at Landour, a little further up the mountain. There I found Ivy Bank Guest House and moved in the next day.

This is a wonderful setting. If I feel like immersing myself in the local culture, meeting some of the colourful locals or doing some shopping I walk down the narrow winding road to Landour Bazaar. To immerse myself in nature I walk further up the mountain and enjoy spectacular views including the snow-capped mountains in the distance. I'm told the snow will be coming here too if I stay a little longer.

I love it here. I'd like to stay longer but for the past couple of days the clouds have come in and the temperature has dropped. Ivy Bank Guest House is very cosy but has no heating. I've got thermal underwear, a fleece jacket and a woollen hat with built-in mufflers but this is still too cold for me. I haven't heard what the temperature is but a few days back there were Americans here (from Northern USA) who were commenting on the cold. And now even the locals are wearing their cold-weather gear.

I'd love to come back when it's warmer but then I'd have to contend with crowds and higher prices. We'll see.

As a footnote I'd add that there is a huge range of eating places both in The Mall and Landour Bazaar. Prices are generally reasonable. There are also many hotels and guest houses scattered around both The Mall area and Landour. I gather they fill up in the summer months but if, unlike me, you don't mind the cold there are many to choose from in the off season at very good rates. Like most places here Ivy Bank Guest House has a dining room. They provide Indian style home-cooked meals. For a change, you can get Western style fare at Chhaya Cafe, between the guest house and the Bazaar. Recommended.

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You say of Mussoorie: "The people of Delhi (or at least the well-heeled ones) flock here by the thousands...".

Quite untrue.....Mussoorie is firmly a MIDDLE-CLASS resort, as is obvious from the uninspiring quality of the lodgings on offer. The "well-heeled", of whom you speak, do have their own leafy, discreet "enclave" (if you like) further up the hill in Landour .... some of India's richest people have second/third homes up there.
Thanks for your comment. Perhaps I use the term 'well-heeled' more loosely than you. When I reread my blog before posting I realised it sounded flippant suggesting anyone who lived in Delhi could afford to come to Mussoorie. Let's face it, a significant proportion of the residents of Delhi could not afford the fare to Dehradun let alone the cost of staying in one of the least of the hotels in Mussoorie. I could be wrong but I understood that Landour was part of Mussoorie and was including it in my observation. I also met a tout in Landour Baazar promoting a hotel there in the under 400 rupee range. I was tempted to check it out but I already had pleasant lodgings at a reasonable price.
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