“Go where you feel most alive”
Where is that for you? For me, it’s the mountains particularly the Himalayas.
Just before the call came to knuckle down and self isolate the Alok Bhan Singh family had a wonderful trip to the foothills of the Uttarakhand Himalayas, our destination was Mussorie. En route we stopped at the largest buffalo market in North India, in Uttar Pradesh. A Murrah buffalo costs between Ra6000 and Rs1.5 laks!! Come, buy and sell your buffaloes here folks! I spoke to some of the buyers and sellers which was a great local interaction – I learnt that buffalo are considered a fantastic investment because they are cheaper to rear and of course provide good yield.
Dropping off our son at his new boarding school in Mussoorie, One of the most important things to do on ANY trip is to discover some of the best local hangouts for good food, outside the confines of our luxury hotel. We found a tiny dhaba run by mother and her handsome son. Barely enough space to accommodate more than 4 people, they were so happy to have us, asking if they could cook up some Garhwal delicacies for us. My eyes lit up when I was able to sample their Daal-Bhaat (rice and lentils), Kandalee Ka Saag and Kumaoni Raita. Finished off the meal with a delicious chai. It sometimes takes an outsider to appreciate what locals would take for granted. Day 1 and my first goal was nailed!
Here in Mussorie, like most hill station towns, the traffic leading to Mall Road is always a mess. Why don’t they put a stop to all traffic – instead the narrow lanes end up congested, and although Mall Road itself is only open to private vehicles and charge Rs150 entry, this leads to huge SUVs with their Haryana, Delhi and UP numbers plates causing traffic snarls as they try and park as close to Mall Road as possible. You come to the hills for a reason. To walk, and enjoy the clean air and views – leave your big vehicles at home please!
As an attempt to escape the traffic and crowds of Mussorie we went exploring and decided to visit Landour, just 7kms from Mall Road! This small town has been named after “Llanddowror”, a tiny town in Carmarthenshire, in South West Wales. We could not feel more connected to this place, since a great friend of ours, Gwen, comes from Wales. We visited her and Ann a few years back and event learnt a bit of Welsh! Did you know they have their own language? Perhaps the most amazing 3 days of our holidays ever was spent in the small village of Nefyn and the surrounding coastal countryside in Wales.
I suggest, if you want to go to Landour do not go via Mussoorie, rather travel there directly from Delhi/Dehradun, thus avoiding the crowds. Enter Landour Bazaar and the iconic Ghantaghar (Clock Tower) which is gorgeous and stands proudly in the heart of this small town. From cosy bakeries to pretty churches to excellently planned roads, Landour is so much more than just its pretty hills that surround it. Our first stop was Chaar Dukaan. If you’re staying in Landour (or even Mussoorie) you have to come to Chaar Dukaan for breakfast. It’s a row of four tiny shops that have been there forever and famous for their delicious breakfast food. We had our favorite bun-maska which is enough for any foreigner to forget their bacon and sausages. There are also plenty of friendly Bhutias (mountain dogs) around who’ll happily rollover for belly rubs and leftovers of course. Don’t miss out a visit to the lovely St Paul’s Church, an Anglican church built in 1840 to serve the British military who were stationed here during the Raj era.
A short drive from Landore will bring you to La Villa Bethany, a country home where one can enjoy the true bliss of the hills. The owners are Sunita and Amarjeet Kudle who come with a vast experience in hospitality which is reflected in all that they have created at La Villa Bethany. They provide a magical experience for their guests. Sunita quotes the words of Conrard Hilton, “when you look at a place, you just look at 3 things- location, location and location”, and La Villa Bethany has the most wonderful location for sure. Stunning. Well-done guys.
La Villa Bethany has 6 tastefully designed rooms, common areas and gardens, which are a tribute to the founders of Mussoorie and Landour. Be it the Capt. Young’s Dining Room, Mackinnon’s Study, Pahari Wilson’s Cabin or the Royale Gardens, each recreates the magic of the Colonial Era. Our favorite room was the log cabin style room. It’s designed to look like a hobbits home, complete with a round entrance and a roof covered with grass! Sunita took us to the top of the room which looked fascinating.
While Sunita and Amarjeet don’t flaunt this particular aspect of La Villa Bethany, I think it’s apt that I let you know that an exceptional effort is made to make the property as sustainable as possible. They are the only property in all of Landour to use solar energy to heat their water and to be used in the kitchen to cook the guest meals. With a capacity of 80,000 litres of rain water harvesting (which is being increased), they are the only self sufficient property in Landour, where water management is a huge challenge (as in all hill stations), especially during peak tourist season. All their toiletries, blankets, day covers and carpets are procured from different NGOs that are based in the state. They use Yak wool blankets called Thulma and Chutki which were so warm. The furnishings are from Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti, which is based out of Dehradun and the toiletries are from SOS Organics of Almora.
So kudos to them.
So how do you keep yourselves busy while staying at La Villa Bethany? For the very active take an idyllic walks through forests of Deodar, Pines and Rhododendrons, with the snow peaked mountains overlooking the majestic Doon Valley. Come April the rhododendrons are in full bloom and the oak in purple new leaf. Nag Tibba, is a trekkers delight. It presents stunning view of the Bandarpoonch peak, the Gangotri group of peaks, the Kedarnath peak in the north, and the Doon Valley and the snow peaks of Chanabang.
For nature lovers there is amazing bird watching to do, why not set out early morning and have a picnic breakfast? For the more last guest curl up on a hammock with a good book, or spend some long overdue “family time.” We loved the well stocked library and the adorable pet dogs – three Tibetan Terriers and two Tibetan Besties.
Thanks to Gita from Terra Trails for the introduction to La Villa Bethany and I am convinced this property will be a hit with Enriching Journeys guests who are looking for an idyllic bolthole in the Himalayan foothills.
As ever, India never disappoints – with each venture I find amazing hidden gems.
Til we are all free to roam and travel again I hope this inspires you.