Tale of Three Cities – Uttarakhand Diaries

It all started with a phone call that woke me up on a Sunday Morning. I hate waking up early on weekends but it was my best friend so I took the call. She told me about a common friend whose getting married and that we must get our tickets done asap. The wedding was in Delhi after which we decided to go on a holiday which was long overdue. The idea was to explore three she and I were to take off on our long planned holiday after – explore 3 cities in Uttarakhand. We had six nights to spare and and the initial plan was to cover Manali, McLeodGanj and Rishikesh but due to heavy snowfall, we finally froze on Dehradun – Mussoorie – Rishikesh. Needless to say, the primary objective of this holiday was to just have fun.

Skip to the part after the Wedding. We woke up at 9.30 am after a 3.5 days of relentless and absolute fun – Delhi weddings are known for that, but I will leave that story for another time. We rented a car from Delhi and back at an exorbitant price, safety was a priority as we were two girls travelling by ourselves. It was a long drive from New Delhi to Dehradun and the hangover from the intoxication or otherwise over the last couple of days was not helping. I did some quick research on my phone and stopped at a restaurant called Cheetal Grand for lunch. The food was decent and the price point was just right. The food kept coming to our table so the service was great, we were famished and ate out of our hands. The remainder of the journey was rather exhausting as we tried to find the hotel we were staying at. First mistake – we booked a hotel far from the city which meant no connectivity, let alone stepping out for dinner.


The resort we stayed in – The Sylvan Retreat is nothing less than what the name is, it resonates everything that is a perfect retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We had an individual cottage which over looked a lawn where we enjoyed our morning coffee and breakfast for the next two days. A word of mention for the fabulous service, not only did they give us two heaters for the room, they also provided our driver a staff quarter (complimentary). They also had a restaurant operational through the day with a seasonal menu, you could tell the chef what you wanted and he will make do with what’s available. The temperature drop was rather alarming for both of us – 2 degrees. Hailing from Calcutta and Bombay, that kind of temperature is not exactly the type we are accustomed to. After the long journey we had, first day ended with an early dinner and a drink each to keep us warm.


Since we had lost out on the first day, the second day was of the essence and the only day we had to explore Dehradun. We had already mapped out the places we wanted to stop by the night before so the route map was in place. We first headed to Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple which is listed pretty much everywhere under places to visit in the city. Stretched over large acres of land and between two mountains, this temple owes its name and popularity to the naturally water bathed shiv ling in the cave inside. It is further believed to be the residence of Guru Dronacharya, the cave is hence named Drona Cave as an ode to him. Additional to the cave, there are three temples here to visit here – another Shiv Temple, one with Goddess Santoshi(Hindu Goddess of Joy & Satisfaction) and one with Lord Hanuman(Hindu God of Power and Strength). The Hanuman statue beside the temple is quite fascinating and stole my heart. The Hanuman Chalisa has and continues to be a very significant part of my life – try it to believe it, its life changing.

Next we headed to Robbers Cave – believed to be an abode of Lord Shiva, this natural cave formation is about 600 meters long and has the river flows inside the cave making it both very natural and as you move towards where the waterfall is – extremely cold and eerie. Legend has it robbers used to hide stolen valuables in this cave, hence the name. The cave is known for its 10 metre fall which can be seen right at the end of the cave. A long walk in almost knee deep water in chappals (which you can rent from outside the cave, not quite sure why they suggest you use these) and a difficult trek up and then down in the water again and we managed to reach the fall. We saw no one go all the way till here given there’s no clear path to it, the directional arrows can be seriously misleading so one must proceed at their own risk. We were looking for some adventure so went with it and boy, was it worth it or what!

We were cold and drenched so after indulging in some hot tea and delicious steamed dimsums. We started for the Tibetan Market near the Dehradun Clock Tower and frankly, this was quite a disappointment. Tired from the long walk and a little hungry so the last stop for the day was at Nany’s Bakery. Having grown up in Calcutta, legendary bakeries like Nahoums, Kookie Jar and Monginis brought back both sweet and savory memories from my childhood days. From Puffs, Patties, Cookies, Cakes to a menu with the most commonly ordered dishes – this is a fab place to just sit and chill. After spending an hour here, we called it an early night as our hotel was far and there was a long drive to Mussoorie the following day.

It didn’t take us long to reach Mussoorie and on the way is when I got the most unfortunate news which would eventually almost ruin our day. I had made all our hotel bookings via Booking.com and I got a call from the hotel saying they cant accommodate us and will offer us a better hotel instead at the same rate. He said he would make the required arrangements and call me back with the revised hotel location. Since we had already reached and it was around lunch time we thought best to grab some lunch. We walked up mall road to dine at this eatery I was looking forward to visit – Kalsang. Established years ago, this place is a hot-spot for youngsters and is always buzzing. We managed to find a seat upstairs and it was less crowded. The menu was traditionally Tibetan and reminded me of all the soulful meals I had in Bhutan. We had our server make a recommendation, he placed an order for a steamed dimsum along with a signature pan fried momo soup dish. Both were delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I also ordered their cold coffee which was really good.

By the time we finished the meal, we were getting paranoid as we still hadn’t receive a call back from the hotel representative. After several failed attempts we finally got through to him and we reached the location of the alternate hotel. I am a hotelier and this was by far the shadiest hotel I have seen in my life- it gave me the creeps. After giving a piece of my mind, we started hotel hunting in the car. We went to about 3 hotels and they were all charging around INR 700 extra per night for the heater alone which we thought was ridiculous. It was getting extremely cold- Mussoorie touched -1 the day we reached so we settled for the first hotel that popped up online – Honeymoon Inn. It was expensive (there goes the budget trip) but well, we were tired and had wasted almost half a day already. Glad that we have somewhere to stay, we got into our car and headed towards the hotel. Here is where I have to tell you about the completely screwed up road rules in this city. Beyond a certain point on mall road, the tourism board doesn’t allow any private cars between 4:30pm to 10:30pm. To our bad luck, it was 5.30pm so we walked it up while our driver waited for after 10.30pm to get our luggage to the hotel. We had to walk up a concrete ramp to get to our hotel. We quickly freshened up and headed back out for some dinner as the walk down to the restaurants was about an hour. We chose a cosy place – The Tavern Restaurant, which served Asian food and had live music – a lovely gentleman who played english pop while we had dinner. We ate at ease till it was around 11 pm and the driver came and picked us up. Advantages of staying in a nice hotel is that they have staff quarters so our driver could stay at the hotel itself. We crashed immediately after we reached as Mussoorie had a surprisingly large number of tourist attractions and we had less than two days to cover them all.

The next morning we managed to get out of the hotel by 9am – the temperature was pleasant so we decided to walk. First stop was the Ropeways which I was really looking forward to (I have faint memories of my last experience). It was under maintenance and closed so we headed to the famous Christ Church and it was shut as well. Disappointed, we headed back to the hotel, checked out and walked down to Mall Road – our driver was to meet us there in some time. Just when Mussoorie was about to become our worst decision, is when we discovered a place to visit – Cafe By The Way. What will truly stay with you about this place is the counter-culture vibe, the beauty lies in the details. The delicious food and beverage offerings are just the perfect icing on the cake. This has to be one of our most favourite discoveries from the trip given the number of options we had on our list. Ruchi and me didn’t want to leave this place, it kind of reminded us of the times when we would meet at ChaiCoffi or Moshes to catch up on the week gone by . We would just order coffee and bite-sized food and chat away – Mumbai Memories.


Content with the experience, we headed out to for some shopping. We still had 2 other places before headed to the other part of town – we were staying at the JW Marriott Mussoorie for the night. I am not sure why Mussoorie Lake listed on all websites as top 5 places to visit because I have not witnessed anything more ordinary. It’s an artificial lake with some really terrible food stalls and shops needless to mention a scary house – the screams from there still gives me nightmares (lol). Mossy Falls was our next destination and my best friend was loosing it as this was her first time witnessing a waterfall up close. The trek here again was not too long but very steep. Point to note – there are a lot of monkeys in this area. At the end of the road, there is the waterfall and immediately opposite is a shiv ling which is popular as waters drips on it naturally, we were told. While the waterfall was pretty and Ruchi had started singing and dancing in front of it, the story of the natural water was not so true.

We climbed back up and now drove towards Jharipaani Falls – the pictures on Google were very pretty and we were looking forward to it. This path was by far the most critical, roads were slippery and not well maintained. After walking down for about an hour, we figured we were the only ones there and that kind of freaked us out. So we gave it a skip as rightfully mentioned in the movie, Jab We Met – Akeli Ladki Khuli Tijori Ki Tarah Hoti hai (Let alone Ladkiyan :p). We then left towards the hotel as it was getting dark. On the way was Lal Tibba Viewpoint – the highest point of elevation in the city, we stopped and admired the lovely snow-capped landscape. By the time we reached the hotel, it was dark. After a speedy check-in and a long bath, we both grabbed a drink each and ordered in some Garlic Bread and Pizza. The room size was just average but the bed size – this was definitely a Texas King and more than spacious for us. We hit the sack early as we didn’t want to miss breakfast and needed to wake early to explore Cloud’s End.

Image Courtesy : Hotel Website


The breakfast spread was quite good after which we checked out and headed to Cloud’s End. The roads were all lined with snow on the sides signifying it snowed the night before. We played with the snow like kids and walked up to the highest point in Mussoorie. The view was breathtaking and we sat there by the rocks and enjoyed it for a while. You can choose to pay an entry fee and walk in through the short cut, we chose to explore and figure things out ourselves. After spending considerable amount of time here, we started for Rishikesh – the goal was to reach there before the evening ganga aarti at the temple.

Situated at the banks of the Ganges, Triveni Ghat is the biggest and most famed of all ghats in Rishikesh. Known for cleansing one off their sins, it is believed that the ghat was visited by Lord Krishna when he got hurt by the arrow of Jara – a hunter. The ghat is most famous for the Ganga aarti performed to the chants of Vedic hymns – every morning and evening. The traditional aarti is a sight to behold and is said to be witnessed by those who deserve it. Although the drive to our destination was about 2 hours, but the rain slowed us down causing us to just reach in time for the evening aarti. It was raining but we literally ran to the Tribeni Ghat lest we miss it. We reached just in time and it was beautiful. Half way through the aarti, I even video called my mother and she was mighty happy about it. There are a couple of temples in the vicinity as well and lots to shop. Triveni Ghat is also where the iconic Shiva Statue stood before the floods destroyed it.

It was late so we headed for dinner – now this one was in the other side of town, quite shady but serves good food with an awesome view of the river. We ordered delicious vegan food along with hot coffee – helps in the cold. We went back to the hotel soon after and crashed for the day. We woke up the next day to realize we only had one day left to explore Rishikesh and very sad that the trip was almost ending. We really wanted to experience white water rafting, the hotel was enabling it for us and he told us we had three hours before we had to head back. So, we decided to go to Beatles Cafe for lunch. Cafe Delmar better known as the Beatles Cafe is one of the most famed cafes of Rishikesh. The decor, walls and the music they play at the cafe make you reminisce the fact that the Beatles have indeed been here. The food and mocktails are mostly vegan and delicious – definitely worth a try. We had an hour before we went white water rafting and thank God we included this in our itinerary – the experience here was most peaceful, what with the view and the ambience. Bottom line, I am definitely going back there.

Of all the things that top my travel list, the most unmatched was the White Water Rafting experience we had. Rishikesh also happens to be the rafting capital of India’, offering one of the best rafting experiences. We had to choose – between Beetles Ashram and River Rafting given the one day we had. The hostel we were staying at, the owner told us he would any day recommend the latter and we took it. One point to note here is both Ruchi and myself don’t know how to swim so this was no less than an adventure for us. We were taken to the location where the rafting would commence and asked to wear the gear. The rest, as they say will be embedded in our memories for the rest of our lives. It is best experienced so I am not going to type any further on this. Our guide had a GoPro and so, I have some photos below to share. Hot Tip : If you are in Rishikesh, you must river raft. Period!

We came back to the hotel, quickly changed and went out with for a quick stroll through Tapovan. I have to tell you there is a lot of reasonable yet amazing stuff to shop here – from hippie clothes to accessories. After spending a lot of money here, we settled for dinner at this restaurant next to Beetles Cafe. Tat Cafe can be easily missed given its location but its a must visit. This was our last stop at Rishikesh before we left for Delhi the next morning and we knew this place is going to give us major FOMO later on. It’s beautiful to say the least, the vegan food and beverages are to die for. What we also couldn’t ignore was the Incredible music they were playing – I must thank Shazam here. Of all the places we want to re-visit when in Rishikesh again, this is definitely one of them, Ruchi would -agree.

Uttarakhand – the last trip before the pandemic, was the most memorable trip not to mention – our first trip together. I would always recommend taking a holiday with someone whose like-minded which contributes to an overall fulfilling travel experience. I end on this note and advocate at Uttarakhand is indeed the “Devabhumi” – Land of the Gods, which it is known as and this is indeed the closest you can get to nature. So while you can and given the current challenge of no international travel – quickly plan this!  

Image Courtesy: https://uttarakhandtourism.gov.in/

Needless to say, always happy to receive your feedback. I hope this was a good read. Please leave your comments below and let me know what you think.

Dubai – The City that Rose from the Golden Deserts

Dubai is known to be an expensive affair hence I decided to start the trip on a luxurious note with Emirates Airways (well, there goes half a month of my salary, well almost). The reason being the last international flight I took was an Indigo, moreover this was not a budget trip by any means.

Here is where I dedicate a couple of lines to the flight experience we had. Starting from the welcome to the food to the comfortable seating, there was nothing to complain about. But what was the cherry on the cake was undoubtedly the individual entertainment units; replete with a motion-sense touch screen and a detachable gaming console, the Emirates in-flight application will leave you spoilt for choice.

Moving on, there were two of us starting from Bangalore – reaching first. The Chennai couple reaching thereafter, followed by the newly married couple from Delhi. We reached and rushed to the hotel to catch up on some sleep before the already planned hectic evening. Our booking stood confirmed at The Gevora – the tallest hotel in the world. As we approached the gigantic hotel in our airport taxi, the feeling that my dream trip to Dubai has finally started was sinking in.

Being a hotelier myself, I don’t generally trash hotels/restaurants unless ofcourse they screw up really bad.  It started when we reached the hotel and asked to check-in; we had requested for an early check-in. They had no clue about it and refused to give us a room before the actual check-in time which was 4 hours later. Tallest or not, please don’t stay here, when in Dubai. After much contemplation, we decided to grab a bite, we Googled to find Wendy’s at walking distance and headed there to have our first meal. After indulging in some awesome fries, onion rings and chicken, topped up with the ice cream that was home made – we headed back to the hotel. Our friends were already there. The well-fed us now headed to the reception and asked to speak to the Duty Manager. We finally managed to get 2 rooms out of 3 and crashed to the much of our delight.

One of us has a friend staying in Dubai and she arranged for a private yacht ride for us at Marina Bay in the evening. We woke up fresh, got dressed and headed there. This yacht (which we stocked up with food and alcohol) had two decks- the upper deck ofcourse is where we chose to sit. There is sometimes a certain comfort in isolation, the first 20 minutes of the ride through the serene waters was an absolute treat both to the eyes and the heart. Everything around us was perfectly picturesque and it almost felt like I was a part of one of those scenically directed videos. The wind on our faces ensured we were more intoxicated than we should have been when the two hour tour came to an end.


We quickly had something to eat and then headed to Mr. Miyagi’s- one of the sought after clubs in Dubai. Unlike most nightclubs in India, the music at this place was unimaginably good, the good crowd was not hurting us either. We danced away to the tunes of the DJ until we realized what a hectic next day we had planned. With the pledge that we would do some in-room drinking once we got back, we headed back to the hotel. Upon reaching, as predicted – we all crashed.

We had booked with an agency for the rest of the trip, so our itinerary hereon was planned. The first thing on our schedule the next day was Dune Bashing. There was a fierce storm the evening before because of which the sand tracks were missing, the driver told us the experience would have been much better otherwise. We however thoroughly enjoyed the Dune Bashing experience, that with Arab songs playing in the background (thanks to our driver, I know a lot of incredible Arabic songs – which he kept playing through the course of our shenanigans in Dubai). He was quite a photographer as well, he took us in the middle of the dessert and clicked away happily as we posed.


We went back to the hotel after as we were covered in sand and quickly changed to be taken to Dubai Mall- I was eagerly waiting for this. After grabbing a quick breakfast at the famed Cafe Nero, we headed to Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and this was by far the best experience we had. One of the largest aquariums in the world and having the world’s largest suspended aquarium, this makes for a perfect family/tourist spot. The 48 meter walk through the 10 million liter Aquarium Tank/Tunnel is mesmerizing, inhabiting more than 140 aquatic species. Consider yourself lucky if you catch the shark feeding encounter – where trained personnel feed fish to this rather dangerous man-eating mammal. One level above is the Underwater Zoo which houses the amazing creatures inhabiting in the waters of the world. Divided into three ecological Zones –  Rainforest, Rocky Shore and Living Ocean, you can see aquatic creatures like Otters, Piranhas, Humbolt Penguins, Seahorses, African Dwarf Crocodiles – to name a few, in 40 individual aquatic displays. One can even opt for adventure activities like shark diving, cage snorkeling and scuba diving here.

Next on the itinerary was Burj Khalifa for a breathtaking view of the man -made wonder that Dubai truly is. We went straight up to the 125th floor of the building, the experience is pretty dramatic. The skyline you see from up there is something that should not be missed when you are in Dubai. Its expensive but its absolutely worth every penny!


We went back to The Dubai Mall Promenade and grabbed some dinner and lemonade while watching the light show and fountain show, respectively. After this, we went back to Dubai Mall and grabbed some mini pancakes from Holland Mini Pancakes and called it a day. The thing about Dubai Mall is that the brands are pretty much the same, but with 50 times more of varied options. Of course its Dubai Mall, so you also bump into stores which are not in India like Lush, Pottery Barn and several other international brands.

It was 9 am and I washed, ate, dressed myself and was ready before anyone else and waited at the lobby- why you ask? We were going to Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi and this officially was the high point of this trip to U.A.E. The drive to my dreamy destination was long yet beautiful. We stopped on the way to take a quick look at the Jumeirah Mosque which was quite an instagrammable spot. After clicking about fifty photos, we headed to the long awaited experience. We reached Yas Mall and I grabbed a cup of the most delicious coffee at Paul’s- needed all my energy for the next couple of hours!

Ferrari World was nothing like I had imagined! We entered and first grabbed a map each, divided into 2 groups as per interest zones and headed for Formula Rossa – the world’s fastest roller coaster ride. With a speed of 0 to 240 km/h in 4.9 seconds and lasting under 2 mins, this is by far the most mind blowing adventure park experience I have had in my life. During my time inside this branded theme park, I took the ride at least 5 times; I kid you not – it’s that awesome. The other memorable ride I abused is Flying Aces – the world’s highest roller coaster loop inspired by the legendary ‘ace of aces’ aviator, Count Baracca – this ride hit speeds of up to 120km/h. Third favourite of mine was Turbo Track – a back-to-back roller coaster ride with a vertical climb towards the sky followed by an epic zero-gravity fall. It looks extremely scary when you see other people experiencing it but the ride is as much fun, if not more. Among the other things that you can try out at Ferrari World are fun, less exhilarating rides, several 4D animation rides and many options of virtual ride games. Galleria Ferrari – with its spectacular design and collection display of Ferrari Cars is a must see for a car enthusiast. All this, and the day was almost over and we had plans so it was unfortunately time to leave. I literally cried as I left this amazing place, as my friends carried me out, otherwise I would have ran back inside.

It was 8 pm and we were tired AF but had one more thing to cover for the day. Next, our driver took us to Global Village – a multi-cultural amusement park. Among the world’s largest tourism, leisure, shopping and entertainment project, Global Village is the region’s first cultural, entertainment, family and shopping destination. There are several rides, live shows, a fair amount of shopping options and lots to eat. We managed only taking a toy train ride and grabbing a bite just enough to fill our tummies. I frankly didn’t think too much of this place, might be because all I could see in my head was the hotel bed.

Then came the last day at Dubai- we took it easy and started the day a bit late. The plan was to go to the local market where you get cheap gold apparently but I skipped that. I directly met the rest of them at Jumeirah Beach – the beach bum in me cried out of joy as I saw what was the most crowded yet well maintained white sand beach I have ever been to. This beach, located on the coast of the Persian Gulf – is a tourist/popular attraction complete with a line of restaurants you could choose to dine at. We chose an Arabian restaurant and savored our last meal in Dubai.

We had just enough time to swing by Dubai Mall before we could get back to the hotel and head to the airport. One thing you should know is that the coffee at Dubai is bae, it is every coffee lover’s paradise. We did some last minute binge eating and with a take-away coffee in my hand, we headed to the airport. Dubai airport is crazy and this was my second experience; the first one was witnessing the Changi airport in Singapore. I went insane shopping at the airport – perfumes mostly as that’s my weak spot.

The flight back from Dubai to Bangalore was rather depressing as the most extraordinary trip of my life came to an end. Not only is Dubai one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, now, it has my heart too. There is a lot more to explore in Dubai and for that I shall be back here soon!

I hope you liked my blog as much as I did reliving each moment as I wrote each line. Please leave your comments below and let me know what you think.

Taken by the #TravelBug in Singapore.

I had traveled a lot with my parents when I was little; it’s a pity that I don’t recall most of it. My recent trip to Singapore is one of those places I always intended to visit to add to my international travels. It also happens to be the place where the #TravelBug bit me, long last and much needed! Thereafter, my first travelogue which encapsulates the 4 days well spent in Singapore.

Continue reading “Taken by the #TravelBug in Singapore.”

She(esha) is the BOSS! Well, most of the time.

Located in the tinsel town of Namma Ooru- Koramangala, this place is definitely worth a visit. Most of you might think I am going to write good things about this place because it’s a friend’s brainchild. The truth is, what makes this place unique is the amount of hard work and heart that has gone into conceptualizing it. And what’s even more amazing is that the love and warmth reflects on the food and the service standards.

Continue reading “She(esha) is the BOSS! Well, most of the time.”