Further to my earlier post where i discussed way and means of getting to Lansdowne , i shall write a bit about our general experience in the town itself.
Lansdowne is essentially a cantonment and you get that vibe as soon as one drives into town. On one side its the number of army personnel , military police and vehicles, and on the other a certain level of cleanliness and order which can only be found , atleast in my experience, in cantonment towns. Add the normal qualities of a hillstation i.e weather , greenery, freindly people and you end up having a very delightful and attractive destination.
Upon driving into the town you are confronted with a round about from where one can go either straight or take a left. Going straight for 3 Kms would take you to the museum , 5 Kms would get you to tip n top. Taking a left would take you to the local market beyond which is the Hotel Fairydale and then the lake.
We had reserved a room at the Fairy Dale and i would definitely recommend this place without hesitation. Not too much information is available on hotels in Lansdowne and additionally there are not too many available but we decided to take this one purely because 80% of the reviews i read highlighted this as the one with the least problems. The hotel is approximately half a km from the market. One needs to take an offshoot from the main road and there are plenty of boards and markers which make it next to impossible to miss the turning.
The 100 meters or so of dirt road which leads to the hotel can be quite a punishment for a small car. Its not paved, not even and once too often did i hear the dreaded “clang” coming from my cars underside. Just be slow.
Property and Room.
The Fairydale is essentially an old time Bungalow. The board at the reception indicates that it was built around 1912. Tariff range would be between 700-1500 and a total of 6-7 rooms are available. The cost of the best room i.e the deluxe is 1400 per night which you would all agree is pretty economical , my wife and i agreed as well and thus took this one up. The property is surrounded, substantially, by enough forests to give it that “secluded” feel. The front of the hotel is where we spent most of the day since it gets sunlight almost throughout the day. The hotel also boasts of a restaurant called The Pines’ which is a 30 second walk from the reception down the hill but we did not spot anyone eating there…most of the food was ordered and eaten at the sitting area.
The room was basic but comfortable. The downside was that it was located towards the side of the hotel which meant that it got sunlight starting from around 3 in the afternoon or so. The room was not the original construction either. It was obviously a new extension which had been made recently. The room housed a large comfy bed, a couple of chairs, a table, wooden cupboards, floor to floor carpeting and a TV as well with a Tata Sky connection. Electricity tends to come and go but breaks are not longer than 10 -15 minutes and they did not occur during the night.
The attached bathroom was well done , spacious. The only issue is that there is no geyser in the bathroom (prob to save on electricity) One needs to tell the boys working there and they provide it in buckets , the silver lining is that they dont take forever and its ready within 10 minutes. We also had a small porch which we made ample use of during the evenings , reading and eating pakoras.
There is a package available with all meals as well. In our case the the total would have then been around 2100 INR per night. We decided not to take this because we were keen on eating out as much as we could and get a taste of the local cuisine but this backfired on us a bit. The market has just a few places to eat the best being Zayeka and Mayur but we realized after our first meal that the hotel offers the same stuff and at times is cheaper as well. The good side however was that meal cost per day including snacks, for us, came to only about 400 INR..so if we had taken the package we would have paid 300 unnecessarily.
The food is basic. The menu looks extensive but a lot of the items were not available (typical hill resort problem) Mutton was off alltogether , chicken was limited to 2-3 dishes as was the Chinese. Even dessert was not available and needs to be ordered one meal in advance. Whatever we did manage to get however was well done. The breakfast was my favorite and i strongly recommend the masala omelette’s.
There is no provision for alcohol. The market house a liquour shop but i am not sure on what is available. I had carried a few cans of beer with myself. Soda and ice is readily available.
Staff and Service
I have no choice but to rate them excellent. The service was speedy, people friendly. I was a bit surprised when i discovered that some of them were not very fluent in Hindi and it was sometimes a bit difficult getting information but other than that we had no hassles at all with them. Everyone from the manager to the serving boys were cooperative and willing to help out with anything and everything.
Things to Do
Dont go here if you are someone who cant live without having a lot of activities at hand. This place is pure lazing around but having said that we did check out some of the local attractions.
Tip-n Top : Essentially a viewing point. It about 6 kms from the hotel or about 5 from the rounadabout i mentioned earlier. One needs to park and then walk for about 5 minutes to get to the exact spot. One can see deep into the valley and the Himalayan snow capped ranges as well but you need to have a clear day for the latter. We were hoping that there might be a tea stall or something which would allow us to sit there for a while but there was none and after spending 5 minutes we decided to head back.
On the way back we stopped at the museum. There are 2 in Lansdowne, both which are maintained by the army. One of them requires a special permission but we were not even able to find it let alone try and get the permission. The second one is located about 2 kms before Tip n Top. Entry fee is 20 INR per head. Although stocking a lot of stuff it was not very impressive and did not house anything extremely unique. It takes about 20 minutes to go through the entire mueseum.
The lake : Situate just about 5 minutes away from the hotel. In fact one can clamber over the grounds located towards the left of the hotel and be right there. Walking along the main road would take about 10 minutes. In a car its about2 minutes till the parking area and a short 1 minute walk down to the lake. This is actually not a lake but more along the lines of a large pond. Boating is available. Right where one starts the walk down from the lake is a small quaint cafe and alongside that are a couple of huge cages which house around 50 rabbits.
All the 3 spots can be visited , explored and completed in less than 2 hours. Thats how little there is to do there but that was fine with us since our objective was to chill with lots of books and beer. Walks are a plenty though and you can ask the hotel to pack you some food to take along with you.
All in all it was an excellent getaway and one hopes that one will be able to make it there once again next summer….hopefully in a peppier car!