Dehradun – A bittersweet symphony

The beautiful Clement Town

Living in Mumbai leaves a craving in me to leave the city and go spend some time in the quiet countryside. I think most city people look forward to such breaks and that’s why head to either the beaches or the mountains.

When I visited Dehradun this year, I was appalled to see the erratic constructions plaguing the beautiful capital of Uttarakhand. I have been told that ever since Dehradun became the capital of Uttarakhand, there’s been a massive change in the city landscape where the natural heritage has succumbed to random urbanization and it left a pain in my heart. I didn’t realize the intensity of those words until I drove from the Jolly Grant Airport to the heart of Dehradun. Just like many cities in our country, I realised how we’re all struggling with trying to keep pace with the rapid unplanned urbanisation and with our natural and historical heritage.

During my leisurely stay in Dehradun, I would pass my time reading ‘Once upon a time in the Doon – Writings from the Green Valley’ – edited by Ruskin Bond. This book gave me a glimpse of what Dehradun was earlier and what it has become today and if as a visitor I could feel the pain, I can just imagine those who are from Dehradun, how terrible they must be feeling with the way the peaceful hill town is turning into a chaotic one.

I was in Dehradun for a week with my 6-year-old and here are a few things that we did together with friends. I hope these first-hand accounts help you in planning your next trip to Dehradun.

The soulful thukpa

1. Clement Town

Our trip began with a visit to the beautiful Buddhist temple in Clement Town. A less than an hour’s drive on the busy roads of Dehradun from Inder Road to Clement town brought us to this beautiful place of worship that was crowded with tourists. As the sun sets, you’ll be mesmerized by the 103 feet high statue of Lord Buddha. I have been to a few Buddhist monasteries – one in Coorg and another in Bangkok, and what attracts me about such places of worship is the peace and calm that it embraces you with. But alas, we Indian tourists are so loud that we land up ruining the peace. This place is a lot of fun for kids to play in the sprawling lawns and you can pick up some mementoes from the curio shops. On our way out, we dropped by for some freshly made momos and piping hot thukpa from Mahabodhi.

Dehradun Zoo

2. Dehradun Zoo

If visiting with your kids, then a trip to the zoo in Dehradun is a must. Yes, there are far better zoos that you would have seen in other parts of the country, but this was has been recently revamped and done up really well. They have an Aviary, Aquatic World and regular enclosures for wild animals. The kids loved playing and running around in the wide-open spaces.

Maggie at Maggie Point on Dehradun Mussoorie Road

3. Dehradun Mussoorie Road – Maggie Point

While we didn’t want to brave the traffic and get stuck for hours, we decided to go on a leisurely drive up to Maggie Point for some nice kadak chai and yes, how could we forget – Maggi! Even the fussy eater of a 6-year-old gobbled up an entire plate of Maggie. There are several Maggie points along the road, we stopped at one little dhaba and chatted over piping hot cups of tea and enjoying the crisp mountain breeze.

Cafe Marigold – a cosy nook for travellers

4. Café Marigold

After a pit stop at Maggie Point, we decided to drive up to Café Marigold. Seemed like quite a popular favourite amongst high-end tourists, we stopped by for some cold and hot coffees and an additional chit chat and customary photo sessions owing to its rustic ambience. Quite aesthetically done up, the café is pretty cosy nestled in the roadside of the narrow mountain roads. I’m sure it must be looking pretty dreamy in the night when it’s all lit up.

Waiting for kulfi at Kumar’s Sweets

5. Kumar’s Sweet Shop

No trip to Dehradun would be complete without the Kulfi and Falooda at Kumar’s Sweet Shop. As we stopped by on our way back, we drooled over the freshly made kulfis being topped with falooda, which was devoured as an evening snack. Truly the hills make you hungry!

Robber’s Cave

6. Robber’s Cave

A sheer disappointment, Robber’s Cave is in its most pathetic condition. The stream reduced to almost a nala/ gutter, with mucky dirty water and ten times the population trying to picnic there. I have never seen a picnic spot as dirty and filthy. I would recommend skipping this place. We left and drove to Sahastradhara. Sadly, we Indian tourists are the worst; we just don’t know how to enjoy nature’s bounty responsibly.

Sahastradhara

Sahastradhara

7. Sahastradhara

This was another very popular tourist spot frequented by people. Well, the only difference was, this place HAD water. Even though not maintained very well and lacking in environmental cleanliness and hygiene, this place enjoys a lot of tourist attraction. You can take a dip and play for hours in the water. Changing rooms are available. Stop by at the roadside cafes and dhabas for tea and coffee and you’re good to go.

Paltan Bazaar

8. Paltan Bazaar

It would be insane if you missed a trip to Paltan Bazaar as this is the place you can feel the pulse of Dehradun. We bought freshly baked biscuits from Sunrise Bakers, the only of its kind in Dehradun. My friend and I walked through the narrow lanes of Paltan Bazaar, while she shopped for things for the house, I picked up some gorgeous dupattas for friends and some trinkets too. I think I enjoyed the pulse and energy of this place, it was so lively, so unpretentious and that gives you a true glimpse of the city’s soul.

Bun Tikki!

9. Bun Tikki

On our way back from Paltan Bazaar, my friend and I stopped over for some mouthwatering Bun Tikki. This was something totally out of the world. I started salivating like Pavlov’s dog when I saw them frying the tikkis on a large iron tava and preparing it for the clients waiting eagerly for their orders. The soft sweet buns complimented the aloo tikki with the chutneys. This is far better an alternative than McDonald’s.

The Orchid, Dehradun

10. Orchard Restaurant

Finally, the last day before returning to Mumbai, my friends and I visited the Orchard, a popular restaurant in Rajpur Road. Situated on a highland, the outdoor café overlooks greenery and of course a whole new set of construction going on at a distance. Drop by here if you’d like to try out some Oriental, Thai and Tibetan cuisine.

Overall, a week-long holiday spent in the company in the loving warmth of good friendship was all that actually mattered. This trip was a wonderful blend of fun, laughter, sight seing and just enjoying the slow pace of life. If you ask me whether I would visit Dehradun again, of course, I would and this time, I would explore other facets of this town, which I haven’t yet done. Until then…keep smiling Dehradun.

 

Beautiful lilies in full bloom in my friend’s garden in Dehradun

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