Cottage … Maybe, Swiss … Not, But A Fair Hotel Value


Hill Top Swiss Cottage
Swiss Cottage Complex
Rishikesh, India
Prices: $$$$$
 
View of Ganges River Valley From Room
Hilltop Swiss Cottage sits in its own small self-contained village atop the hills of the High Bank of Rishikesh’s Tapovan area and a little over 1 kilometer from Laxman (Lacksman) Jhula (bridge), the northern most bridge over the Ganges (Ganga) River in town. The “Swiss Cottage” area has seven or eight hotels and guest houses, an equal number of restaurants (Raasta and Nirvana Cafés, Swiss Garden, and Oasis to name a few), a couple of small markets, a laundry, travel agancies, yoga studios, and massage parlors, so you never even have to leave the hill if you desire. It is a relatively quiet area compared to town, but is an easy walk to restaurants, the river, or numerous ashrams and other attractions.
There are cheaper options even within the Swiss Cottage compound (200 rupees/$3.20 per night and up), but I had a nice, large room with a view of the river valley below, flat screen TV with cable (no CNN or BBC), relatively fast Wi-Fi, and a bath with Western toilet, tub, and a great shower with plenty of hot water for 800 rupees ($13) per night.
The staff are not overly friendly and I got the “evil eye” from numerous locals during my stay, but otherwise I would say westerners are well “tolerated”, unless you are an attractive female in which case you are given a great deal of (unwanted) attention.
Their restaurant, The Oasis, was empty every time I walked by and other than a pot of coffee and an omelet my first morning I steared clear because the place was absolutely freezing. There were also a couple of characters there, one Dutch (I believe) and the other appeared to be from the Middle East, that were odd to say the least. The Dutch guy tried to whistle tunes with no melody and went off on a couple of Indian men for no apparent reason and the other guy kept whispering something to me I could not undertsand while looking at me like he wanted to slit my throat. Unnerving, so I ate breakfast at Raasta Café from that point forward.
They have their own yoga studio and meditation hall, but when I stopped by at the appointed times on my first morning, I had apparently awoken the instructor who appeared at the door disheveled from sleep and not ready for a class as advertized. Nothing opens before 8am in the compound, so if you are an early riser be prepared to keep yourself occupied until then. The room did have a small fridge and a boiler (kettle) for hot water, so you can buy some coffee, tea, milk, or soft drinks to have in the room (no alcohol because Rishikesh is a “dry” town).
Being December and in the foothills, Rishikesh is chilly when the sun goes down and the room (and everywhere else for that matter, because India apprently has not figured out central heat yet) was freezing. When I booked the room on Booking.com I clearly saw “heater” advertized in the room, but when I arrived there was none to be found. I asked the manager and he told me that I had reserved the “standard” room without  heat, but when I checked my reservation again I was in-fact correct and he quickly brought me a heater, a small space heater that barely kept the room warm.
CombatCritic Gives Hill Top Swiss Cottage 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … Bombs Are Good!
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Title: Cottage Maybe, Swiss It Is Not, But A Decent Hotel Value

Key Words: Hill Top Swiss Cottage, hilltop, Swiss, cottage, Tapovan, Laxman Jhula, laxman, lacksman, jhula, jhula, Rishikesh, India, hotel, review, Raasta, Nirvana, CombatCritic, TravelValue, YouTube, Facebook
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Rishikesh, India: Raasta Café: Hey Mon, Roll Me A Great Big … Cinnamon Roll


Raasta Café
Swiss Cottage Area
Rishikesh, U.P India
Prices: $$$$$

I ate only one meal other than breakfast at the Raasta Café and it was not great. The reviews on TripAdvidsor were terrific, but the food was underwhelming. It is a nice enough place, like most restaurants in India, open-air and extremely cold in December, and the staff (mostly Nepali from what I gathered) nice enough, somewhat indifferent, and efficient.
The milk coffee (40 rupees/$.65 for a cup, 95 rupees/$1.55 for a large pot) was very weak even though I ordered it “strong”, so I bought my own Folgers instant coffee and spiked the pot each morning in order to get my caffeine fix. On most mornings I had their peanut butter toast (40 rupees/$.65), a nice brown bread with sesame seeds but barely enough peanut butter to cover the toast (sgould have bought my own peanut butter too I guess). I tried their “homemade” pastries (cinnamon roll, chocolate croissant) a couple times, but they were basted with egg and had that definite “raw” egg taste which was not appetizing, so I stuck with the toast.
My one dinner consisted of paneer mata (90 rupees/$1.60), which was supposed to be a spicy spinach dish with cheese (curd) cubes, and some garlic and butter roti (flat bread – 30 rupees/$.50 each). The paneer was obviously the spinach soup from the menu with some cheese tossed in and although not bad tasting was both unfulfilling and not filling. The roti were OK, but reminded me of whole wheat tortillas with some butter and garlic added. Neither were very good.
I found a few good restaurants in town, including nearby Nirvana Café (Indian/Continental), A Tavola con Te (Italian/pizza), and Ramana’s Garden (Organic / Vegetarian /Eclectic), so I was not too upset by Raasta’s boring food. It is the one place in the area where people seem to congregate and the Wi-Fi is reasonably fast, so it is worth a visit if staying in one of the “Swiss Cottages”.
CombatCritic Gives Raasta Café 5 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
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Title: Rishikesh, India: Raasta Café: Hey Mon, Roll Me A Great Big … Cinammon Roll
Key Words: Raasta Café, café, Swiss Cottage, Swiss, cottage, menu, Tapovan, Laxman Jhula, laxman, lacksman, jhula, Rishikesh, India, review, Raasta, CombatCritic, TravelValue, YouTube, Facebook

Consider Yourself ENLIGHTENED: Bitro NIRVANA Is Trendy, Eclectic, and Reasonably Priced


Bistro Nirvana
Swiss Cottage Area Rishikesh, U.P. India

Bistro Nirvana came highly recommended by a friend I met in Dharamsala, but I only had a coffee there until the day before I left because I did not like the “vibe”. It is a very nice place with bamboo, wood tones, and a Polynesian feel, but all but one table is of the “Eastern” variety with low tops, seating mats, and a little too uncomfortable for this disabled Veteran. 

The young “Bohemian” / hippie-wannabe crowd is drawn to this place, the ones with the dreadlocks (not sure why caucasians want to waste their time or money on dreadlocks, but whatever floats your boat) and nose-in-the-phone silence, just like in Dharamsala, so that also put me off a bit. The staff is friendly, but indifferent just like everywhere else in Rishikesh in general and the Swiss Cottage complex in pariticular.
Anyway, the food was really good! I ordered the Dal Makhni (130 rupees/$2.05), black lentils slow cooked overnight with garlic, onions, butter, and crème and a garlic and butter nan (50 rupees/80 cents). The dal were superb, arriving in a good size copper pot, perfectly warm and the best $2 I have spent in a long time at a restaurant. The nan was also very good, not looking enough to get me through my dal at first, but there was more than met the eye and I was satiated … after a piece of their legendary Banoffee pie (60 rupees/$.95) of course. The pie was rich and sweet, tasty with banana cream and toffee (caramel) atop a thick, chewy biscuit (cookie) crust, being almost too rich, but I polished it off just the same.

CombatCritic Gives Bistro Nirvana 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … One Bomb Deduction For Low Tables and Too Many Dreadlocks … Bombs Are Great!
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Title: Consider Yourself ENLIGHTENED: Café NIRVANA Is Trendy,  Eclectic, and Reasonably Priced
Key Words: Café Nirvana, café, Swiss Cottage, Swiss, cottage, Tapovan, Laxman Jhula, laxman, lacksman, jhula, jhula, Rishikesh, India, hotel, review, Nirvana, CombatCritic, TravelValue, YouTube, Facebook

Parmarth Niketan Ashram … A Definite DO NOT MISS in Rishikesh


Parmarth Niketan Ashram
Swarg Ashram (250 Meters South of Ram Jhula Bridge)
Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Parmarth Niketan Ashram is definitely worth a visit if for nothing else than the beautiful 5pm ceremony on the banks of the Ganga (Ganges). I had difficulty finding it on TripAdvisor because of the confusing map links, taking me near the Ram Jhula Bridge instead of 250-300 meters south to Parmarth Niketan.


From Ram Jhula Bridge, head south and keep to the right at the junction, taking you through the many stalls along the river and a covered market and continuing another 200-300 meters where you will see the riverfront stage to your right and the ashram to your left (you cannot miss it).
The Parmarth Niketan Ashram is worth a stroll with beautiful sculptures, gardens, buildings (dorms, meditation/dining halls, etc) and shops. I understand that you can stay here rather cheaply (if not free) for meditation, devotion, yoga, and meals, but I will not lead you to believe that I understand the specifics. htto://www.Parmarth.com has much more information, so I recommend you contact them for details. There are also free toilets (western-style sitters beside the “squatting” variety), snack stands, and benches to sit on.

Arrive for the 5:00PM ceremony early (4:30 recommended by locals, but in mid-December space was not a problem) and get a seat near the main steps to join in the melodic and visually stunning ceremony. The monks start arriving around 4:30 and loosen up their vocal chords, singing beautiful Hindu songs and praising Krishna as the sun starts setting slowly in the west on the other side of the river. It lasts about 30 minutes (until 5:30), ending in a fire offering where candles are lit, passed around the crowd for blessings, and placed in the river to float downstream and out of view as darkness ensues on Mother Ganga.

CombatCritic Gives Parmarth Niketan Ashram 10 Out of 10 Bombs … It’s FREE and a Definite DO NOT MISS in Rishikesh … More Bombs Are Better!



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Key Words: Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Parmarth, Niketan, Ashram, Rishikesh, India, CombatCritic, combat, critic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, yoga, meditation, Ram Jhula, ram, jhula