Staying at 4 rooms hotel in Gunehar is a very unique experience. A few hours away from the bustling Mc Leodganj, which is perennially crushing under the touristy madness is this quaint home stay, away from all the touristy frills and other nonsense. I had never stayed in a restored property so I was looking forward to the charming vacation bang in the middle of a real Himachali village.
I was accompanied by 4 other travel bloggers who braved the early morning downpour to reach the hotel. But not before maneuvering our way through herds of cattle tended by the Gaddi shepherd community.
Picture above : 4 room hotel – BEFORE (Pic by Frank)
We were delighted to take a round of the rustic property. Built out of mud and wood and bamboo as main components, the hotel exuded an earthy charm. Walking bare feet on the mud floor of the hotel, I stared lustily at the verdant valleys and misty air from the balcony, disturbed only by the chirps of birds that set up their nest in the ceiling.
I was told it was originally the partially burnt house of a wealthy merchant. When I looked closely at the other bigger traditional houses in the vicinity, I found a striking similarity except that the hotel was more sanitized and spruced up.
Like all things Frank has done to put Gunehar on the ‘discerning’ traveler map, without alienating the locals and their lifestyle, 4 rooms hotel effortlessly blends with the local milieu and atmosphere.
The rooms are simple and comfortable, the washrooms equipped with bathtubs and the walls are adorned with gorgeous crowd sourced photographs from the rural Himachal. All the rooms in 1st floor open in a balcony with wooden seats, tables and cushions. We loved hogging on hot Tea over some pakoras (fritters) and spiced up Maggi noodles as the rain lashed the tress gently.
Picture above : 4 room hotel – After restoration
The balcony is also a great place for people watching. We languorously saw life pass by in slow motion as school kids, shopkeepers, farmers and many people from Gaddi community, dressed in their traditional avatars, kept the place alive with their activity. The rooms on ground floor open in a lawn landscaped with flowering plants and a huge swing. My vote goes for the first floor rooms though. All the rooms differ from each other (Remember it was a home once?) in décor, design and mood. In some rooms you are literally sitting on artworks (Look at the beds carefully)
This is the kind of hotel where you should come to do nothing. The maximum you should do here is take a walk in the Gunehr village, talk to locals, maybe indulge in paragliding in nearby Bir, or sample Tibetan food in the monastery rich Tibetan Colony nearby. This is the place to slow down, as they say, this is the place to indulge in JOMO – Joy Of Missing Out. I found my stay meaningful here as the hotel is rich in soul and character unlike the clinical hotels one is used to. Also the village is as authentic as it can get.
However, it’s not a hotel as we know it. There is no room service and one needs to place the order of meals at least 2-3 hours in advance. This is also not the place for your tantrums, whims and fancies. It’s a cool concept if you understand that the owner himself cooks the food for his guests in 4 tables restaurant. The restaurant is a 5 minute walk away from the hotel.
First things first, I can’t see 4 tables near Bir as a restaurant. It is a labor of love. It’s more of a personal space where you get to interact with Frank, the Indo-German owner who has turned the ground floor of his rented house into an eat-‘play’-love zone! There is this je ne sais quoi Frank touch in everything you eat and see. The food has that surprise element which you will not find in any restaurant or recipe book. He makes the traditional food exciting in his own unique way.
You can dine in an indoor setting (low lighting, great music and candles, et al) or al fresco in a balcony (sunshine, fresh flowers, scented air, bird songs) overlooking the verdant valley.
The ingredients are fresh and exotic for a remote village like Gunehr. It’s easy to opt from vegetarian, vegan (He makes amazing vegetarian food. Being a strict vegetarian, I can vouch for it!) and non vegetarian dishes. Just ask. Here’s what we ate in our 2 night, 3 days stay – Bread basket (baked at home) with dips, salad, olive and cheese platter; cereals and fruit bowls, cappuccinos, wood fired pizzas, variety of pastas. My favorite was a fluffy pancake for which he actually used Dosa/Uttapam batter, or the cookies drizzled with chocolate sauce.
He even turned the boring paneer (cottage cheese) into a gourmet food with his innovation. The breakfast at his place was worth going for again and again. In fact, it’s said about his food that one must come to Gunehr only to ‘eat out of his hands’. I can’t agree more.
No wonder his restaurant is also covered by the Food and travel show Highway On My Plate. Be warned though, it’s a strictly ‘NO KETCHUP’ restaurant. Initially I had problem dealing with it (My Mom says I drink ketchup!) but thanks to Frank, I soon learnt how to appreciate food sans ketchup.
It’s also a great place for striking conversations and meeting some interesting people. We chatted up with many intriguing and lively people here. Frank is so much fun to talk to. He can regale you for hours with many riveting stories from his hometown Germany and from the hills in India, peppering it with those local accents (be very attentive) and animated expressions.
What makes this place more personal is that Frank lives on the first floor with his son Aloke. The first floor also has a studio where the art works from the conceptual art festival Shop Art / Art Shop-1 are displayed. It is an interesting initiative by Frank where a part of village is turned into an arts festival. Read more about it and more details of how/what/where here.
The view from my #SoulWindow is welcoming!
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Note : I was invited by Frank to brief about a very interesting arts festival called Shop Art / Art Shop. In this festival, the nondescript village of Gunehr turns into a arts festival. Know about this unique festival below :
Also invited alongwith me were other travel bloggers namely Dipanshu Goyal, Manjulika Pramod and Parnashree Devi.
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