As the month of June descends on us, there is one refrain uppermost in our minds – summer holidays! To escape the heat of the plains, our gorgeous hill stations beckon to us lovingly and we gladly drop everything and head to them. Fortunately, now that working from anywhere is a possibility, summer escapes no longer have to be confined to a few days. They can also last the duration of an entire month or more. For this purpose, a homestay – preferably of the luxurious kind located in the lap of nature – is the best option. The Barefoot Bungalow, a luxury villa homestay located in remote and pristine Buranshkhanda near Mussoorie, is one such that merits attention.
Started by Dr. Amarpal Singh Gulati, Harpal Singh Gulati and Damanjeet Singh Gulati, who converted their family holiday home to a luxury homestay, Barefoot Bungalow is sure to appeal to everyone. “The idea came to us during the pandemic. When everything was closed we were blessed to have this house. We spent some quality family time here amidst the hills and clean and clear environment. During our stay, I realised what quality family time is and how staying in a house is different from staying in a hotel. The latter gives you different vibes as compared to a home, so I realised that once Covid-19 restrictions are over, people will throng to places but few things might restrict them and the most important would be the safety and fear of the virus. This made me realise that as compared to big hotels, it is much easier to maintain, sanitise and control the inflow of guests in a holiday home. Moreover, the environment of a home is different from that of a hotel. It was then that we decided to convert this house into a homestay,” say the co-founders in a chat with Sunday Guardian.
Barefoot Bungalow opened its doors to the world in May 2021, once Covid travel restrictions were eased. Initially nervous about the way it would be received or the possible state of tourism after the pandemic, the team’s fears were allayed over the coming months. They say the first month was quite slow as they were located in an offbeat destination, so not many queries came, but slowly as restrictions started easing, their queries also increased. The first guests arrived in June 2021, who were a family of seven people along with their pet.
“We were very excited to receive our first guests. I myself was present there for their welcome and my team left no stone unturned in their hospitality and service. They were very happy and promised to visit us again. From then till date we have been visited by around 100 guests and have around 100 reviews online. Out of the 100 reviews, 95 reviews are five star reviews, which makes us believe that we have been accepted well by our guests,” shares Dr Amarpal with a smile.
When asked how they live up to their tag of being a luxury homestay, Harpal responds, “When this homestay concept came to Uttarakhand, it was primarily focused on generating work and income for local villagers. This would happen with a good footfall of tourists. Another reason was to educate tourists about local hill traditions and customs. A lot of training programs and efforts were put together to educate homeowners regarding hygiene, hospitality and other factors. Hence, earlier homestays were considered a budget substitute to expensive hotels and resorts. We wanted to break this myth and give equivalent comfort and hygiene as a five star property.”
The Barefoot Bungalow rates itself luxurious on the following grounds:
Three attendants and one personal butler / chef are at the disposal of guests who pamper them through their stay at the bungalow.
Tailormade homecooked food by chef Arjun.
Feather soft premium dry cleaned linen for every guest.
Luxurious royal king coil spring mattress on every bed.
Heated beds for enhanced comfort and cosiness.
Cosy wooden interiors to give the warmth and feel of a hill station.
Premium toiletries and all modern amenities in the washrooms. Separate shower cubicles in all washrooms.
24 hour running hot and cold water.
Underlay heating in the entire bungalow – even the bathrooms are equipped with ultraviolet heaters.
Bonfire evenings with personal live guitarist and vocalist entertaining the guests.
Separate glass house for meals equipped with live kitchen setup so that the guests can experience the food being cooked fresh.
High decibel professional sound system equipped with karaoke music for guests’ entertainment.
55” LED screen with all leading OTT subscriptions.
Lovely landscapes and 14000 sq.ft. private, well-maintained garden equipped with water bodies.
Wonderful views of the snow-capped Himalayan range.
Indoor fully functional fire place.
Aside from the promise of luxury, Barefoot Bungalow also offers plenty of recreational options including fabulous views of iconic Himalayan peaks like Bandarpoonch, Swargarohini, Satopanth, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamanotri; trekking through hills and jungles; visiting the Surkanda Mandir, the Tehri Lake which is an artificial dam reservoir and the Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve; trying various adventure sports like ziplining, sky cycling, and off roading; as well as bird watching. Those who miss the hustle and bustle of city life can enjoy visits to Mussoorie Mall Road and the increasingly popular hill station of Landour.
“We are different from other homestays in our approach, as we try to give all the facilities of a five-star property with the feel of a home. Our approach is very professional, but our feel and experience is quite homely,” says Damanjeet. With a focus on providing a luxurious and comfortable experience to its patrons, the Barefoot Bungalow caters to a very niche clientele and target audience. The people who frequent their property are those who want to spend quality time with their friends and families but are also very particular about hygiene, comfort, hospitality, food, and ambience. “They are people who want to be pampered and taken good care of and that is reflected in our pricing too,” explain the co-founders.
The team signs off by saying, “The cherry on top is that we serve our guests with our lip-smacking natural homemade and handmade range of pickles and chutneys under our own brand Martban “Maa ke Haath Sa”. With this initiative we try to help many women from neighbouring villages by generating work for them. All these pickles and chutneys are manufactured as per old recipes of our grandmothers and with the same old techniques that were earlier used to make pickles. Our guests relish these unique pickles, spread and chutneys and even buy them for their own homes. All these products are free from any artificial flavours or colours and are made from completely natural ingredients.”
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on email@example.com.