As I wove my way through the winding roads from Delhi to the charming hilltop town of Dhanaulti, I felt my stomach churn with anxiety. Motion sickness was a constant companion on long journeys, but as I arrived in the verdant mountains, something shifted inside me. Perhaps it was the fresh crisp air or the breathtaking beauty of the surroundings that seemed to call to me with an irresistible pull. Whatever the reason, the promise of a quiet retreat and unparalleled serenity made my motion sickness fade away.
When I entered the comely hills of Burans Khanda village in Uttarakhand, I was left spellbound by the resplendent Barefoot Bungalow, an abode so awe-inspiring that it took my breath away.
The Grand Welcome
As I neared the property, I was mesmerised by the beauty of the Himachali Rhododendron trees adorned with stunning ruby-red Burans flowers. The journey was filled with enchantment and allure, surrounded by an array of wild daisies.
The Barefoot Bungalow staff welcomed me with an exquisite locally-sourced fresh-pressed juice and a traditional Indian Garhwali topi, rendering an incomparable personalised touch to the traditional welcome process. I was struck by the perfect blend of luxurious living space and homely retreat feel as soon as I entered the property. The panoramic views of the Himadri range drew me in, providing an opulent space to revel in the scenic beauty outside while enjoying all the comforts of home.
Oh! The Meal
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Undeniably divine, the kitchen at the Barefoot Bungalow is the domain of former Hyatt executive Chef, Arjun Adhikari. His imaginative and flavourful cuisine was a sensory delight.
I savoured every bite of the traditional Garhwal thali, a rich and complex blend of flavours that lingered on my taste buds. From Naal Badi to Bakra Siri, Saag Ghota to Pahadi Daal, and local salads like Aalu Jakhiya and Kachmoli, I found myself wanting to try every dish Barefoot Bungalow had to offer. The delicate Mandwa roti, made from mandwa seeds, was a gastronomical masterpiece of the local cuisine.
During my conversation with Adhikari, I learned that Garhwali cuisine is a regional cuisine that originated from the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, India. It plays a vital role in reflecting the region’s rich history, traditions, and lifestyle, making it a significant aspect of the local culture.
Garhwali cuisine emphasises locally sourced ingredients such as Mandua (finger millet), Jhangora (barnyard millet), Bhaat (rice), and vegetables like Jakhiya, Bhangjeera, and Phaanu leaves, creating complex blends of rich flavors. This embodiment of a farm-to-table approach not only offers unique tastes in Garhwali cuisine but also promotes sustainability and preserves the local heritage.
Garhwali cuisine has evolved through the years, incorporating influences from the neighboring regions of Himachal Pradesh and Tibet.
The Calm Mornings
Having woken up earlier than usual, I took a morning walk and was greeted by the sweet melody of the blue whistling thrush echoing through the tranquil oak woods, creating a scene straight out of a fairy tale. The terrace-farmed valleys and soft tinkling of cowbells added to the idyllic view, giving me a soothing escape from the daily hustle and bustle.
The panoramic vistas of the Himalayas from Barefoot Bungalow are nothing short of breathtaking and awe-inspiring. The majestic snow-clad peaks, combined with the serene surroundings, created a picture-perfect backdrop that lifted my soul and brought a sense of peace to my heart.
After my walk, I returned and sat calmly with a refreshing cup of tea, I was entranced by the stillness, letting the worries of the world slip away. The splendid view was remarkable, and I felt fulfilled and satisfied, completely at ease with the natural beauty all around me.
Behind Every ‘Bungalow,' There's A Story
I was fascinated by the story of the Barefoot Bungalow, a story of passion and love. The Gulati brothers, Dr. Amarpal Singh Gulati, Harpal Singh Gulati, and Damanjeet Singh Gulati, worked tirelessly to transform their family holiday home into a luxurious homestay that harmonizes with the Himalayas' unspoiled beauty. The idea behind the Barefoot Bungalow was born during the COVID pandemic when the brothers spent quality time in their family home.
They understood the special and welcoming atmosphere that a house has over impersonal hotels that can leave guests feeling like mere visitors. The brothers also foresaw post-pandemic times would have people looking for a retreat that provides utmost safety and hygiene standards. A vacation home was the perfect solution as it is easier to sanitize and manage guest flow.
I was particularly impressed by the extraordinary attention given to every detail at Barefoot Bungalow. Despite the undeniable grandeur, the property places immense importance on privacy, guaranteeing an uninterrupted and luxurious stay.
The Barefoot Bungalow works with women in neighboring communities to produce homemade pickles and preserves, providing them with a meaningful source of livelihood while paying homage to the land. It is a shining example of how responsible tourism can create a positive impact on local communities.
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