The Bunker Hostel -Debunking life in its own way

And I sat there on the cobbled stones near the waterholed bonfire on a cold Monday afternoon, amidst the clouds passing by, mocking my inability to fly with them. I sat there still blankly looking at the mountain and wondering if life could forever this be. If only time could stand still and let me be. 

This is not an exaggeration this is what The Bunker does to you. 

-How did I find The Bunker? 

I have never stayed in a hostel in India, partially due to safety and more so because of cleanliness reasons. But this time I was pretty tight on budget and after listening to a few stories about the new hostels springing up around the country, I decided to take the plunge. 

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Shailaja introduced me to the instragram influencer Abhinav Chandel who goes by the handle @abhiandnow who recommended The Bunker Hostel at Upper Dharamkot and after reading and staring at the pictures for an hour I decided to book the place through Booking.com. 

Although my bed bunk was booked they didn’t charge any money upfront and I kept calling them to ensure if that means I don’t get a place. The person on the other side calmly said, Pooja, don’t worry we got your bed. We are hiking right now,ceya. 

With this I had an inkling that this isn’t just another hostel and after spending a week with this enterprising and amazing lot I can only say, this has been my best hostelling experience ever. (I have stayed at St Christopher’s Inn–which is an award winning hostel in Paris, just to compare the experience) 

– Are you ready to reach The Bunker?

First things first, if you think this place is meant for the easy hearts it’s not, whether you choose to stay at The Bunker or Zostel at Upper Dharamkot, you will have to pull your luggage for 500 meters to a kilometre from where the cab drops you. Not really a big deal, but I recommend do not carry suitcases and extra luggage. You will repent it. 

I reached the hostel after sunset and met one of the owners – Ishan Byotra. And his friends Nidhi Iyer and Naihad Mohan who help him run the show. I didn’t get the chance to meet the co-owner Ashish.  But I am sure you will find them running the hostel once you reach there. Oh, there are two more important inhabitants- -Rain and Tazzoo. 

-What makes The Bunker my favourite?

Its the people who run the hostel, its the people who stay in the hostel and those who come for lively discussions and stay through the evening for lovely dinners.  The hostel attracts a lot of foreign tourists as compared to a Zostel, mainly because Indian’s are more aware of Zostel as a brand and their infrastructure is usually the same across the country. 

In a way that has helped The Bunker create its own niche. People playing and teaching poyi, Omir, an Israeli guy rapping along a hindi song in Hebrew, to the Swedish mailman Anton who brought me back from a treacherous trek or people playing guitars or lazily listening to music with each other. By the end of the day you would have spoken to everyone who is in the hostel. Instant plans with hostel mates and the zeal with which Nidhi, Ishan and Naihad help everyone, it sets them apart.
I had to go to Bir and Ishan overheard people in a cafe that they are headed to the same destination and got me to travel along with them. Or when I was in too much pain and Nidhi made me peanut butter sandwich even though the kitchen was officially closed. Its these gestures that go a long way in building trust with customers and loyal repeat travellers. 

– What more? 

The place dosen’t feel like a strange new place, its more than a hostel, its a new home with a lot of roommates, who somehow leave their imprints  on each other.  So much so, that I cancelled my other plans and came back to stay three more days with them.  And they were nice enough to adjust me at my same bed! 

– Dent in the pocket? 

I stayed in a mixed dorm called Rivers and paid Rs 450 per night. The room is cosy and has enough space for your luggage.  The washroom is neat and clean and hot water runs 24*7! I think there are cheaper rooms too!

Food is good- totally recommend the ginger honey lemon to drink, the veg Thali and Bunker Fried Chicken. You obviously can’t leave without eating or drinking Ishan’s special hot chocolate or experimental desserts. 

The place is pretty neat and clean and I recommend this hostel to anyone who is seeking to travel alone or with friends. 

-What are you waiting to hear?

We all have fears of travelling alone, but this place makes it easier. So those who asked me if they should travel alone, there can’t be a better place to start it.

Trust me you will leave a part of yourself when you leave promising to come back for its not everytime that you find a place which sings to your soul. 
PS: Ishan didn’t give me a penny’s discount to write this. 

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Things to do around Bali!

 

Although Bali is the congregation of all things old and new and has the most mesmerizing sunsets, it is an overcrowded city with tourists all over and evenings are all about traffic jams. But all said, you cant take the charm away from the streets of this city. For someone who loves solitude and beaches, I had kept only 2.5 days traveling around Ubud and Bali which I reckon isn’t fair. It deserves more.

But if you are someone who is looking to dive and visit islands and stare at the most magnificent sunsets, then you have to leave this hustle bustle city sooner than you want to.

 

Cost:

I had hired a car cum tourist driver who charged me Rs 3500 per day for 10 hours, there are people who can take you around for far cheaper. The ideal thing to do in Bali is to negotiate shamelessly.  I totally recommend my tour guide Budi, he took me to every possible place he could however off route they may be.

Five things I totally recommend:

-Bali Marine Safari Park and The Agung Bali Show

Have you ever been in a closed theater and witnessed a theatrical live performance with Parakeets, six elephants, tiger and some beautiful art work on a stage at the same time? If yes, then I envy you. If not, then please remember this is the most magical performance I have ever seen in my life and I totally recommend it. It’s a beautiful story with live music. The performance was enthralling.

It is part of the Marine Safari ticket and you should not miss it at all. The safari is nice but this takes the cake.  And be rest assured you will see every animal you have seen in your animal book but the best is the Tiger show and African Safari.

The entire tour takes up nearly four hours of your day.

Cost: There are three types of entry ticket , I opted for the one that costs Rs 4500/- per pax totally worth it.

-Canyon of Sukawati

Beji Guwang Hidden canyon is located in the village of Sukawati which is little far from Denpasar city but an experience you shouldn’t miss. I was looking for offbeat things to do in Bali and came across this canyon. It’s a rocky canyon with fountain hidden underneath the village. I didn’t see any Indian tourist around this place; in fact I was the only one hiking around the canyon that day. It is famous with thrill junkies and in case you are someone looking for safety ropes or easy climbs then this place isn’t for you. It’s all about climbing around slippery rocks and jumping into water and witnessing nature’s beauty. You must take a local tour guide else it can be a risky affair. My local tour guide was very nice and he helped carry most of my stuff (Do not travel with any baggage). It’s a two hour trail and it pushes you to go further than you can imagine you can ever do. There was this moment when I decided to give up but he motivated me to finish the trail and I am grateful to him. I sincerely didn’t know I could finish that trail and climb a slippery mountain to come back to my car. May be you will learn something new about yourself too, isn’t that’s why we travel?

 

Sunset dinner by Jimbaran

As waves come crawling on your feet and array of colours fill the sky, you can’t help but feel so calm and peaceful just to be there. After a long day’s travel it’s the perfect way to wind up your Bali tour as you eat the best sea food and stare at the ocean and flights taking off next to you. It’s the bliss part of travelling and makes you ponder over things you want to do.

-Temple Hopping

My personal favorite is Temple of Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge) which is located in Ubud. Although one can easily miss the entrance, this temple is centuries old and has a beautiful entrance. With pond on both sides and lotuses around it, it truly signifies what the Goddess stands for.

Tirta Empul Temple is also one of the most revered ones and you should carry your own sarong to take a dip in the holy water. It’s an experience you will cherish, quite unlike Indian temples, hence totally recommend it.

-Uluwatu and Tanha Lot

These are ideal spots to witness sunsets and hordes of tourists gather around in the evening, so I suggest try and reach before the roads jam up. Stay back after the sunset and listen to the waves crashing on the shore and see the bats fly home.  Also do not give a miss to Suluban beach underneath Uluwatu and you can find people trying to surf.

 

Apart from these there are places which one should visit if time permits:

Cycling around Tegallang Rice fields

Take a Volkswagon or heritage car and tour around (available on Viator)

The abandoned Planes in South Kuta

Devdan Show

Lunch by Mount Batur

 

  • None of the pictures have been edited to represent how truly beautiful the place is. Would love your feedback and let me know if I missed something great, which I should do in my next trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solo Travel in Bali

Sunset at Jimbaran

 

I have been solo traveling for last seven years and each time I have an interesting story to narrate. But as a solo backpacker, I have always avoided travelling in Asia, but this time around I decided to visit Indonesia.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much but I came back with such beautiful stories and memories. And I totally recommend you to pick your bags and travel alone and cheer up your soul.

The first thing that comes to mind when one says Indonesia is Bali. But trust me there is more to Indonesia than Bali and Ubud. Infact, beaches in Bali like Kuta, Seminyak etc seem like upmarket Goa, the good thing is as a solo traveler it makes you feel at home before you set out to see the unseen. I spent the best part of my holiday roaming around an island called Gili Trawangan (more on this in next post).

For Indian travelers, Bali is really hop skip and jump away (Mine was a 15 hour journey). I took a Malaysian Airline flight and reached Bali via Kuala Lumpur. The flights were delayed in all legs of my trip so maybe you can see if you want to choose any other airline. The official name of Bali Airport is Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, and it can easily be passed off as a domestic terminal in any Indian airport. It’s small, hence convenient and easy to get by. So if you are a solo traveler don’t be intimidated, things are easily under control.  For Indians, visa is exempted, so basically you don’t have to pay a penny to enter the land of history, culture and magnificent sunsets.

Currency:

The Indonesian Rupiah is quite intimidating for the first two days, as you haven’t really dealt with millions before in your life. Inflation hasn’t really helped the economy. For eg- a packet of bread costs  17,000 Ind rupiyah. So the best part is to know your currency and you should bargain hard for a better rate. In case someone offers you a better deal than anywhere else then dump it, always ask for a receipt. There are currency exchanges shops in every nook and corner so try and be careful. I exchanged currency in batches as I ended up spending way more when I had pile of cash.

Hotels:   

Now, picking a hotel is the first part of the trip, here is what I did and what I could have done better.  I booked all my hotels through Expedia and when compared to other sites, I did get a better deal.

As a backpacker I usually live in hostels, but when it comes to travelling in Asia, especially back home I prefer hotels. Although the mindset is changing but for a first timer I decided to try the safe bet. I booked Sun Boutique Hotel managed by BENCOOLEN at Sunset Road in Kuta, it was quite cheap and the facilities were very good. My room was next to the pool and there wasn’t any outside noise and the staff is very nice and updated me on every offer they had during my stay.

Cost: Rs 1975/- per night per room (2pax)

But I would recommend that if you are travelling budget in Bali, you should opt for a hostel or a hotel near the beach road. Don’t try and stay too far from the beach, else you will end up wasting money on cab and time as traffic is a huge problem in the island. It helps to leave early when in Bali. The roads are too small and taxis are an expensive affair.

I also stayed at Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort during the last leg of my stay as I wanted to pamper myself. If you are looking for luxury this hotel surely ensures one. The hotel has a gate which opens up to the beach and it is in the midst of all the action Bali has to offer. Totally recommend their Spa services too.

Cost: Rs10,000/- per night per room (2 pax)

Other hotel that I liked include Hard Rock Hotel on Kuta Beach Road. One can try hotels in Legian Street or Seminyak. Infact Seminyak has some of the best hotel properties for luxe travelers.

Food and Shopping:

While walking on the beach road one can’t help but see series of shops hanging dreamcatchers in every sizes and trust me you will end up buying one. One thing in Bali that one shouldn’t forget is to bargain. I was totally ripped off in the first two shops and then I rehashed my bargaining skills. Always pay half of what they ask for and always be confident. And go to as many stores as you can before you start buying.

Indonesian food can be quite spicy, but the plethora of sea food it offers warrants mention. I had a lovely sunset dinner at Ganesha Café at Jimbaran Beach. The prawns were beautifully cooked and served with rice and sea plant.

Travel Tale in next post: Canyon of Sukawati, Bali Marine Safari, Saraswati Temple, Goldsmith shop, Tanha Lot and more.