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.