“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam
Be it ever so humble there is no place like home”
Of all the umpteen things travel teaches you, making you value home is one priceless learning.
But ironically travel also redefines the meaning of ‘home’.
On the road you realise that the concept of home need not just be the comfort of the bed you snuggle in or the familiarity of your own pad. It might just be the inexplicable familiarity of a stranger’s voice, or the uncanny resemblance of the dhaaba wala’s tea to the one you have at home, or the feeling of déjà vu when you enter the corridor of a temple you have never visited in your life.
And it may also be that warm, cosy feeling of being absolutely welcome in a place thousands of kms away from home.
The Grand Shamba La at Kalpa, Himachal Pradesh was one such place.
Where I could walk groggy eyed at 5.30 in the morning in my pjs, rubbing my eyes as I make my way to the attic to see the glorious sunrise over the Kinner Kailash range.
Or where I could plonk myself on the couch and grab a quick 10 minute nap in the lobby because I was too lazy to climb to the first floor!
Besides the spectacular views of the Kinner Kailash, Hotel The Grand Shamba La, nestled in apple orchards, boasts of unmatched hospitality in this Kinnauri town of Kalpa.
While my first memory of the hotel is being welcomed with greetings of Tashi Delek and white silken scarves, I vividly remember my jaw dropping in awe walking along apple trees. So when Prithvi, the owner of the hotel greeted me with a beaming smile, the kid in me blurted out in excitement, “Can I pluck apples in your orchard?”
And he was gracious enough to arrange an apple plucking visit for us with an apple plucking tutorial!
Over my three days stay at the Grand Shamba La, I absolutely cannot choose what stayed with me the most.
The heart warming hospitality of Prithvi, the bright smiles of the ever helpful Ankit, Yashpal and the other staff, the serenity and calm of the mediation centre, enveloped in tranquility, the cosy library, set up by Indrajit Laurence Punjabi or the therapeutic views of Kinner Kailash from my room.
Or maybe it is the delightful food whipped up by the chefs from Rampur or the generous servings of fresh apple juice. Or the magical experience of Spotting Om over the Kinner Kailash range!
But I know for a fact that it is also in the experiences that the hotel weaves around Kalpa, which make The Grand Shamba La synonymous for Kalpa and vice versa.
They arrange for day treks, visits to the local jewellers, weavers and also to the local juice factory. Here are my experiences:
Exploring Kinnauri jewellery: One afternoon, we decided to explore the local jewellers of Kalpa. Ankit, our tour guide led the way and we crossed tiny cobbled pathways with houses made of wood.
In one such house, two young lads carved silver strips into intricate jewellery.
The designs were fabulous. Bracelets for men and a long head gear for Kinnauri brides.
A walk further into the main town and we came across several local jewellers. Each had designs to die for. But none could be purchased over the counter. These are all made to order and you can actually see them making these masterpieces as their shops double up as workshops.
Prithvi arranged an Apple picking tour for us and like an excited kid I sprinted into the orchard, while a very amused Ankit laughed at all the excitement.
Apples and more apples hung from every tree in sight. Once I learned how to pluck them without disturbing the branch, it was just me and the apples.
Nothing, I repeat nothing can be more therapeutic than this for a city dweller.
P.s: This is another reason, you must visit Kinnaur in the end of September.
Visit to the Kinnauri shawl weavers:
If there is one thing I regret not buying in my Kalpa trip, it has to be a handwoven Kinnauri Shawl.
The gorgeous black and white checks are embellished with colourful embroidery by these skilled weavers.
The price can go from 2500 Rs. to even 16000 Rs, depending on the intricacy of the work.
Visit to the HIMCU Juice factory:
One of the highlights of my trip was the Visit to the Himcu juice factory.
Mr. Panjabi took us to this local factory which produces organic juices.
They took us around the factory showing us the entire process, giving us an opportunity to meet the local ladies who work at the factory. They loved posing and I loved clicking them, promising them the prints of their photographs. (I did courier them later!)
The apple juice they produced was sugar free and certainly the best I have ever had.
Kalpa may seem a sleepy town to many, but there is SO much to experience in this tiny town. From brilliant temples with Kinnauri architecture, to the mystical sacred grove. From the idyllic Roghi village to visits to the local school.
Not to forget Van Vihar and the Monastery. But that is for another post.
For now, I leave you with some serene views from The Grand Shamba La.
Shamba La means a mystical abode and it truly lives upto its name. The hotel has a wonderful library on the 5th floor with an attic where you can sit for hours looking at the Kinner Kailash range. (Trust me, the views are beyond beautiful!)
They also have a Meditation centre : Yeti, of which I have very fond memories. Of learning Yoga and Tai chi with placid views of orchards and peaks. And for those who wish to dine with a view, there is Cafe Little Tibet, offering Tibetan snacks, organic juices and herbal teas.
If this isn’t a mystical abode, I wonder what else is. A combination of the pleasures of modern luxuries and the hospitality of a home stay.
I was absolutely touched to see their concern for my allergy to cabbage and how thoughtful they were to provide alternatives.
I dream of going back to Kalpa and waking up to magnificent views, go apple picking again and sit in the library with a glass of fresh apple juice for a long long time.
And did I mention?
They have wifi! ( You wouldn’t bother to log in, take my word!)
P.S: This isn’t a sponsored post 🙂