That’s something I said every few minutes, from the time I entered Sunshine Himalayan Cottage, to the time I left. I’m actually feeling a bit reluctant to share this sweet cabin with you – I want it all to myself!
Sunshine Himalayan Cottage is close to Gurshaini and Jibhi in a place called Banjar– all of which are located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. Jibhi had already stolen my heart – with its triad of trees, hills and the Tirthan River – steadfast and eternal. And I was thrilled to head back to the same area to experience and share with you yet another amazing homestay in Himachal Pradesh.
GPS is accurate in terms of directions, but it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of Tirthan Valley and miss the tiny cut-off that slopes up to Gurshaini, hence I’d advise you to keep your eyes on the map. The area in general is prone to landslides, so if there happens to be heavy, continuous rain on the days prior to your visit, it would be a good idea to call and check the condition of the road.
ABOUT SUNSHINE HIMALAYAN COTTAGE
Sunshine Himalayan Cottage is aptly named for it is literally gives you all the warm-fuzzies when you first see it basking in the sunlight at edge of the water. You’ll be instantly lulled into relaxation mode by the sound of the stream flowing by and mesmerized by the views of endless hills opposite the cottage, scattered with tiny waterfalls gushing down the cliffs.
The welcoming smiles of the owners, Panki Sood and his wife are enough to banish any of the initial formality that you feel when you meet strangers. And after offering you a welcome drink and engaging in some chit-chat about the journey, they’ll leave you to discover the place at your own pace.
No corner of the property is ordinary, but an ingenious amalgamation of mud, clay, bamboo and stone. An absence of nails, paint or synthetic materials makes the place look and feel married to the landscape around it, a perfect yin and yang relationship. You won’t believe it until you experience it, but the aura of Sunshine Himalayan Cottage just exudes happiness!
The living room is an inviting space for everyone – with plush rugs, rustic touches like cane furniture and natural light in abundance. To wind down, hang out here and read a book, play a game, partake in a sing-along or just listen to the sound of laughter coming from the dining area next door. It appears as if the cheer in the air is contagious and that everyone is just plain happy to be there.
The trout-filled mountain stream is just outside the cabin. Step out of the door onto the deck and you’ll be looking down into the water. You can even clamber and sit upon the rocks on the river and dip your feet into the freezing cold water. With your toes dipped in and eyes towards the many waterfalls crashing down, far away in the distance, your job, stress and struggles will seem so insignificant.
If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a boathouse and haven’t got the chance to, Sunshine Himalayan Cottage is perfect to give you all those feels! You won’t be moving, but one glance out of the window may convince you that you are sitting on a boathouse that’s merrily bobbing on the water!
The moment I walked into my room, I knew I’d enjoy the seclusion, tranquillity and the delicious quiet– quiet that lasts only as long as the door leading to the balcony is shut. Open it, and the sound of the river flowing is so deafening that speaking to someone just a few meters away is a tough task.
The room is spacious, impeccably clean and minimally decorated to include a couple of side tables, a coat hanger, a luggage hold, and a sofa-cum-bed tucked in a corner. The large double bed set in the centre is fitted with bright coloured sheets to offset the pale mud walls and infuse a dollop of colour. The modern washroom is well designed and hygienic, and basic bath amenities are provided.
The balcony, however, is the highlight. Dripping in yellow sunshine during the day, it offers a spectacular view of the river right below you. Sit here and watch the wind as it thrashes the trees, an arm’s length away, if they were mere weeds. At night, there’s no better spot to curl up in than the cane chairs, and gaze up into the star strewn sky.
The fact that the room was so minimal somehow made me mindful of so many little things like walking barefoot on the cool mud-clay floor, the way the raw umber-shaded walls absorbed the soft glow of the lights and even the way the soft furry blanket felt on my skin as I drifted into a deep slumber.
Locals say that the best places to enjoy a taste of the local cuisine are at the table of a local homestead or at a wedding. I didn’t have the nerve to gatecrash a wedding, but the meals here were no less of a feast.
Bathed in natural light and accented with colourful touches, quirky knick-knacks, the dining room is a homely space that’s set in such a way that guests can indulge in great conversation and tuck into a warming Himachali meal. Panki Ji’s wife is an incredible cook and I had a lip-smacking meal of rice, ‘palda raita’ and ‘dal khatta.’ Due to the cold climate, it is believed that eating cold curd isn’t wise, and so it is given a ‘tadka’ with mild spices and potatoes are added in. I LOVED this dish, omg! Dal Khatta is another regional dish where dal is cooked in curd and is quite unrecognizable when compared to the dal down in the south.
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That evening, as the sun set, we were treated to some pan-fried trout and I was bowled over from the very first nibble. Stuffed with a tantalizing mix of ginger, garlic, herbs and spice, it was well-marinated, coated in rava fried and fried just right – until the skin was crisp, but the flesh was steaming and flaky. I relished every last bite with gay abandon and probably ignored everyone talking to me for a good half an hour. While I would have been perfectly content with another fish for dinner, my hosts prepared noodles and Manchurian as well as peas pulao and an Indian side-dish, all soOoOo tasty, thanks to the freshest ingredients paired with mastery in the kitchen.
ACTIVITIES TO DO
Step outside with your fishing rod and cast a line into the water, walk along the river bank towards the blazing sunset, set off on a nature-photography walk or trek to one of the many interesting spots surrounding the cottage, if you want to stretch your legs. Just as the place is a haven for travelers, it is one for birds too – and if you love bird-watching, you’ll find many rare species here. Lastly, you can even trek to the Himalaya National Park, a short distance away.
All of these will have you drifting off into a restful night’s sleep, aided by the soothing sound of the river flowing.
Oh, and you can also hang out with Gabbar Singh and Sambha, the property’s supervisors! While Sunshine Himalayan Cottage is not pet-friendly, you will have a fluff-ball to play with.
Panki Ji also arranges a bonfire night on the pit at the banks of the river, so if you’re in the mood for a jacket potato with that nice smoky flavour, let him know! He has a pretty interesting life story, too and you’ll be amazed at the steps he is taking to further sustainable tourism in Tirthan Valley.
This little homestay in Tirthan Valley can sleep 12 adults in 5 double rooms, which makes it a great spot for a bachelor or group getaway, family vacay and even for couples who want to enjoy a magical experience right in the middle of this captivating valley. There truly is something for everyone – the adventure junkie and solitude-seeker, the food lover and star gazer! So round up your friends, and give these wonderful folks a call. I promise, it will be worth it!
You can book your stay at Sunshine Himalayan Cottage on Airbnb.
P.S. My stay at Sunshine Himalayan Cottage was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own.