On a pleasant summer morning, a scenic road winding up the hills brought me to the little and serene hamlet of Manjhdhari at Kais in Kullu valley. The valley wore a lush blanket of flowers as the clouds kept the vibe up, showering drizzles. A feeling of tranquillity encompassed me as I was headed towards this village. Sitting by the Kais bus stand, I watched the player flags at Kais Monastery flutter from a distance. Soon, I was received by Rajeev and Shalini towards their quaint Kath-Khuni home – the Himalayan Kothi Kais. I was at a rustic Deodar and stone home, hiding amidst Apple trees and myriad flowers. Built with love in a traditional Himachali ‘Kath-Khuni’ style architecture innate to the valley, this home reflected richness in every sense. I was welcomed into their home with a cup of Chai, Pakodas, a whiff of Deodar in the air and a fresh drizzle to complement the moment.
After a fulfilling indulgence in chais and pakoras, Shalini walked me up through her Orchard and kitchen garden. Rajeev and Shalini have been nurturing their little orchard for about five years since they built this home. Shalini took me through the processes of growing apples, also picking a yellow leaf or two to check for any infection on the trees.
Sniffing up kitchen herbs and picking fallen pears, we walked up to the top of the Orchard. We sat on a huge rock by the edge of the hill talking about the apples that life gives, watching the sky adorn itself for a splendid sunset.
An intricately carved door opening towards a wooden staircase led me upstairs to my charmingly rustic wood and stone room with a verandah facing the scenic valley. A whiff of Deodar filled the air inside. The vintage bed was cosy enough to snuggle into on a cold himachali night. My Super deluxe room exuded warmth and elegance. The bathroom was impeccable, with lovely wooden interiors. A glass door slid open towards the Demphoo – a sit out on the verandah where one could engage in the views of the beautiful valley. I rushed to the verandah for a cloud show and feel the crisp mountain air.
This three-storey villa houses two skilfully designed deluxe rooms below, two twin super deluxe rooms in the middle and an Attic on its crown. Currently, four rooms are open to the guests, while the Attic room is for their personal use and let out only on special request.
A wooden cottage facing the Villa housed the Kitchen and the humble staff. The dining hall is set over a lush garden full of roses and colourful flowers. From the garden, wooden stairs take you to an orchard full of apples, pears, kitchen herbs and veggies.
By evening, Shalini took over the Kitchen to cook me a traditional treat – ‘Dal Baturo’ because it’s not fair to not have a Baturo when in Kullu. It is made with risen dough of wheat flour, stuffed with a mixture of lentils and spices and circled as flat breads. It is then fried and served with a bowl of Ghee, chutney or vegetables. I instantly fell in love with a unique ‘Date and Garlic’ pickle prepared by Shalini; a recipe she inherited from her mother. Sitting by a table in the open, my heart was filled with the delicious Himachali meal and tales of the valley narrated by the couple.
After the fulfilling meal, I retired to my lovely room’s verandah, watching tiny sparks of light dim slowly over the valley. The next morning, fluffy white clouds dropped by my room’s verandah to wake me up to its beauty. I indulged in scrumptious Paranthas and soaked in the scenic view by the Poudi. Around noon, Shalini drove me up to her ancestral village of Soil located further up from Manjhdhari village. I was here to explore the ancient homes and the temple of ‘Ajimal Rishi’ – the local deity of Soil. Walking through the now abandoned homes in the village and being greeted with smiles, I heard the tales of yore from Shalini. Most homes had a weaving loom, where lines of coloured wool awaited to weave themselves into a beautiful creation. Shalini aimed at engaging me in the culture of the valley. Shalini seeks to expose her guests to the Himachali way of life that’s full of richness – in nature, spirit and culture. She feels that the real Himachal is hidden inside these old homes, the far away villages and that a tourist is only able to see a tiny fragment of it. To Shalini, richness of Himachal measured in the fresh air, healthy food, the rich culture, deep-rootedness in nature, and the simple little joys of living. Be it hearing the songs of the river, feeling the wind, watching a flower bloom or appreciating the beauty around. That itself is a luxury! She feels that if her guests are able to appreciate these little joys and immerse themselves in the Pahadi way of life, it brings her immense joy.
After exploring Soil village, we were back at the Poudi of our Himalayan Kothi for chai over conversations. Upon learning about my passion for collecting folklore in the mountains, Shalini gave me a deeper insight of the lives and culture of the Himachal Pradesh. She let me into her treasure chest full of books on Himachal. She then headed to her kitchen to ready a traditional himachali meal of Lal Chawal and Rajma. And to add to my happiness, hot gulab jamuns! I relished this simple meal to my heart’s content with lots of desi cow ghee. It was indeed a very thoughtful gesture by Shalini and Rajeev to take care of these little joys.
The Himalayan Kothi was born out of Shalini’s love for preserving the richness of Himachali culture and traditions. Belonging to a family rooted in traditions, she grew up to be in sync with nature and a rich heritage she felt grateful to be a part of. Shalini also works closely on women and child issues in her village, thereby contributing unconditionally to the local community. Being in complete harmony with nature had become a way of life for her family. Shalini intended to build a home to unwind, slow down and appreciate the little joys of being present to life. After putting in a lot of thought and love into her dreams, she decided to build her home in traditional Kath-Khuni style architecture. She believed that a traditional structure is best suited for the geographic conditions in the valley and outlasts modern structures. It took her several years to source traditional materials and complete this home with the help of highly skilled local artisans. As her dream home manifested, she was willing to open her doors to those who wished to retreat in a home away from the hustle-bustle of life.
So come home to this paradise in the hills of Kullu. Smell the roses, go apple picking, feel the grass on your feet, meditate, watch colourful birds greet you and let the mountains enchant you with its magic. Soak in the tranquillity and connect with yourself at this beautiful home in the hills. Pause, reflect and feel the little joys that make living worthwhile. The beautiful souls at Himalayan Kothi Kais are a family who will make you feel completely at home. This quaint little kothi is sure to warm your heart.
On my last evening at Himalayan Kothi Kais, Shalini and Rajeev’s friends hosted a lovely dinner for me. I am thankful for the little joys I felt and all the love I was showered with at this home. So I left this home, leaving a piece of my soul – my handwoven Iktomi Amethyst dream catcher energized for manifesting dreams for this beautiful couple at Himalayan kothi Kais. I am truly grateful to the lovely souls at Himalayan Kothi Kais and PlushEscapes for creating a magical experience for me.
- Himalayan Kothi Kais is a charmingly beautiful home for a quiet retreat
- Their himachali delicacies are a must-try. Beg or plead your way to relish Shalini’s home special ‘Dates and Garlic’ pickle
- Go on a hike to Bijli Mahadev, explore the ancient Soil village or visit a local Khaddi where weaves are born, do nothing on the Walnut bench or watch a cloud show by the Pouda
- Do indulge in their traditional Pahadi cuisine. Ask for it and their humble family will spoil you!
- Connect with locals – learn about himachali culture and way of life. Smell the roses, go apple picking or grass cutting up in the orchards. And yes; do sit under that pretty Apple tree!
For reservations, click here.