What with McLeodganj and even Dharamkot being overrun by gaudy JBL speakers and Toyota Fortuners with Delhi license plates, I decided to stay back in Dharamshala this time and look for a quiet, isolated place to stay. And with sheer dumb luck found Ballu's homestay. Abhishek Madhukar, the man running the show, is as gracious and chilled out as any host I'd like to meet. He has created an absolute no-fuss, peaceful and quaint little facility, nestled away from the downtown hustle, in the middle of the woods and next to a gushing stream. Kicking it back on the bed with a book, listening to the rain pattering on the slate-tiled roof of the minimalist and rustic bedroom was exactly the kind of respite I was looking for and I found it. The two canine friends - Habibi and Begum, easy access to Maggi and chai, and no risk of running out of books and magazines made my stay at Ballu perfect.
We had a lovely couple of days relaxing in this wonderful setting, Abishek is a great host and we enjoyed unplugging from our regular busy lives and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Next time wed like to stay longer!!
I recently accompanied my brother in law, who was returning and proclaims himself a ballu-ite, to Dharamshala and stayed at this homestay. I still have not got over five majestic days spent in and out of Ballu. First of all, as I was warned, it is not for everybody; certainly not for people accustomed to impersonal cookie cutters. Everyday, at Ballu, is different; full of surprises, as life should be. The location, amidst dense vegetation and besides a rushing mountain stream, ensures this. In your rum infused warmth you doze off to different moods of the gushing or gurgling stream sounds, and wake up to the chirp and sights of different birds each day. No sound and sight is same. The scenery is constantly evolving and growing upon you. This unpredictability extends even to the people. Abhishek, the articulate and warm owner, is well read and well informed about almost everything, including Dharamshala. Do share a drink with him, if he agrees. Also, ask for his mothers south Indian breakfast if she is visiting. With her around, it is like home. And the guests you do not know whom, and from what walk of life, you would end up meeting. Sharing stories, over drinks, sitting outside in verandah savoring junglee silences with these people will make for lifelong memories. Last, but not the least cheerful house helps, personal guests of Abhishek (who can drop in at a short notice and enliven the evening with a guitar session, for example) and the pets (intended and otherwise) would make you want to return.
A home away from home, the Ballu homestay is everything that a person who wants some quiet, laid-back time wants from a homestay. You can take little walks around the property, go on short trips to McLeodganj, or just stay back and read a book. The place is all green, quiet and peaceful. The place has this wonderful, warm and homely feeling that kept me very comfortable during my stay there.
Abhishek, thank you for welcoming us to your home and making our stay a wonderful experience. A special thank you to your mum and friends for their wonderful company and great food!! I still talk about the idli, sambhar and chutney! That was so thoughtful of your mum, can't thank her enough!!
Not to forget, the girls, Habibi and Begum! Warms hugs to them, and that curious cat who doesn't mind me playing with her/him?! :)
I hope to come back and hopefully bring my family too, the next time around!
This is a good option to stay in Dharmashala where you can enjoy both staying in a village experience at the same time enjoying nearby places, this is a 140 year old house made of mud.
Now about things which i think was great during my stay at Ballu
1) Great Food! ( home food )
2) Nearby river, instead of visiting Bhagsu falls ( crowdy place ) i would recommend spending time at the nearby river ( 50 - 70 feet from Homestay ). This is like your private space where you get both privacy as well as enjoyment like a private waterfall area
3) Great interiors:- Antique look is preserved and you feel that you are really in a 140-year-old property. With all modern amenities provided to the guest, look and feel for the property are well maintained
4) Helpful:- Abhishek ( owner of the property ) is very helpful and will make sure that you get what you like in dinner/lunch/breakfast
5) Books :- great collection of books
6) Budget friendly!
Now, what I think are the areas of improvement
1) Property is located in a remote area and returning after sunset can be a challenge for Kids / old age
2) For people with limited / no exposure to pets, this can be a challenge. Both dogs at the property are very friendly but since my kids never had pets, it was scary for them for first few days.