Twenty years of being a journalist and twenty years of travelling – Amrit had it all as a journalist. After all those years, she wanted a more stable life and to fulfill her dream of having her own place in the hills, one she could call her holiday home.
She started to look for places near Bhimtal, not realizing this would be the beginning of a love affair with the mountains. The first look at the magical view of mountains, terraces and oak forests from a plot of land in Jungalia village settled it for her. She loved the area, with its serenity and friendly villagers and before she knew it, she was building her dream home. It turned out to be everything she had dreamed of: comfortable and classy.
She slowly started living in and out of “Juniper’’. As friends came and stayed and marveled at the beauty of the scenery, it occurred to Amrit that she could share the beauty of the place with travellers who wanted the same experience.
She started out on a shoe string budget with zero experience in hospitality. However, she knew enough from her travels what a traveller looked for. There was no point having a stunning view unless the indoors was equally pretty. That’s why Juniper is a combination of elegance and warmth. The fireplace, books, DVDs, paintings, combination of antique and modern furniture, and pretty furnishings all combine to create a cosy ambience.
What comes after the view and the home? The food. Here, Amrit was able to hire Krishna Chandra, the manager and cook who has turned out to be a very trustworthy and enthusiastic person who stops at nothing to make sure guests have a memorable holiday. Krishna is a local person whose family has lived in the Kumaon hills for generations. In addition to being a great cook (guests have been lyrical in their praise), Krishna is a mine of information about local plants and flowers.
The very first guests at Juniper were from the music industry. Amrit had no idea if the couple would like Juniper or not. Fortunately, they loved the place and this encouraged her to continue. She is currently trying to add some diversity to the guest experience. For example, she offers “Lunch @ Pappu’s”, a chance to visit the home of local young man, enjoy a delicious organic lunch cooked by Pappu’s mother, and see the kitchen garden where the family grow aubergines, chillis, tomatoes, garlic, spinach, potatoes, and herbs. The family are charming and happy to talk about organic farming and local life.
Going ahead, Amrit hopes to have her guests spend some time at the village school and get them to farm with the local farmers. A visit to a beautiful place is great but it can often be more enriching if it also affords a glimpse into a different world.