What The Koli Tribe Of Purushwadi Has Taught Me

Purushwadi, a village that wakes up to the crowing of a rooster and sleeps soon after the sun has set, was my home last month. I had changed 4 modes of transport from Mumbai to get to this fully sustainable remote hamlet nestled in the Sahyadris. The people of this land are one of the most prosperous tribes in rural Maharashtra – Mahadev Koli. I did not know in the beginning how much I would learn from the simpletons of Purshwadi, but they overwhelmed me with their admirable lifestyle!

Age Is Only A Number (And Old Women Are Pro Farmers)

Advanced in age, this woman still begins her mornings tending to her field.

Advanced in age, this woman still begins her mornings tending to her field.

Every family in this village owns a small patch of land and almost everyone is a farmer. Children as young as 9 help their parents in the fields when their school is shut for summer. It is more common to see women working away on the farms as compared to men. They head to the fields at about 11 in the morning, after they have finished their housework, and return only after sunset. Their active lifestyle is perhaps the reason why they are so fit even in their golden years. It is not uncommon to find grandmothers toiling in the scorching sun.

Animals Are Not Playthings

Cattle are like extended family to the villagers of Purushwadi.

Cattle are like extended family to the villagers of Purushwadi.

I was moved by the compassion that the Koli tribe shows towards animals. Their cows and goats have plenty of open greens to feed on. Their sheds are cleaned and they are given a bath soon after sunrise. Happy cows also mean tastier milk! It must also be mentioned that each home owns cows, goats and hens for its daily supply of milk and eggs. The self-sufficiency of these people cannot be overstated.

Women Can Carry More Than Their Own Bodyweight

Hands of steel carry firewood to run the kitchen.

Hands of steel carry firewood to run the kitchen.

Purushwadi has not seen any of our fancy kitchen gadgets. There are no gas stoves or piped gas connections here. Firewood is used for fuel. It is not unusual to find women along the streets carrying bundles of firewood on their hike up their hilltop homes. What is particularly noteworthy is their superior physical strength that enables them to carry as much as 50 kilos (perhaps more than what they weigh) on their head.

Contentment Is More Precious Than Creature Comforts

The typical kitchen in Purushwadi homes.

The typical kitchen in Purushwadi homes.

I was astonished at how hard each woman works to run her home in this village. Not only do they wake up before anyone else in the household, but also sleep after everyone else has slept at night. Right from cleaning the house and the cowshed to cooking and serving meals to all to packing off their kids to school to tending to their fields to serving their families again to washing the dishes, and more… these women work like superheroes, saving the day for all. And they do all of this with such calm and poise! They ask for nothing in return, knowing somewhere within that their truest joy is in contentment.

Family Is A Gift, Not An Inconvenience

My guide, Balu's mother pounds rice to loosen the husk from the kernels as her granddaughter looks on.

My guide, Balu’s mother pounds rice to loosen the husk from the kernels as her granddaughter looks on.

During my short stay in Purushwadi, the women tried to teach me a lot of things – hulling rice, grinding it into fine flour, kneading a dough, making flat and round bhakris (roti made of rice flour). I proved to be a poor student, but they were patient and encouraging teachers. While all of this was happening, I observed how close-knit all the families are; also, how well the Koli tribe functions as a community. My guide, Balu, told me that his friend would work in his field for the day that he spent as my guide. And Balu would do the same for his friend when it is his turn to escort a visitor. They don’t compete against one another but work for each one’s benefit. The entire village is like a giant family. In stark contrast, most of us city-dwellers view family as an inconvenience that hinders our personal space and freedom. And despite all that we have, we are neither satisfied nor happy.

Authentic Organic Food Is In Little Villages

The ingredients for our meal are laid out.

The ingredients for our meal are laid out.

I would have all of my meals in a village home, and I’d have to walk past several fields of wheat, groundnuts, rice, amaranth and more. Gorak, a young village lad, explained to me how they decide to sow seeds based on what they would like to eat. They don’t do anything in excess. Everything is grown for the family, and only some wheat is stored for emergencies (which can be traded to other villages for money). He also told me that their land is blessed with fertile soil and they also now have proper irrigation, thanks to the dam which brings them the river-water. They don’t use any pesticide or insecticide, and this is where one can have the entire farm-to-plate experience of fully organic food.

Women Are Good Leaders

A female goatherd takes her goats back home in the evening.

A female goatherd takes her goats back home in the evening.

The Kolis astounded me with their progressive mindsets which were quite unlike those I’ve come across in other Indian villages. They don’t prefer either gender over the other. Their aim is to have equal gender distribution. Women here don’t shy away from talking to men, nor do they cover their faces or heads (as is commonplace in most traditional households). The Koli women smartly take on roles that I have generally seen men perform – herding goats, lifting heavy objects, constructing huts, and more. Here, the leadership potential of women is fully harnessed. And that’s something even modern offices have failed to do.

Entertainment Is Not Drowning In A Sea Of Apps

I enjoy the Sahyadri mountains from Matha - Purushwadi's highest point.

I enjoy the Sahyadri mountains from Matha – Purushwadi’s highest point.

It was a blessing not to have any cellphone coverage in this village. I did not have a chance to waste my time on social media. Gorak took me to the highest point of Purushwadi when we hiked up for a nice sunset view. That’s when he told me how he loves to spend his free time. He hikes with his best friend. Gorak is only 25, and does not have the time-and-money-zapping addictions (of gaming or clubbing) of the city-boys of his age. The village indeed is beautiful, not only in how it appears but also in how it has shaped its people.

Education Is Only As Valuable As You Perceive

After a friendly chat with the students of Purushwadi's only school.

After a friendly chat with the students of Purushwadi’s only school.

One morning, I went to the only school of this village. On my way, I saw a little boy running towards the school, a notebook in hand. He was late, and did not want to miss his classes. A village kid can only study up to class-7 in this school and will have to travel to another village to study till class-10. If students wish to study further, they’ll have to go to the nearest town. A chat with one of the school teachers revealed how precious education is to all of them. Teachers travel all the way to the nearest town to access internet required to download educational videos for the students. The respect that these students have for their teachers is of another level altogether.

Did you expect that a rural Indian tribe could teach so much?

Write your answers as comments below! 🙂

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You too can experience Purushwadi intimately through Grassroutes Journeys.

Udaipur Is More Than Just Lakes!

I used to have a certain vision of Udaipur in my head. I would think the City of Lakes was all about water, almost like Venice. I wondered if I’d have to be rowed to every site. When I finally had the chance to see this Rajasthani city, I discovered there is so much more! Founded by Maharana Udai Singh, the 16th-century ruler of the Kingdom of Mewar, Udaipur is a delight to behold! While I barely had a weekend to explore this city, the time was enough to convince me of its uniqueness. Follow my lead to see Udaipur for yourself:-

A Warrior’s Pride – Maharana Pratap Memorial

Maharana Pratap Memorial

Maharana Pratap Memorial

Before you go gaga over the list of lakes you’ll check off your list while in Udaipur, it’ll help to know a little bit about the region’s history. After several years of battling against the Mughals, the warrior prince Maharana Pratap was able to rest a while with his father – Maharana Udai Singh during a few years of peace in the new capital of Mewar – Udaipur. A statue of Maharana Pratap seated on his valiant horse, Chetak, is kept atop Moti Magri Hill as a memorial to his courage and service. From up here, you can get a panoramic view of the Machla Magra Hills and the Fatehsagar Lake. While you hike up this hill, you can also visit the Hall of Heroes Museum which has paintings of Mewari history and large models of Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh and Haldighati.

Lake Fatehsagar – For Leisurely Walks

You can also indulge in watersports at Fatehsagar!

You can also indulge in watersports at Fatehsagar!

Interestingly, all of the lakes in Udaipur are artificial. They all are interconnected in a sophisticated manner though. Close to the Maharana Pratap Smarak, the embankment around Lake Fatehsagar is ideal for a morning stroll. You might want to indulge in some traditional boat ride or jet off in a speedboat to admire the lush green Aravali Hills all about. For those into vintage cars, there is a museum not far from this lake.

Saheliyon-Ki-Bari: For The Queens And Their Pals

Fountains at Saheliyon-ki-Bari

Fountains at Saheliyon-ki-Bari

When the sun is still not at its peak, take a peek at the fountain-garden which the king built for his queens to relax and spend time with their friends – Saheliyon-ki-Bari. While it might seem a little underwhelming, you might be able to sight some interesting birds in the gardens if you are into birding.

Glide Up To Where You Can See It All!

Cable car ride to Machla Magra Hills

Cable car ride to Machla Magra Hills

If you still wonder how photographers manage to get breathtaking aerial views of all of Udaipur, I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s the hills!!! Get your ticket for a cable car ride to Machla Magra Hills and be prepared to be mesmerized! You can lunch at the cafe at the top after you exhaust yourself taking pictures of the lakes and chocolate hills decked in green.

Lake Pichola’s Palatial Paradise

The Taj Lake Palace at the centre of Lake Pichola as seen from the City Palace

The Taj Lake Palace at the centre of Lake Pichola as seen from the City Palace

It is always a great idea to plan a walking tour after you’ve filled your belly. The City Palace is a fort and a museum that has plenty of stories for the curious visitor. Located by the famous Lake Pichola, the palace allows you to gaze at the elegant Taj Lake Palace Hotel which appears to float on the celeste waves at the centre of the lake. If you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks, explore the Crystal Gallery which has a dazzling collection of rare crystal artefacts from Maharana Sajjan Singh’s collection.

Peep Over The Aravalis From Sajjangarh Fort

It's windy up here at Sajjangarh Fort!

It’s windy up here at Sajjangarh Fort!

After you’ve spent most of your day seeing the top sights in Udaipur, spend your evening atop Sajjangarh Fort, only 30 minutes from Udaipur. Rent a self-drive car using this Zoomcar coupon code and zip over to the Monsoon Palace which affords you a gorgeous view of the undulating hills. Sunsets will never be so stunning! If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you can hike to the surrounding wildlife sanctuary. Who knows, you could get lucky with a panther sighting! 😉

Shop In Old Udaipur

These bags ask to be picked up at Hathipole Market.

These bags ask to be picked up at Hathipole Market.

As if your day couldn’t be more power-packed, there’s more you can do with your time! After nightfall, head over to Udaipur’s Old Town and ditch your rickshaw to walk through the narrow alleys lined by little shops on both sides. Don’t forget to haggle for a good price while you fill your shopping bag with tiny pieces of art, shoes, bedsheets with traditional patterns, hand-stitched blankets and more. Hathipole Market also has numerous cafes and rooftop restaurants that glitter at night and add to the romance of the city.

Kumbhalgarh’s Great Wall – No This Isn’t China! 😀

Kumbhalgarh Fort - the second longest wall in the world!

Kumbhalgarh Fort – the second longest wall in the world!

After a busy first day, your second day should be a relaxed one. Wake up at leisure and enjoy a lazy long brunch at your hotel before you set off for Kumbhalgarh. 100 odd kilometres from Udaipur, a drive of over 2 hours brings you to Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district. This fort is a World Heritage Site and the second longest wall after the Great Wall of China. Only parts of the fort are accessible to tourists, but one can easily see what a marvel this structure is! Maharana Pratap was born in Kumbhalgarh and there’s a museum close to the fort which tells the story of this place through interactive models and a short film. The experience at the museum is quite insightful.

Dal-Baati From The Dhabas

Dal-baati!!! My favourite Rajasthani dish!

Dal-baati!!! My favourite Rajasthani dish!

After the Kumbhalgarh Fort trek, satiate your appetite at a nearby dhaba. Don’t count your calories as you order platefuls of dal-baati and churma! 🙂

Are you convinced yet that you should be going to Udaipur?

Let me know through your comments below!

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Precious Jewels From Around The World

Every time I step out of my house, whether to explore a new country or a new place within my land, I mostly think about what my eyes can see. And, most of that is above the ground – the buildings and monuments, the streets, the mountains and valleys, the lakes and rivers, the trees, animals and the culture of the locals, and then, the sky. What I often overlook is what lies under the earth. I am not talking about tubers or roots or the exotic dishes that are made of those, but what lies further below – several feet under, formed by immense heat and pressure – precious stones.

Austria – Emerald Waters And Emerald Rings

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

When I went solo to Salzburg a couple of years ago, I was busy admiring the lovelock bridge that spans River Salzach, connecting the modern world full of gardens and courtyards to the Old Town paved with cobblestones. I gazed at the lime green grass carpeting the banks on either side of the emerald river and longed to hike on the moss-covered hills in the backdrop. But not once did I think about Austria’s prominence as an emerald producer and exporter to the world. Even my journeys back home yielded similar results…

Diamonds In Golconda?

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have visited Hyderabad – both when it was a part of Andhra Pradesh and after it became Telangana’s. I have even climbed all of the steps that lead to Golconda Fort, and spent a lot of money buying Hyderabadi pearls. It is only now that I see Golconda differently after my mum inquires why I never brought back any diamonds from this place that has one of the world’s most famous diamond mines.

“Czeching” Out Garnet

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world's best garnet, topaz and opal.

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world’s best garnet, topaz and opal.

3 years ago, I was exploring central Europe, and my journey had brought me to Prague – the capital of Czech Republic. Over days of checking out the most vibrant Old Town, its cathedrals, sailing over the Vltava river, being surprised over Kafka’s fame and buying copper rings, I discovered Czechia is also popular for its gemstones such as garnet, topaz and opal. But I asked myself how far and wide I’d have to travel to collect beautiful stones from different parts of the world. Could I not get all such precious stones from the comfort of my home? Would expensive gemstones always be too expensive for me to own? I’ve recently found an answer to my quest:-

Jewel On Fire – Gemstone Jewellery In Your Budget

Did you know Germany's Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

Did you know Germany’s Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

I came across the online jewellery store Jewel On Fire which lets you buy precious stone ornaments priced up to 90% lower than their retail cost. This is possible only because they cut out the middlemen and source jewellery directly from jewellery craftsmen and manufacturers. And their online presence means you can shop without having to spend a bomb on travel. They have a splendid collection of low-cost genuine diamond jewellery and those of other precious stones. I have a sweeter information for you! When you use my promo code “OINDRILADE” to make a purchase on their site, you get an additional discount on their already amazingly priced items! 🙂

Won’t You Travel Differently Now?

It's not only Sri Lanka's lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

It’s not only Sri Lanka’s lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

When I told my mum about this, she was elated. She won’t have to worry about lugging heavy jewellery back from her trips now. And travel would only be about the sights and experiences, not the expenses associated with shopping of gemstones. I will again be able to visit Germany for its castles, and not think about beryl or topaz or emerald. I will again be able to enjoy the forests and lakes of Sri Lanka without hunting for good quality yet affordable aquamarine. “Aquamarine” would only make me think of the water bodies again, and not the stone on my ring finger.

Still, You Should Know…

Hungary's creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Hungary’s creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Even though you will mostly shop online, lounging in your sofa, it helps to know a little more about the things you buy. It is the stories behind each earring, pendant and bracelet that makes the gemstones more precious!

Do you ever wonder where each of your jewels come from?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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Explore The Luxurious Side of Hyderabad

A couple of hundred years ago, a palace could belong only to royalty. Cut to the present, and money can buy you what once only belonged to the blue-blooded. Luxury has started to become more commonplace than ever before. When I first went to the (erstwhile) princely city of Hyderabad, I explored a number of its heritage sites. I did not dwell too much on their splendour then, as I was often distracted by how simple the common man was in this twin-capital (of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh). A few more trips (and almost half a decade) later, I would see a new side of Hyderabad…

Charminar’s Oft Overlooked Charm

I look up at the old city from Charminar's intricately done gate.

I look up at the old city from Charminar’s intricately done gate.

I had first clambered up the steep spiral steps of one of the four claustrophobic minarets of the Charminar in 2012 (read: Say ‘Hi’ to Hyderabad) when I was flush with the new money from my first cushy job. Not so much of a travel blogger then, I was more interested in having my pictures clicked from the viewing deck of this 16th-century mosque. It is now, after I’ve grown older (and hopefully, gained some maturity), that I wonder how much time the masons must have spent carving each window, each grill and each gate. I can now admire the intricacies of Mughal architecture. Despite the dull exterior of this neglected icon, I can imagine how centuries ago, this structure must have been an opulent place to pray.

Salar Jung’s Museum (Of Riches And Rapture)

Spotted at the Salar Jung Museum: gold rimmed wine glasses from Czechia - Is this what luxury is all about?

Spotted at the Salar Jung Museum: gold rimmed wine glasses from Czechia – Is this what luxury is all about?

Can a man be so enamoured with materialism to spend thirty-five years of his life collecting expensive trinkets from around the world? The Salar Jung Museum by the Musi River answered my question with a resounding “YES!” One of India’s only three National Museums, this house of art exhibits a baffling collection of paintings, sculptures, antique crockery, furniture, currency notes and coins, carpets, and just about anything you can imagine. Prime Minister to the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad, Salar Jung III gave most of his life to the pursuit of princely possessions. Undoubtedly a man of refined taste, he managed to own some artefacts that date back to the 1st-century!

Chowmahalla’s Enchantment

Chandeliers sparkle inside one of the grand halls of the Chowmahalla Palace.

Chandeliers sparkle inside one of the grand halls of the Chowmahalla Palace.

If you don’t get enough of luxury from a museum, there is a grand palace ready to floor you! Not far from Charminar, the Chowmahalla Palace is the 19th-century mansion that has served as the seat of power for two dynasties. The shimmering interiors of this grand palace are a testimony to how well it is kept even today. When you are in here, don’t forget to look up at the roof to marvel at the work on the ceilings.

The Grandeur Of Golconda

I pass through a tunnel as I explore the labyrinthine Golconda Fort.

I pass through a tunnel as I explore the labyrinthine Golconda Fort.

Sometimes, luxury lies outdoors. The outdoorsy part of me loves to hike and explore ruins that stretch far and wide. For those who get their high from climbing steps and gazing at panoramic views from beautiful vantage points, Golconda Fort makes for a perfect day-long getaway. Just 10km from Hyderabad, this citadel has enough to keep you (and your kids) occupied! Lose your way through its myriad tunnels or pose for your next Whatsapp display-pic from one of its viewing decks (which once upon a time, was used to keep an eye out for enemies and to fire cannonballs at any attacking army).

Revel By A River

Nagarjuna Sagar Dam - It takes a mighty structure to stop a river as mighty as The Krishna.

Nagarjuna Sagar Dam – It takes a mighty structure to stop a river as mighty as The Krishna.

The River Krishna is so powerful that during monsoons, it can cause flooding. To rein in this river’s power, use its water for irrigation and harness some energy to produce electricity, the Nagarjuna Dam was built across it. When all of the 26 gates of this dam are left open, the sight is one to watch! Interestingly, this dam also happens to be the second largest reservoir in the country (in terms of storage capacity). The water-starved stones (which never quite get to be the river-washed round pebbles) also make for a nice, crunchy walk during sunset.

Soak Up Some Stardust At A Film City

Aerial view of Ramoji Film City - where London, Paris and New York are side-by-side.

Aerial view of Ramoji Film City – where London, Paris and New York are side-by-side.

If the real world doesn’t excite you much, there’s an entire city of make-believe structures in glamorous guise. I’m talking about Ramoji Film City (read: RFC- A City Hidden in a Village). A little distance from Hyderabad, this village is where a lot of movies are shot. The place is replete with stunt-props and sets ready to be torn apart and rejoined in no time. You can fake scenes from Japan to as far as France in this little land of movie-fanatics.

Is There A Price For Peace?

Does the pristine white marble of the Birla Temple offer the ever-elusive tranquillity?

Does the pristine white marble of the Birla Temple offer the ever-elusive tranquillity?

Birla Temples across India are among the most expensive ones, mostly because of the generous use of fine marble and their ornate columns and domes. I do not believe in idol worship, but I like to take in the architectural finesse of such places. If you find the streets too busy, you can always drop in (albeit before 5 pm) and find your quiet space on the cool marble floors (or the garden behind). Sometimes, these little things carry more value than all the goods in a luxury store.

Stay Like Royalty – At The Taj

The palatial exterior of Taj Krishna seduces one's senses into submission. (Courtesy: Taj Krishna, Hyderabad)

The palatial exterior of Taj Krishna seduces one’s senses into submission. (Courtesy: Taj Krishna Hyderabad)

Where you stay on your trip makes a lot of difference to how you view a city. If you are serious about discovering the luxurious side of the city of Nizams, you should book yourself into a 5-star property, such as the Taj Krishna Hyderabad. Spread out like a palace of its own, this hotel is located in the upscale locale of Banjara Hills. After you have seen the richness of the city, sink in the riches of your own suite!

Make Your Moments Count

Precious moments are those that are shared with a loved one over a meal.

Precious moments are those that are shared with a loved one over a meal.

No matter how much wealth you have, you will be alone without somebody to love. If you do have a partner, make it a priority to travel with her/him. You will not regret the extra spend when you share a sweet evening by the Hussain Sagar Lake (read: All Roads lead to Hyderabad), holding your precious one’s hand as you polish off the eat-street’s munchies.

Let Your Food Reflect Your Lavish Taste

The glittering Firdaus Restaurant (Courtesy: Taj Krishna, Hyderabad)

The glittering Firdaus Restaurant (Courtesy: Taj Krishna Hyderabad)

A trip achieves its completion only when the local cuisine reaches your taste buds. Hyderabad is famous for its Mughlai cuisine, especially its biryani (which is very distinct from the ones in Lucknow or Bengal). The biryani at Paradise is overrated in my opinion. If you look deeper, you will discover other places for that authentic taste (and other Hyderabadi delicacies). On your luxury getaway, reserve a table at Firdaus, the Nizami restaurant at the Taj Krishna Hyderabad.

Have you seen Hyderabad any differently?

Do you enjoy a dash of luxury on your trips?

Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

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How Stops Hostel Is Making Delhi Feel Like A European City

Walking tours through interesting neighbourhoods and ancient ruins; mixed dorms with bunk beds and lockers; a shelf full of travel guides in the common room; and running into friendly backpackers in hallways from a dozen different countries – these are experiences I would typically associate with Europe. But here I was, in Delhi – a city arguably better known for its bungalows and boisterousness.

Is It Foolhardy To Be Fearless In Delhi?

Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla has stories that attract many curious listeners to this haunted fort complex.

Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla has stories that attract many curious listeners to this haunted fort complex.

I had been in Delhi several times before. Yet, this was the first trip that showed me this old city in a new light. Interestingly, this was the first time that I was exploring India’s capital as a solo traveller. I was no longer driven around in my aunt’s sedan, nor did I have my cousins’ expert advice on navigating NCR or avoiding the city’s stalkers. I had also decided not to heed my (overprotective) friend who made me swear I’d carry an electric taser or at least a pepper spray everywhere I went. Was I pushing my luck? Or had I let news reports paint a grave picture in my head? Whatever be the case, I rediscovered Delhi in a way I had never expected to know it.

Stops Hostel – A New Concept In Old Delhi

Embracing my new life as a full-time traveller, I decided to stay with Stops Hostel. The moment I entered, it felt like I’d left the red and brown Old Delhi behind to drown in bright colours. My video above will show you how vibrant the common room is. The hostel aims to attract both the right-brained creative explorers and the left-brained startup-workers. There is free wifi in all the areas, complimentary unlimited breakfast (although basic) in the dining-room-cum-kitchen and plenty of things to keep oneself occupied with – a small collection of books for those who like to cuddle up with a paperback and lie on the floor-cushions; a billiards table for those who can’t get away from perfecting their game; 3 guitars and a djembe for the musically gifted; and some board games for the laidback lounger. I can’t help but wonder whether the founders of this hostel are big fans of European hostels.

Not Too Far From Anywhere

Tuk-tuk - Delhi's only green mode of transport in a road full of cars, buses and bikes.

Tuk-tuk – Delhi’s only green mode of transport in a road full of cars, buses and bikes.

Located right in front of a Metro station, Stops Hostel is easily accessible from most places. Feroz Shah Kotla is a short walk from the hostel, and a few minutes in a tuk-tuk will take you to some of Old Delhi’s famous food streets. Walking around is also a good idea, but Delhi’s afternoons can be a little too hot for comfort, especially in the summers.

A Terrace Garden For Some Fresh  Air

Stops Delhi has a terrace for hostellers to enjoy some sun.

Stops Delhi has a terrace for hostellers to enjoy some sun.

Unlike any of the hostels I’ve stayed at abroad, Stops Delhi has a neat little terrace with potted plants and colourful chairs for the hostellers to chill in the evening. This is a nice way to help your lungs recuperate after they’ve felt the assault of Delhi’s pollution.

Food Tour In Chawri Bazaar

Kuremal's famous stuffed mango kulfi in Old Delhi's Chawri Bazaar.

Kuremal’s famous stuffed mango kulfi in Old Delhi’s Chawri Bazaar.

Stops Hostel offers some walking tours (which even non-residents can join) – this immediately makes me think of those old-town-walking-tours in Europe. I decide to have a light lunch one day to stuff my face during the Food-gasm tour in the late afternoon. I have 2 other travellers who join me for this walking tour through Chawri Bazaar. Perhaps not as well known as Chandni Chowk or Parathe-waali Gali, Chawri Bazaar hides some of Old Delhi’s best preparations – kulfis stuffed in deseeded apples, pineapples, oranges or pomegranates and fruit sandwiches, for instance.

Coming Home To Dogs & Cats

Stops Hostel's pet dogs - Ginger, Gennie & Pepper nap next to their feeding bowls.

Stops Hostel’s pet dogs – Ginger, Gennie & Pepper nap next to their feeding bowls.

Travelling of late has made me quite fond of pets. The hostel has 3 cuddly dogs and some cats who are mostly in their own world but entertaining to watch. Despite these furry friends around, the hostel premises are squeaky clean. (No cat hair on the cushions! 🙂 ) These pets are not allowed inside the dorms though. After we play with them, we are to leave them in the common room or terrace.

Myths And Mysticism

The imam watches over the coffin of Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki at the eponymous Islamic shrine.

The imam watches over the coffin of Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki at the eponymous Islamic shrine.

I spent my first evening learning why Delhi is called “The City of Djinns” as our walking tour leader, Mayank, took us to some spooky places during the City of Mysticism walking tour. We strolled through the abandoned precincts of Feroz Shah Kotla and encountered an old woman who uttered unintelligible words aloud, as if possessed by a spirit. We walked past underground rooms full of bats as we heard stories of how a royal family was killed there many years ago. We later visited a temple where (shockingly) alcohol is served to the idol. It took me a while to fall asleep that night.

Colours In The Common Room

Charging sockets hang from the ceiling of Stops Hostel's common room.

Charging sockets hang from the ceiling of Stops Hostel’s common room.

Stops Hostel does its bit to go green by turning off the air conditioning in the dorms during the day. They encourage guests to spend time in the common room or the terrace. This is a great way to meet new people! The commmon room is inviting and warm with its coloured wooden tables, benches and couches. And there’s always some music in the background – a great accompaniment to good conversations! 😉 While I stayed with Stops, I made friends with:-

  • a blue-haired girl whose fetish is to change her hair colour to match the mood of every place she visits
  • a Gujarati diamond merchant from Russia who is spending this year travelling around the world
  • an Egyptian solo traveller who never forgets to kneel and pray before she hits the sack
  • two medical students from the UK who are stoked about mehendi and spicy food in Delhi
  • a Nepali roommate who lunches on smoothies so she can drink all night

I’ve always met interesting people whenever I’ve stayed at hostels in Europe. I honestly underestimated the scope of meeting quirky backpackers in Delhi. I’m glad I was wrong!

Take A Taxi To Tibet

One of the narrow alleys of Majnu Ka Tila - Delhi's Tibetan ghetto.

One of the narrow alleys of Majnu Ka Tila – Delhi’s Tibetan ghetto.

Not many are aware of Majnu Ka Tila – an area exclusively reserved for Tibetan refugees. This (almost) secret little hangout has the best places to get your Tibetan food fix! A couple of the night tour experts at Stops took me to this food haven in an Uber. Barely a 30-minute drive from the hostel, Majnu Ka Tila offered me a bowl of laping (a Tibetan street food made of mung bean flat noodles with a spicy paste), a tingmo (Tibetan steamed bead), sha phaley (vegetable stuffed fried savoury shaped as gujias) and some fried wantons. I was elated to find that the restaurants here serve Korean, Japanese and even Bhutanese cuisine!

Crash In Your Comfy Bed

My bunk bed is cosy, with cushions, a duvet and a wall full of mythological comic strips.

My bunk bed is cosy, with cushions, a duvet and a wall full of mythological comic strips.

After my day-long adventures in haunted forts and eclectic eat-streets, I would be glad to come back to a cosy room, a soft bed and a comforter to keep me warm. The reading lights for each bed are quite convenient to stay up without disturbing your fellow roommates. Our room had an ensuite bathroom which was also very clean and furnished with premium bath fittings. This bit felt luxurious in a hostel which is so pocket-friendly.

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Disclosure: I was hosted by Stops Hostels. Nevertheless, all views are entirely my own.