Sunday, February 05, 2012

Oriental Guest House: A Great Homestay at Leh

Guest houses and hotels are aplenty in Leh, but finding a fully functional hotel or homestay for a winter visit is tough. Most of the hotels in Leh shut down in October with the onset of Winter and only re-open in March/April. This annual phenomenon can be attributed to the following reasons: low inflow of tourists in the winter months, difficulty to get running water as all pipelines freeze in the extremely cold weather, high expense to arrange heating facilities (government electricity is available only for 5 hours a day) backup diesel generators are expensive and kerosene or gas is not that safe) and one has to store a lot of vegetables for cooking food. But, amidst all these problems, the Oriental Guest House, situated at Upper Changspa in Leh remains open round the year and provides excellent service.

Oriental Guest House - a great budget family run home stay in Leh 
But, do not take this homestay for granted as even in the winter months, it runs near full occupancy. Such is their hospitality and service. And if it is the summer months, one needs to book at least 3 months in advance. The Oriental Guest House is a family run homestay that was started in 1987. It is located right below the Shanti Stupa and offers great access to Leh Market and Shanti Stupa. This guest house caters to the needs of different kinds of travellers through their 3 different building groups. Building ‘A’ with a common bathroom at Rs 200 per night is for backpackers and for those who are on a shoestring. Building ‘B’ with an attached bathroom at Rs 500-600 per night is for the budget traveller. Building ‘C’, with its large rooms, centralized heating and satellite television and at Rs 1800 per night/room is for the ones who wish to indulge in some luxury.

Entrance to Oriental Guest House in Leh 
However, even the Oriental Guest House cannot afford to run all 3 buildings during the off season and hence only operate the Building ‘C’ during the winter months. Running water is not available in the winter months, but the guest house staff ensure that the rooms do not run out of water at any time. No room service is available throughout the year. Instead, food is served in a well designed dining hall. Breakfast and lunch is A la carte, while a buffet dinner is served. Food is mainly vegetarian, but upon request, they do dish out some good chicken, mutton and egg items. Food prices are very reasonable costing between Rs 120 and Rs 200 for a full meal.

Road from Shanti Stupa to Upper Changspa

The homestay comes with a well stocked library, an internet cafe, an international and local calling booth. They also offer laundry services. The Oriental Guest House also provides tour and travel services, which helps one arrange their permits, treks, rafting expeditions, sightseeing, car services, etc. This service is fairly useful and helps one avoid all the other not so great travel agents. The travels is part of the homestay and hence cannot afford to fool around.

Oriental Guest House, Upper Changspa, Leh 
I stayed here for more than a week during my recent winter backpacking trip to Ladakh and thoroughly loved this place. In fact, I liked this place so much that I have decided that whenever I go to Leh, I will always stay with them. The omnipresent smiles of the homestay family and their readiness to help you always is something that appealed to me a lot. If you wish to book your Leh stay here, you can call Dawa or Phunsuk at +91 – 1982 – 253153 or reach out through their website. Julley!

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