As you step into the much-acclaimed Hotel Deyzor in Kaza, you will be filled with a sense of awe and wonder. From the minute you spot the almost European outdoor seating, you are charmed. The world within is a unique amalgamation of kitsch and comfort. There are quotes and poetry on the walls, art and artefacts all around. What remains the highlight though, is how Spiti shines through. There is an array of indigenous products, stress on eco-friendly ways and the warm Spitian spirit at Deyzor.
We decided to interview one half of the dynamic duo that owns and runs the hotel. Karanbir Bedi is an adventure aficionado, who strangely also loves the calm. An avid traveller, dog-lover and a responsible citizen, talking to him has been an enriching experience for us, one that inspired us. Here’s our conversation :-
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to owning a hotel.
I started travelling to Spiti when I was in school while taking part in motorcycle races (Raid-de-himalaya). Thereafter I traveled numerous times to Spiti while in college and University to spend time in the valley. My interest in Spiti and love for the area grew from there.
After finishing my masters in communication from Punjab University, I started working as a journalist, writing on motorsports and travel. There on I left my job and hitchhiked for over a year in South America. During my travel I became convinced that I would not ever work and live in a city and never would trade my freedom. On returning to India in 2011 I freelanced as a writer and collected money and then in 2013 moved to Spiti to start Deyzor.
Tell us a little about your travel experiences around the world. What motivated you to hitchhike across South America for over a year? What did that experience teach you?
I was sick of living in a city, working for a corporation which exploited its staff. I never saw myself chasing a career in a city and being inspired. There was always a dream to travel and I worked towards saving so that I could travel and be free and learn about myself and the world.
The experience taught me that we all (humans) are the same, made me realize that kindness was our real nature and that the world is inspiring. It made me realize that there is no one way of leading your life and that dreams do come true. It made me be comfortable with the way I am as I learnt that there is space for everyone one in the world. I realized how much I prefer being free and living away from a city, closer to nature.
It is evident that you have an eye for art and aesthetics, a lot of which seems to be influenced by your travels. Your hotel is decorated almost like a museum. Can you tell us about some curios closest to your heart?
I have enjoyed collecting things from my travels. Pictures, painting, craft work, posters etc. There is more stuff obviously from spiti and I hope it not only makes my guests curious about Spiti or the world but to inspire them to travel for the sake of travel.
Hotel Deyzor is a passion project that stands out because of its attention to detail. There is a strong emphasis on Spiti being the star. How have you managed to do that while maintaining a distinct identity of the hotel as well?
There was no real plan but when something comes from the heart and you enjoy the process, chances are that people will like what you do. Everywhere we go in hospitality it seems that things are copied. Be it a business hotel or an eco labeled resort or a heritage property. I feel it’s hard to find something original and done with honesty. I think that’s what worked for me. I moved to spiti to live a life there and not only to start the hotel. I would like to believe that I travel because it inspires me and from it, I get to learn. I hope that my hotel and spiti does that for our guests.
What kind of travellers frequent Deyzor the most? Is there a specific type of traveller that you envisioned while building the hotel?
In the beginning I was hoping to attract a certain kind of guest but soon I realized that in order to be successful I should make something where everyone feels comfortable. I wish not to categorize people even though on many occasions I do that. At times when a certain guest comes to the hotel we are not sure if they would like Deyzor but when they leave we understand how much Deyzor touched them. It happens to the contrary as well. But usually people who are curious love Deyzor. But we get all sorts from all over the world and the country. What I enjoy the most is when people come back and many do. Does not matter what they are like.
You are an adventure freak. Tell us a little about that side of you. What kind of adventure can people who visit Spiti indulge in?
I love adventure and the rush of adrenalin. I have done paragliding, mountaineering, motorcycle racing, deep sea diving, mountain biking, I travel every winter to a new country and then travel there on my cycle.
In Spiti you can do downhill mountain biking, trekking, camping, mountaineering, and fossil exploration.
What is a typical day in your life like?
Lots of work. Busy most of the time, my day starts normally at 7am when I take the dogs out for a run. Our restaurant starts at 8am so I need to be present there before that. During season time I barely manage to finish my breakfast usually around noon, lunch at 4.30 and dinner at 11pm.
Off season is more relaxed and I head down to the river with the dogs often. I remain busy with the guests, staff, making things for the hotel (carpentry etc), with our store (strictlyspiti.com). We work with a few self-help groups and also foster children. So a few things keep me busy and in between there is always music playing in the background.
Eco-friendly techniques and using local produce seem important to you. What are the steps that you take at Deyzor for this purpose? How can we learn to travel responsibly?
Lots of things that we do tie up towards ‘responsible travel’. For eg – Run a store in the village and at the hotel which sells handmade and organic products from the valley. Over 300 Spitians are involved in it. We are fostering 3 children from the valley in need of medical and educational care. We have a program which allows our guests to be involved in similar projects. Couple of years ago we did 3 garbage collection drives in Kaza and sent over 50000 plastic bottles to chandigarh for recycling. Our guests were also involved in this.
Tell us about a book that changed your life.
I read a lot but almost only on history and philosophy. Amongst the books I recommend would be – The silk roads, king Leopold’s ghost, Ismael, India Unbound, India after Gandhi, Era of Darkness, Return of a King, Walking with Nanak, Advaita teachings from Ramana Maharishi, and Who am I.
A lot of youngsters are moving away from corporate lives. However, travelling the world or setting up a business in the mountains is no cakewalk. Any suggestions for such people?
Don’t be scared. The rewards outweigh the risk. Listen only to yourself. Take the plunge and don’t try to plan everything. Leave it to destiny and work really hard. Don’t head to the mountains or anywhere else to escape something but head there to learn. Live your dreams and do what makes you happy. I believe the simpler you are and if you can remain passionate then you’ve done a few things right.
Are there any lesser known places in Spiti that you love visiting?
Gechang in the Pin valley national park, tashi gang, cave up from Sumling, Mane lake. I love the valley and even heading to the river is rewarding enough.
Thank you very much to you and your team for arranging this fantastic tour. One of the best pick from this tour was your meticulous planning and promptness of service. All arrangements were fantastic, be it a delivery of vehicle at Chandigarh airport, hotels particularly at Chandigarh, Leh, Nubra, Pangong. However the best was at Jispa, Kargil and Srinagar for different reasons. Jispa was simple but authentic with very tasty food.
Rajesh & Gauri Natu
Graphic Designer, Apple
Sunil, after I ran 21k Marathon I bragged about it for years. The same is being repeated again, with my ambition to drive across the Himalayas, which was almost faded with Srinagar under curfew. You and Chetan were the spark to our fire that we could do this drive and without a single trouble. Driving is a passion but driving thru places where there are no roads is trouble, but your breakup of program and awesome car condition helped us actually sail thru. Three cheers and five stars.
Absolute Networks, Mumbai
Wow. wow, wow. What a experience! We took the route of Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar - Leh - Sarchu - Manali - Delhi. Sunil Kapoor gave us excellent service which includes his next to new 4WD in immaculate condition and all hotels were top class. Coming from Australia, we were bit nervous in start but when we met Sunil, we had full trust and all went very positive. Sunil gave us perfect instructions and everything was according to plan. Thank you Sunil and your team for our one of the best experience in life you have provided us.
Director, Webential, Australia
Eight of us from Sri Lanka got Sunil to arrange a self driven tour to Leh and we are very happy with our decision. He was punctual, trustworthy and met our expectations. The service provided was very professional. As foreigners it’s hard to arrange such a tour by ourselves and Unwind outdoor filled in the gap perfectly. All places we stayed were nice and decent. Should specifically mention about the two Scorpios which we instantly fell in love with. They were very well maintained ...
Friends from SriLanka
After days of research, we finally came across a facebook page called ‘Unwind Outdoors’. It seemed like our dream was going to be finally true. Very reasonably priced and Sunil from Unwind was like a know-it-all person.
The itinerary was so crisp and so very well laid out that there was no reason for us to worry other than coping up with nature’s fury.
Clifford Chance, Delhi
We did a SUV self drive trip from Chandigarh to Ladakh and back organized by Unwind Outdoor.
Highly recommend Unwind Outdoor as Sunil and Manpreet took care of everything we needed (car, hotel bookings, sightseeing and food recommendations, permits) and everything was organized seamlessly. Sunil was very patient with all our queries, giving suggestions and options to suit our preferences.
Ashish & Neha Thadani
Great to see the know-how of the Unwind Outdoor team regarding every aspect of the Srinagar - Leh - Chandigarh self drive trip. From weather conditions, to road conditions, to health/clothing requirements, and also driving instructions - Sunil and Manpreet are warm, meticulous and knowledgable. Villa Himalaya in Sonamarg surpassed all our expectations and ensured that our expected standards for the rest of the trip were extremely high.
Symbiosis Law School, Mumbai
Thanks Sunil for arranging a wonderful trip. Everything went well and we were in good hands with friendly and competent drivers. Accommodation was good and tents were comfortable beyond our expectations. We didn't have problem with food choices. It was a totally rejuvenating vacation and experience for us. Thanks from us in Singapore!
We had an amazing 9-day from Manali to Leh. Serene, breathless and picturesque. High altitude sickness was a big issue for us but we were in good hands.
Unwind Outdoor was superb in arranging and coordinating the trip. Taking care of all arrangements and checking-in on us. Kudos to Sunil and his team.
Assistant Director, Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore
We travelled as a couple & completed a self drive trip from Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Tso Moriri-Sarchu-Manali-Delhi. Itinerary was meticulously designed to be a mix of adventure and comfort. Hotel choices were best. Support was available at all points in case of emergency.Vehicle provided was top notch. Thanks to Mr. Sunil Kapoor for personally putting in efforts to maintain such high standards.
Nikhil & Neha Mazumdar
Manager L&T, Mumbai
Six of us (two families) travelled to Leh in Jul / Aug 2015 and we had an excellent experience with Unwind Outdoor. From the very beginning of our excited planning phase, Sunil has been willingly suggesting us options, number of days, places to visit etc. He has all the knowledge of the terrain, passionate about trekking and traveling himself, so he understands travel-crazy people such as me and my quirks.
We landed in Leh in time for cloudbursts and flashfloods and landslides (along with mud and rocks sliding too). Despite Nature's fury, Sunil and Skarma made sure we were utmost safe and comfortable. These guys are just not into travel business, they help people fulfil their travel dreams. Truly! Go guys!!
Barclays Bank, Bangalore