Walking around Bandra’s many narrow, winding lanes can lead one to a multitude of discoveries — right from some of the best damn cheap beef sukha, a family who’s been making shiny disco balls for Bollywood since 1994, the city’s favourite DVD library (those still exist!) Bandra’s Sarvodaya and of course, the charming house, some that serve as a true testament of time. If you go looking, you’re bound to stumble across this neighbourhood’s latest addition, in one of the oldest houses around. Right off the chaos that is Hill Road, is Horn Ok Please, a traveller’s hostel that has made the 100-year-old Almeida house its new home.
A stark contrast to the rest of the little street they’re now a major part of, the navy-blue gates adorned with a yellow ‘HOP’ sign open up to a colourful little world that houses travellers from across the world. Manned by Rishab, his wife Adina, Smit, and Rohan; the group stumbled across the house due to their agent who had so far taken them to every hole, hut, broken building and house vacant in Bandra. “We actually found it in December 2015, on Christmas! There was a lot of back and forth but we finally got it in July this year. It took us 75 days to set it all up — the professionals would work in the day and we, along with a few friends would complete as much as we could in the night,” laughs Rishab. Inspired by a little hostel in Budapest, whose owners were very social with their guests, they knew they wanted to maintain that very sense of amiability with their own guests.
As for the name? “To be honest, settling on the right name was one of the hardest tasks! We went through a list of names that basically revolved around an animal and an adjective. We went from Drunk Monkey to Pink Cow, until Smit and I scrapped them all. We needed a name people could say as well as understand. Horn Ok Please worked out well for us since it’s a popular phrase in India and shortens to HOP,” explains Rishab. Currently, HOP can host 24 people, in their dorms. One room is dedicated entirely for female travellers, while the other two are co-ed. However, by mid-Jan they’re hoping to open up their upper floor which could possibly have private rooms as well. “As of now, we’re relying on guest feedback to see what we need or don’t need and working towards the same,” says Adina, who was actually behind a majority of the theme and decor around HOP. The aim was to maintain the antique charm and character of the place but with a few contemporary elements. Graphic art, kettle lamps and even the wiring around the hostel (you’ll spot a truck or two running along these very wires) all contribute to the whole package.
With air-conditioned dorms, free wi-fi, 24/7 hot water, breakfast (fruits, toast, butter, jam, and a locally sourced Indian dish), a warm bed, books, board games, and more all at INR 799 for a night, could you really complain? Oh and not to forget, they’ve even got a handy little brochure that they’ve customised themselves for every guest! Equipped with a map of Bandra with their favourite places bookmarked, a checklist of things to do, apps you should use and even a breakdown of the railway make for a valuable addition to any traveller’s bag. “Since most people generally prefer our recommendations, we knew this would come in handy. Most times we try to take them to places ourself like Yacht or Janta. We do take people out to fancier bars when they want to party but for heritage walks, we’ve got locals working with us. They know who sells fresh fish and in which corner, they know when and why a cross came up, they know who lived in this house — so they just take everyone out for a walk.”
Overall, HOP aims to be a safe home away from home for those who wish to visit India and travel around Mumbai. If you’re nice enough, they’ll even take you to their favourite vada pao spots in Mumbai!
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