Saturday, January 3, 2015

iAmend | Where'd you homestay?

Personally 2014 has been very fulfilling.

On the 'have feet..' front, not only have I been able to travel a lot more – on my own and with people, both known and unknown – but I’ve also been religious at having a blog update on each journey I’ve undertaken. Looking back, I reckon there have been instances when I’ve gotten super micro in recounting experiences (5 series blogposts) while sometimes I’ve simply breezed through the entire experience only through photographs.

As I steadily better my craft of ‘travelogue-ing’ in my upcoming posts, I’ve considered making a few amends retroactively. One big piece of missing information – and I appreciate being asked to add that in – has been around my homestays. It’s now almost my default setting to first look up available homestay options or enquire with all and sundry. Yeah, I am big on homestays.

So to rewind a little bit, I’ll start with my destination from
Coorg, Karnataka – Mr, K K Poornaiah, Ganesh Estate Homestay
I’d decided to travel solo to Coorg the Christmas of 2013. But I was blissfully under the impression that I’d easily find a host. After all, it was a simple Google search with the words “Coorg” “homestay” strung together that throws up, and I quote Google, “about 3,07,000 results in 0.36 seconds”. Imagine my chagrin, when close to 10 calls later I still haven’t found a host who hadn’t been booked for the season. A part of me somewhere was happy that homestays were a thing and another part was growing despondent. But a homestay of course I did.
Mr. Poornaiah of Ganesh Homestay is a warm and enthusiastic host. When I got delayed in arriving at Madikeri because my delayed train had had a domino effect on other travel plans, he made it his responsibility to pick me up from the ST bus stand. Situated right in the middle of his own coffee and spice plantations, the wooden cabins create quite the effect for a much needed getaway.
For more about my Coorg experience, read When In Coorg

Kutch, Gujarat – Mr. Krutarth Jadeja, Devpur Homestay
Kutch wasn’t on the cards (or should I say map) for me. I was eyeing Vizag. Why eyeing – I’d booked my tickets, planned my itinerary and even begun enquires with B&Bs there! Then the political climate made me want to rethink my destination and very randomly Kutch popped as a thought bubble around my head.
And then began another hunt which after a little detour had me speaking to Mr. Jadeja of the Devpur Homestay. And who immediately said, “Yes, please do come to Kutch and we’d be happy to host you at Devpar”. Such friendliness from someone I hadn’t even met yet. And if it weren’t for him I doubt I’d have experienced Kutch the way I did
For more on Kutch, read 'Exploring Kutch - The Homestay'

Velas, Maharashtra – Mr. Mohan Upadhye, SNMCPN
I’d had my antennas up and active since I’d first come across the ‘Turtle Festival’ – that spectacular moment when you get to witness the hatching of the Olive Ridley turtle’s eggs. That too in my own backyard (well, almost). All thanks to the Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra who’ve been organizing not just the festival (which is aimed more at creating awareness about the endangered species) but even facilitating an authentic Malvani experience through homestays. Mohan, the man-in-charge out there helped put me in touch directly with the families with whom I had to first confirm their availability for the dates I’d been considering.
For more about Velas, read 'Seeking The Hiding 'Turtlets' at Velas

Purushwadi, Maharashtra – Mr. Inir Pinheiro, Grassroutes | Purushwadi
It’d been 3 years since I’d gaped and gazed at fireflies with child-like wonder. I felt it was about time for a repeat experience so I contacted Grassroutes again. Run by Inir, Grassroutes helps connect urban folk looking forward to some experiential travel in rural pockets not too far away from the city. The option of a homestay here however operates with a twist – you stay in a dorm but all your meals are provided by one household in the village. Cooked over the chulha/firewood, be assured that you will be left smacking your lips and licking your fingers after every single meal
To know more about the experience, read 'A Date With Fireflies'

Spiti, Himachal PradeshIndia Untravelled and Spiti Ecosphere
Demul
Komic
I’d been to Ladakh twice before already before stepping into Spiti. And I wasn’t prepared to be jolted out of my wits. Why? Because Spiti is nothing like Ladakh; in spite of the similarities to the terrain. Spiti is Ladakh’s unruly step-sibling, I believe.
What made Spiti more hospitable however were the locals I stayed with during my homestays in Demul and Komic. And none of that would’ve been possible without help from India Untravelled who helped connect us with Ishita at Spiti Ecosphere.
You can read more about Spiti on 'My Encounter With Spiti'

Gokarna, KarnatakaNamaste Cafe
Early October the calendar looked enticingly at me and said, “Here’s a long weekend. Thought about a getaway?” Of course I had. Gokarna it would be – ideal to bum chill, watch waves crash at the shore and gape mindlessly into the horizon. And while I was at it, I decided to give budget travel a shot too. So if you’re looking for something sans frills yet modest then Namaste Café is the place to head to.
P.S.: By sans frills I’m implying that you head to your room only to hit the bed and call it a day.
Here's why I didn't mind the ultra modest accommodation 'Solo Tripping Doing Nothing In Gokarna'

Dehena, MaharashtraGrassroutes | Dehena
And because I simply loved my previous experiences, I decided to spent some quite time this Diwali at another of Grassroutes’ site – Dehena
For a more detailed description, read 'Camping In Nature's Lap At Dehena'

Orchha, Madhya Pradesh – Ms. Asha D'Souza, Friends of Orchha
Orchha stands out as one among few places where my homestay experience overshadows the place itself. And I owe the experience not just to my host family but to Asha and Ashok from ‘Friends of Orchha’ for ensuring not just an enjoyable but also a comfortable stay. So yeah, you needn’t be a history buff to want to head to Bundelkhand - just the hospitality of the locals including the rickshaw driver from Jhansi who called me the next day to alert me about the train delay should be more than enough of a reason to head out there.
A page on Orchha from the Bundelkhand diary - 'Experiencing Benevolence in Bundelkhand'

Khajuraho, Madhya PradeshHotel Surya
I must admit I wasn’t too sure what to expect as a solo traveller in Khajuraho – even though it is recommended for solo travellers. And boy was I disheartened when I couldn’t locate a homestay. So I stayed at Hotel Surya which is by far among the better budget hotels I’ve come across. Be assured that neither safety nor comfort is ever compromised on.

Pranpur/Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh - Ms. Gouthami, Travel Another India | Pranpur
“People come to Chanderi only because they’ve heard about the silk sarees; no one knows enough about Chanderi’s history” lamented a local to me while I was doing the touristy thing of site-seeing the place. I, on the other hand, had come to Chanderi because I’d come across the Amraee guesthouse at Pranpur (3 kilometers from Chanderi) while browsing through Travel Another India’s website a while ago. I remained oblivious to Chanderi silk sarees until the very end. But Gothami did help me build my own understanding of the culture and even experience it

And from the last journey of 2014…
Diu
Special mention to Heranca Goesa simply because it was a welcome relief to not have to spend another night in a hotel and instead at a homestay. On second thoughts, wish it wasn’t Christmas and we’d be able to nibble on some delectable Goan food in Diu :-/

Bhavnagar
In the similar vein while a hotel and a palace turned heritage hotel at it, the Nilambaug Palace at Bhavnagar is one of the most stylish yet comfortable hotels I’ve stayed at with the touch of something that’s very home-like. I’m still wondering how they pull that off.

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You may also want to read: 'Everything About Homestays'
Would love to hear about your homestay and budget hotel experiences too.
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2015 Update: To look up homestays and hotels I'd stayed at in 2015, read iAppend | Accommodation Recommendation

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