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.
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.
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
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.
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.
And because I simply loved my previous experiences, I decided to spent some quite time this Diwali at another of Grassroutes’ site – Dehena
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.
“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
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.
You may also want to read: ‘Everything About Homestays’
Would love to hear about your homestay and budget hotel experiences too.
2015 Update: To look up homestays and hotels I’d stayed at in 2015, read iAppend | Accommodation Recommendation