About Arati Monappa
The content for this section has been provided by Chindamada Arati Monappa, textile designer, who brings out a line of clothing, sarees and accessories, primarily using natural dyes and craft techniques. She runs an eco-friendly store “Serenity” in Bangalore. Based in Coorg, she enjoys exploring her roots and the Coorg community to which she belongs!
COORG HOMESTAYS: IDEAL HOLIDAY DESTINATION
Homestays in Coorg, sitting at an ideal elevation, with a salubrious climate for the better part of the year, makes it an ideal holiday destination. Since the railway does not reach Coorg, it has, till recently not had too many tourists. The roads were tourists’ nightmare, Coorg had very few good hotels, ‘The Orange County Resort’ being the only “destination resort”! In fact if you mentioned the name Coorg, people would say “Orange County”!
Kodavas, the natives of Coorg have been known over the years for their hospitality. With so few ‘staying’ choices, most visitors found friends, or friends of friends, to stay with. Estate homes on coffee plantations may not have 5 star facilities. They are old bungalows, with nice gardens, warm comfortable beds, many had old style “gudda” bathrooms. These baths have granite floors, and boiling hot water, which was hot through the day. Electricity was erratic, but one didn’t mind, since fans were not really a necessity. Refrigerators, were there, but food was cooked fresh. Coorg food, was always a talking point. Coorg women pride themselves, on their table! So even simple home cooked meals are a delight to a visitor. And there is a large variety to savour. Living on estates, families welcomed visitors, who opened their eyes to a new world.
About seven or eight years ago, prices of coffee, that had moved from government controlled rates to a free market price, dipped to levels that many small coffee holders, found difficult to sustain their plantations. Around the same time, Bangalore, which is about 5 hours from Coorg, saw the growth of the IT industry, with a lot of employees enjoying the perks of a booming industry. With the extra money many were tempted to travel, especially over weekends. Coorg became the ideal destination. Meanwhile the roads had improved, taxi services were more professional, and Coorg families saw the potential of catering to this new breed of holidaymakers. Initially there was trepidation on the part of homemakers.
Kodavas are proud people. How could one charge a guest? When relatively well to do people, took the initiative, and found how lucrative it was, there sprouted “home stays” all over Coorg, from the very high end charging up to 11,000 a night to those catering to backpackers for even Rs. 100 a night. Home stays have many advantages over resorts, depending on the individual. If one wants to enjoy the true hospitality of the region, it is ideal, since one can stay on a plantation, savouring the ambience of a coffee estate, and sharing the knowledge of the owner/planter, many of whose families have owned the estate for generations.
Home cooked Coorg food is different and unbeatable- both for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, there is a great variety to choose from – mushroom, avocados, pork, bamboo, a gourmets delight! Coorg also offers great climbing, trekking and fishing opportunities that local hosts are knowledgeable about. One need not spend an evening at a lonely hotel bar. At a home stay, local hosts will be happy to share a drink, with a guest and folklore of Coorg. Most home stays in Coorg, have basic facilities. Many have upgraded their homes to make it more attractive for tourists. Many locations have breathtaking views and are ideal for those who want to spend a quiet holiday, with nature for company and good food, to nurture the soul! Home stays owners also provide information on tourist sites, visits to Talacauvery, the source of the Cauvery river, Nagarahole Wildlife Sanctuary, the Elephant Camp at Dubare. They save you the hassle of organizing schedules. How are they different from resorts, which have also sprung up in Coorg? It is the warmth and comfort of a home that one enjoys at a homestay in Coorg, living with people, who enjoy sharing hospitality, many slipping in extra facilities that are not charged in your bill. One ends up, making friends, and most home stays thrive on recommendations.
Especially in Coorg, a home stay makes sense, to get a true feeling of this beautiful coffee country, the flora and fauna, its distinct people, culture and food. Resorts worldwide are the same! As icing on the cake, one could also get to visit a Coorg wedding with the hosts, and dance with the Kodavas- a memory to carry for life!