Friday, August 1, 2008

Coorg: Plantation Trails


I was supposed to be in Istanbul for a marketing conference, but I couldn’t renew my passport within the stipulated time- so I was left alone in Bangalore while the rest of the team was sightseeing in a foreign land. However, I was adamant that even I should get out of the city- if not abroad then at least to a serene hill station. My consideration set comprised of Chikmagalur, Wayanad and Coorg (Written in the order of preference).

When I go on such weekend escapes I love to book myself into a home stay- unlike star hotels- home stays are not standardised, which makes them much more interesting, warm and personal. You can actually experience a slice of the local culture when you are putting up in such an arrangement. Right from the people you chat up with to the food you are served and even the way the house is done up, everything offers to you a piece of the location. In short, Home stays have a character to them which is so missing in most of the hotels.

I was keen on Chikmagalur and Wayanad, but couldn’t manage to get a booking in any of the places where I wanted to stay. I had been to Coorg some three years ago and to put it frankly- I didn’t like it much. I thought that the whole thing about it being the Scotland of India was a bit over hyped.

I remember- in my last trip I landed up there without any prior planning and that it was a peak season for tourists didn’t help. We were lucky enough to get a decent place to stay (Home of a retired army official) but the places we went see were the typical tourist attractions.

That is not my idea of a vacation. I hunt hard to find locations which are like unseen and unspoiled by tourist hordes. I romanticise the idea of cutting off from the civilisation and love staying at places, which if I may say so, at least appear to be virgin and undiscovered.

Coming back to this trip, after hours of googling “homestays in Coorg”- I landed up on this link called ‘Plantation Trails’ which are Tata coffee’s holiday homes in Coorg. Frankly speaking, I didn’t even know that Tata had something like holiday homes. I even liked the idea that this was not listed on the first few pages of my search results (on Google). So I safely assumed that this was definitely not one of those most common places for tourists to stay.

The details of the property like location, facilities, tariffs and bookings are well detailed on the Tata coffee’s site and were quite useful in getting a sense of the place. When I called up their Bangalore coordinate, he told me that the accommodation was only available in Glenlorna tea estate which is near Hudikeri- some 27 kilometres ahead of their flagship property- the coffee estate in Pollibetta. Incidentally, Glenlorna is the only tea estate in the coffee country of Coorg.

Luckily I got a special monsoon package which offered twenty percent discount and complimentary dinner. As breakfast was already a part of the package I just had to pay for my lunch and snacks above the cost of the room.

The bungalow at the estate is on a hillock and offers a bird’s eye view of the lush plantation. It has five rooms in total and we booked luxury rooms which were particularly large and come fitted with air conditioners (Though I wonder who uses them) and geysers for hot water (Now that’s a must). The rooms are tastefully done and are mostly occupied with dark wood furniture that lends a strong colonial character to the place, also, they are well coordinated with fab India-ish bed covers, table cloths and floor mats. I have also been made to understand that most of these plantation trails bungalows are former homes of estate managers which have been done up by their wives.

There is a common dining room where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served to all the guests staying in the estate- though you can order tea and snacks to your room. There is also a television with a Tata Sky connection in the living room. The best part of the bungalow is the front porch which offers the most beautiful view of the tea plantation. I spent the most part of my trip here- in the front porch- cuddled in a warm blanket, sunk in a comfy cane chair with my legs stretched and resting on a low lying table and sipping liters of piping hot ginger tea and devouring on dozens of onion pakoras- all this while watching rain.

It almost rained continuously through out our stay but that just added to the thrill of the vacation. I can’t remember any other time in my life when I just watched rains like that and enjoyed them so much. To say it was romantic would be an understatement. The purposeless of that moment was so fascinating and in a strange way extremely rejuvenating. We went for a long walk to the river that flows through the property and morning jogs along the hills. Umbrellas were our constant companions and again I don’t remember when I used one before.

They can also organise a visit to the tea factory and a guided tour of the coffee and tea plantations if you want, but we opted out of such guided tours and enjoyed our own excursions in and around the plantations.

The staff is extremely courteous, helpful and hospitable. The meals were elaborate and delicious and the fact that you can get such food in such an isolated location is incredible.

The other guests who had bookings and were supposed to arrive had last minute cancellations and that came as blessing in disguise for us as we had the whole bungalow all for ourselves.

I strongly recommend this place to anyone who is planning a trip to Coorg and you better make it soon for they might lease this bungalow to one of the corporates pretty soon and might not entertain the regular guests then.

Also, I heard they are inaugurating a similar property in Chikmagalur sometime towards the mid of August. I am sure I will be one of their first guests. See you there.


PS: You can see the pictures of the trip by clicking the Coorg widget on the right side of your screen.

7 comments:

Shalini said...

I like the pic...'objects in the mirror are closer than they appear'.

Also, next time u want to plan a trip to chikamaglur... there is this homestay.. think its 1000 rs a day includes 3 meals..in the middle of a coffee estate overlooking hills... booze extra

Call PK Nachappa... 09448971902/ 09449499225...using ur blog for some advertisements u see. hehe

Ur wife just showed me how the siteometer works...hehe... n she insists that we both have no sense of humor. I object!

gurudev prasad said...

Hi Shalini,

I am so glad you liked the title pic. I was quite apprehensive about it.

Thanks much for sharing the Chikmagalur contact- You know I wanted to spend the 15th Aug weekend there, but couldn't find one homestay that was unoccupied.

As far as Tanu is concerned- her objection is the biggest testimony that both of us possess an amazing sense of humor.

Rock on.

Saiyed Samir Hasnain said...

Hi Udai,

I am in Office right now and just spoke with Venky. after i finish my call i thought of you and so googled your name and directed myself to your blog, though its written in July'08, that prooves that i am not a regular visiter, but whenever i read your write up i try to leave my comment: I realy like the photographs and realy unbelieveable that you are so good at this art too.
the description is so live that it makes me feel that i visited the place myself...
Well it is indeed a good place to spend some time alone or with someone you really love to be with.

Raj said...

Hi Gurudev
Your writeups are very real and you make us experience the very same as you felt.
Just requesting to write something about the repercussions of sub prime crisis u have seen closely or something like tht...
Raj

gurudev prasad said...

Hi Raj,

Much obliged for your comment. Let me see if I am capable of writing anything like that.

Are you a blogger too?

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