Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chikmagalur- Scenic Acres Homestay

It was a long weekend after a long time so I wanted to hit the road. This time we decided to drive down to Chikmagalur.

I do a great deal of research in finding the right place to stay-because the quality of stay decides to a great extent whether your trip is good or not so good.

I hate to stay in hotels on my personal trips. Hotels are the same everywhere- standard, boring and undistinguished. If you really want to get a feel of the place, see how the locals live, listen to their stories, taste their food and get a slice of their culture- then home stay is the place for you.

So, when I was surfing for home stays in Chikmagalur, I landed upon this website of a property which was really appealing. I immediately called up the owner to make a booking, but he apologetically told me that the place was running full.

But I decided to try my try my luck here. Almost in a pleading tone, I asked him “can you recommend any other place to me?”

I held my breath as he took a long pause. Then he spoke “Ya, I have friend Raghu, he has a beautiful place. May be you can check there” and gave me the details before hanging up.

When Raghu picked up the phone I hurriedly introduced my self and explained my situation “Raghu, I am planning a trip over this weekend, and looking for a place for seven people for two nights”

“We have a two bedroom cottage, with a huge living room. Even the bedrooms are quite big and we can provide extra beds, I think you guys can fit in well” Raghu replied.

The thought of having the whole cottage to ourselves, not having to share it with other guests and the idea of privacy instantly tempted me.

Like an eager tourist, I probed “can you give me an idea of the location of your home stay? Like how far it is from the town and what is the view like?”

He was composed “you can visit our website and get all that information” he said

“Ok. Can I call you in half an hour?” I wanted to check the site before I took a decision.

Frankly speaking- I was not very impressed with what I saw on scenic acre’s website. The template was dull and images were just about average. It looked like something which has been put together in a hurry, over all it didn’t excite me much.

I wasn’t very convinced, if I have to book a place the website has to win me over first. But as I didn’t have any other options I decided to go ahead with it.

While confirming the booking I casually asked Raghu “Do you have dogs on your property?”

He thought I had some reservations against dogs so tried clarifying to me “We stay next door, i.e. our property is next to the cottage and we have three dogs there-two daschunds and a three month old Labrador pup. But we don’t allow them to go near our guests”

I just jumped with joy when I heard this and solved the misunderstanding “Sorry, I think you got it wrong. Both my wife and I are absolute dog lovers and every time we travel we try to find a place that has dogs. In fact, one of the reasons why we prefer a home stay to a hotel is because of this”

This information about the dogs and especially about the three month old pup completely swung my decision in favor of Scenic acres. I thought that he would make up for what ever is missing in the home stay.

We reached Chikmagalur by lunch time and the home stay was very easy to find. It is located about 5 kms from the town on the way to mullainagiri hills. As Raghu had gone for his game of golf, his wife Kalpana welcomed us at the Scenic Acres.

All of us loved the property. The location, view and the ambience was perfect. It is a colonial style cottage with a red brick exterior. It has a beautiful garden with many fruit and flowering trees. The girls immediately settled on the two hammocks hung by trees, while we took a walk around the property. The cottage even has an extended expanse of grass land, which overlooked the hills. Interestingly there was a badminton net set up there.
The rooms are airy, spacious and clean. They mostly used the cane furniture which is basic and functional.

The best part of the cottage was however the living cum dining hall. This place has windows all around and also a fireplace. There are many games in the home stay that the guests can try their hand at- there is a magnetic dart board, a punching bag and boxing gloves, volleyball, badminton, caroms, scrabble and even an indoor golf putter set.

Coming back to Kalpana, she completely won us over with her warm smile and impeccable hospitality. Really soft spoken, she gave us a great deal of information on the places we should see, about the flora and fauna of the region, about the local customs, on intricacies of coffee plantation and the lives of planters, and lot of other interesting trivia.
Though there is a resident cook, she personally supervises all that happens in the kitchen and makes sure that you are served the authentic malnad food. The food is to die for- the variety, the portions, the desserts -my mouth is watering just thinking about it.I have stayed in so many home stays, but I have to admit that I have never been so pampered for food ever.

Kaplpana can probably teach a lesson or two to most of the hotel management graduates on how to delight your guests.

Who also needs a special mention here is Pushpa- the domestic help at Scenic Acres who will make sure that you are always comfortable and she is always just a call away.

The main hero of the trip however was Jackie- the Labrador pup. My wife and I were most eager to meet him, and the first thing we requested Kalpana was to bring him over to our cottage. Jackie is absolutely adorable, playful and mischievous. Though, I had a difficult time clicking him (as he hardly stays at any place). Man, I want to do another round before he grows big.

We chatted up with Raghu in the evening when he gave us insights about the coffee cultivation, processing and trading. He told us that his family has been into plantations for four generations now. We were surprised to know that he also has a cinema hall in the town. Unassuming and warm, Raghu instantly put us at ease. He even gave us a guided tour to his coffee curing plant in the town.

We had a great time just lazing around and soaking in the beauty of the place and the weekend just flew by. Even before I left the place I wanted to come back again. I strongly recommend Scenic Acres to anyone planning a trip to Chikmagalur. It is the way a home stay should be-not like a paid accommodation but just like staying at your friend’s place.

PS: click on the Chikmagalur icon on the right side of the screen to view pictures from the trip.