Drove to Coorg for a vacation, first half of May. When we started looking for a place to stay there, there were two things I didn't want.
* I didn't want to stay in a "resort" that looks like every other "resort" on the planet, complete with swimming pool and chocolate mints on immaculately ironed pillowcases.
* I didn't want to stay in the dim "lodge" opposite the bus station in Madikeri, where a buddy and I hung out on a previous trip to Coorg. Him and me going again, we might have picked it again. But family, including kids and my ma? Something a mite more comfortable, is what I thought.
So we began hunting for a homestay in Coorg, and very quickly understood just how powerful a buzzword it currently is in travel circles. Coorg alone has 600 (and counting) establishments that say they are homestays, and that they are eco-friendly and tranquil and beautiful surroundings and close to nature and ... so forth. How do you choose?
I'm not sure how we did, any more.
Also, I wouldn't ordinarily plug one of these establishments in this space. Except that we truly felt we were extraordinarily lucky with the place we found and spent four days in.
It's called Bel Home. It's up a dirt track in the middle of a tract of what -- to this city-zen, at any rate -- seems like thick forest. It's two comfortable rooms in a coffee estate, surrounded by bushes and flowers and colours and a plethora of birds. So plentiful, that they even combine in a particular obstacle as you approach the rooms: you have to bend your head to sidle past the bush and its little white blossoms, listening to bees buzz in your ears as you go, and somehow it's like a welcome song.
Despite a health crisis in her family the morning we arrived and all through our stay, Ramolla Deviah looked after us like we were, indeed, her family. Our room was airy and spotless. Her food was varied, sumptuous and elegantly served. Eating while looking out onto butterflies and trees was a treat. Walking uphill along the road to the next coffee estate, the only sounds were birds and crickets, our footsteps and the panting of Ramolla's two dogs who tore around like happy dervishes.
It truly was an escape. Not just from the mad rush that is Bombay, but also from the trash and general disorder that, sadly, blights even small towns in Coorg. But what made the escape extra-special was Ramolla's care and attention to detail.
Three things to note, before I end.
* Yes, there's a spot on the estate where you can, if you contort your body just so, get a weak cellphone signal. No, I will not tell you where it is.
* Make sure you don't stand in that other spot on the estate where a coconut from the tall palm may land on your head.
* No chocolate mints on the pillows.
Charm, you see, comes in various forms.
Lots of establishments want to be known as homestays. (Well, not the lodge opposite the bus station). Most are clearly just cashing on on the cachet of the word. But Bel Home is, in every sense, like a home. In a word, go.