Express News Service
CHENNAI: Borders are reopening to warm welcomes; the skies, land and sea are reclaiming their prime positions, and travel-thirsty beings are planning their itineraries. But the best travel, as many experts and bloggers suggest, is to be cautious of the ecological footprint without limiting our horizons. Taking a cue from this, Vaishali Vijaykumar recommends farmstays and homestays in Tamil Nadu, to travel with a purpose in 2021.
THE PEAR COUNTY
Nestled in the heart of Kodaikanal, five-year-old The Pear County can either be your weekend getaway, a mid-week holiday or a corporate outing. A unit of J’s Heritage Hotels and Resorts, it’s owned by Vishal Sudhakar and Sudhakar Jayaraj.
The 75-acre property comprises a campsite and Farm Housing Development. “Our campsite offers you a harmonious blend of both adventure and comfort. Amid a pear orchard, our tents are pitched on a platform beneath a thatched roof and each tent has a restroom and changing room adjacent to it,” explains Vishal.
They also have ecofriendly cabins made of recycled ship containers. “Our tastefully designed cabins have a private sit-out, attached restroom and a double bed. We organise various activities within the property,” he adds.
Plan to indulge yourself in pear plucking, bullock cart ride, bonfire, hiking, mountain biking, organic farming, birdwatching and wildlife viewing. Their latest addition is the workation package. “The property also gives a bird’s eye view of Kodaikanal. The best season to visit is from June to August as it’s also our pear harvest season,” he says.
Priced from Rs 3,000 per day
Address: The Pear County, SGJ Farms, opposite the TNEB substation, Kodaikanal-624101
For details, call: 9965541327, mail to [email protected] com. Visit thepearcounty.com
KINARA, THE FARM STAY
If you’re looking for a place to switch off your busy city life and spend quality time with family, then Kinara, The Farm Stay, in Pollachi might meet all your expectations. Right from homecooked regional food, much-needed privacy to eco-friendly activities, the property assures all things worth the penny.
“Everything from the harvest is cooked by the locals and served with authenticity. Popularising Kongu cuisine and serving the best version of it has been the dream. I’m a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef so you can expect a patisserie soon,” reveals Lakshmi Divya Harshini, the owner.
The farmhouse boasts a private entrance, bedroom and bathroom. That apart, you can enjoy plenty of simple pleasures. Be a farmhand, bottlefeed a lamb, milk a cow, cuddle a baby chick, dine on gourmet food made with the best of the farm’s meat, eggs, dairy and produce.
In the evenings, you can take a stroll around the farm, go for a walk by the riverside, work in their inhouse farm, learn to make origami using palm leaves or observe palm sugar being prepared in neighbouring households.
“I allow only families. All hygiene protocols are in place. As we are selective with our patrons, there’s no chance of any risk at the farmstay,” says Harshini. While the property is small and cosy, six more rooms will be added soon. “There will be space to have parties and workshops. Just eat, experience and relax. We treat everyone as personal guests,” she adds.
Priced from Rs 3500 per person inclusive of all meals for the day
Located at: Ambarampalayam, Pollachi
For details, call: 9047729686 or mail to [email protected]
O’LAND PLANTATION STAY
All it takes is an hour drive from Coonoor and Ooty to reach O’Land Plantation Stay in Nilgiris. The 120-acre estate grows tea, coffee, pepper and cloves, while offering an eco-friendly stay for nature lovers.
There are three types of cottages – The Estate House, The Hornbill House and The Pepper House – with varying prices. Nestled in a lush green carpet of tea bushes, each cottage offers views of sunrise and sunset that stir the senses.
The resort borders the Nilgiris biosphere, which is home to several species of birds and animals that are often seen wandering the plantation. “The organic agriculture we promote, protects and conserves landscapes in and around paving the way for thriving birdlife. All these factors make O’land an ideal resort for birding in Nilgiris. From red-whiskered bulbul, Nilgiris flycatcher to Indian Koel, you will find over 250 species of birds and some animals such as langur, sloth bear, elephant and gaur,” shares Mahima Sukhdev, who runs the property with her mother Vinati Sukhdev. Tea-tasting sessions, trekking, bird-watching, a day’s trip to Ooty and Coonoor are all available on request.
While we are yet to completely get rid of the coronavirus, Mahima and her mother have ensured all safety protocols are followed. “All staff members have their temperature checked every day, while regularly taking care of their sanitisation. All guests have their temperature checked upon arrival and asked to answer a quick health assessment questionnaire. We have only seven rooms so there’s enough space to maintain social distancing. It’s a remote place so it’s more secluded than many other places. Vacationers have started coming in, after post-lockdown relaxations. In a humble way, we aim to promote to live in harmony with nature and wildlife,” she says.
Price starts from Rs 6,200 per day and varies during peak season.
Address: O’Land Plantation Stay, Kullakamby Post, Coonoor 643218
For details, call: 9945400073 or mail to [email protected]
Internationally-acclaimed artist KR Santhana Krishnan is known for his vibrant and intriguing door paintings. An avid traveller, a dream that kept him awake for many nights is of starting a homestay and introducing the concept of art residency. It turned into reality with Kathavu Homestay, in Kumbakonam, his hometown.
“In a 12,000-sq-ft property, I’ve tried to incorporate as many antique and heirloom showpieces as possible. This will resonate with those who have an acquired taste in art. I’ve limited my guests to personal and word-of-mouth referrals,” he explains.
Speaking about art residency, he says, “An artist is often on his foot, travelling to various locations and spending time with the locals. S(h)e will need a studio to unwind after work. I want to provide a space for anyone who comes here. They may get inspired by the local temple architecture, landmarks and artisan clusters.”
Krishnan wants his guests to have a wholesome holiday and so, his property does not have a television. There are books from his collection, a kitchen with local produce to prepare your own meal and ample artworks.
“I try to make myself available so that I can guide them through the town. You have nadaswaram-makers in Narasingampettai, brass lampmakers in Nachiarkoil and 300-400 sculpture studios. It’s a passion project for me,” says Krishnan, whose art residency will be open to artists by March.
Mail [email protected] for prices and booking homestay
Holding a prime position near Kamarajar Sagar Dam, in Athoor, Dindigul, with a magnificent view of lakes and mountains, the Lakeside Resort is a 26-year-old property built by Joe Homan, a Britisher. Spread across 4.5-acres, the homestay has six cottages and four rooms that can accommodate up to 30 people at once.
Owned by Meenakshi and Arvind, it’s currently managed by their daughter Vedhika Arvind. The place offers two signature hikes – one to a waterfall in a local farmer’s land and another one up the mountain, to a cave, from where you can have a view of the valley, the lake and the coconut groves around. Expect a line-up of activities such as cycling, games and bird-watching.
The newest addition is camping and picnic by the lake. “We used to host many foreigners before the pandemic. After the lockdown, we have been hosting guests from Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Chennai, Madurai and surrounding areas. We make sure our guests have a unique, personalised and private experience. We also enjoy hosting our furry companions,” says Vedhika. The serenity, picturesque view and home-cooked multi-cuisine food…all the requisites to stay away from the madding crowds.
Priced from Rs 8,000 per day (including all three meals)
For details, call 9894563935 or mail to [email protected]
JACOB & KLOOSTER FARMS
In the early 2000s, husband-wife duo Shammy Jacob and Charlotte Van’t Klooster traded their home in Amsterdam for their fouracre farm in Thalambur, now an up and coming locality in Chennai. Their tastefully constructed farmhouse offers a paradise for city slickers.
The eco-friendly property is powered by solar energy, where the water catchment system brings avian visitors, and other green friends – a soothing sight for the eyes that have swollen from Zoom calls for ten months.
“We run a business innovation centre on the farm, where companies, schools and various organisations come and participate in creative thinking sessions. We provide an eco-friendly farm experience where you can help milking the cows and feeding the ducks. We have plenty of outdoor activities to entertain children,” shares Shammy. Charlotte, a PhD scholar in traditional medicinal plants, who is well-versed in various healing methods using energy, conducts meditation and healing sessions in the farm.
They have over 300 trees, more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables, pure country A2 milk from Gir cows, country chickens and duck eggs.
Pricing starts from Rs 4,000 for two per day
Address: MK Stalin Road 1-300, Chennai-600130
For details, call: 8754140164, visit jacobandklooster.com
Among the centuries-old mansions of Chettinad is a 100-year-old heritage property, The Bangala, owned by the Chettiar family in Karaikudi. Opened as a heritage hotel in 1999, the property has about 30 rooms, a swimming pool, library, expansive lounging areas and gardens.
“Over the years, The Bangala has built a reputation as an outstanding destination for food. With its local background and knowledge handed down over generations, it’s an ultimate repository of Chettinad Cuisine,” shares the owner, M Meyyappan.
Friendly staff, high housekeeping standards, relaxing ambience and, of course, the food, make this property unmissable. “Currently, the hotel restricts itself to 50 per cent occupancy, does health check-up for all guests and extensively sanitises the premises after they have left,” he details.
Among the activities is a Chettinad cuisine masterclass where you can learn to cook Chettinad cuisine from the chefs at The Bangala. It’s an ideal base if you are planning for pilgrimages to Thanjavur, Madurai, Trichy and Rameswaram, he adds.
Priced from Rs 5,000 for a night
Address: The Bangala, Devakottai Road, Senjai, Karaikudi- 630001
For details, call: 04565 250221 / 220221, or mail [email protected], or visit: thebangala.com