PK Ponnappa’s Court – Homestay

If you accuse me of advocating this homestay, I will say Guilty as charged!

It’s charm is all there in Black and White, ensconced in liberal swathes of luxuriant green and I can prove it in Court!

If you are wondering what I am legally defending, then you have to meet me at the courthouse … or in this case, a charming little homestay of sorts known as P K Ponnappa’s Court, which snuggles cosily within its surrounding coffee plantation in a quiet and unspoiled region of Coorg.

Coorg is a district in the highlands of the state of Karnataka in India and its location and terrain obviously make it a very popular hill station and holiday destination.

Homestays, resorts and hotels of every category, naturally abound here and discovering new options to stay, is a an activity that never fails to excite me.

P K Ponnappa’s Court is one such gem which is my latest finding. The very name of the place contains a clue to the inspiration behind it, namely the original profession of the owners. And yes, as you might have guessed by now, this place belongs to a family of lawyers. This also explains the mostly black and white color scheme throughout the property, clearly influenced by the clear cut colors of the legal business.

So follow me into this delightful space as I try to do Justice to its charms with my narration and before you scream Order Order, I promise to stop my excessive legalese word play … well at least for a while ūüėÄ

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Shettihalli Rosary Church, Hassan

There is something surreal about the skeletal and fragmented remains of the Shettihalli Rosary church. This 19th-century Gothic style church which is said to have been constructed in 1860 to be precise, was abandoned a 100 years later along with its surrounding villages, following the construction of the Hemavati/Dam and Reservoir (also known as Gorur dam) in 1960.

Since then, it has deteriorated into ruins with an overhanging aura of mysteriousness and intrigue. Hauntingly beautiful (in more ways than one, since rumor albeit unsubstantiated, has it that it is also inhabited by ghosts), this church draws tourists and photographers like a magnet, throughout the year.

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Strelitzia Villas – Luxury Homestay

To describe it a piece of Paradise would sound clichéd but I cannot think of a more fitting line for the aptly named luxury homestay, Strelitzia Villas at Paradise Plantation.

These are a set of luxury villas tucked away in a magical little clearing, deep within a paradisiacal coffee plantation.

With a name that is inspired by the Bird of Paradise flower, the Strelitzia, I get the urge to drag the phrase a step further and call this place a small bit of paradise within a larger paradise.

So near and yet so far … yet another common phrase slips out of my fingers as I attempt to depict the location of this most uncommon and gorgeous homestay, which despite lying a mere 500 meters from the main road, manages to render a serene sense of being a distant and secluded 50 kms away.

Located in Chikmagalur (or Chikkamagaluru) district in the state of Karnataka in the southern part of India, this homestay joins the list of burgeoning luxury options in this region albeit being of a more private and personalised category and that is what sets it apart from most of the other resorts and getaways.

So prepare to be amazed at the splendor that has been carved out in the midst of nature, as you step into the lavishly fitted yet extremely eco-sensitive environs of the villas and their surrounding lush landscapes, which despite being of man-made design and creation, yet manage to retain a natural and uncontrived feel.

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Jajpur, Odisha – Things to do

My recent discovery of a place called Jajpur in Odisha, caused a lot of excitement mainly due to the revelations of the vast potential of its past.

As mentioned in my previous post on Jajpur, Odisha, the district administration of Jajpur has initiated the HACT Jajpur project which is working towards safeguarding and promoting the Heritage, Art, Culture and Tourism of this district.

Jajpur district is a gold mine of interesting attractions for the tourist. It is home to a multitude of ancient temples, Buddhist archaeological sites, villages teeming with local arts and crafts like silk weaving, grass weaving, terracotta and stone sculpting, musicians who keep traditional music and instruments from going extinct and other such enticements, especially for those interested in tourism involving heritage, arts and crafts … or as I like to call it, HACT’ual tourism 😉

A 2 part series featuring my experiences at Jajpur, Odisha, covering the overview of the place and the specific list of things to do here.

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Jajpur, Odisha – Where the Future lies in the Past

Jajpur – Where the Future lies in the Past. These words line up to form a sentence in my mind, as I stand amidst vast tracts of Buddhist archaeological ruins and listen intently to the guide who is narrating tales of this place which has been hitherto unheard of by me.

I am at Jajpur, Odisha and I am excited to be a part of a media tour which is showcasing the treasures which this district holds. The place is intriguing and I quickly post an Instagram story, unable to contain the thrill of my discovery. In moments a friend messages me frantically, asking me why I have mentioned Jaipur, Odisha when it is actually in Rajasthan. Puffing up with a sense of superiority over my newfound knowledge, I amusedly reply to her saying – ‘This is Jajpur, with a J and NOT with an I as in Jaipur’. I smile at her obvious reaction of¬† ‘Oh I was not aware that such a place exists’.

Well I am sure that most of you who are reading this are probably reacting similarly, so allow me to throw some light on my recent enlightenment as we step into the territory of the Enlightened one and traverse through excavated Buddhist sites which have yielded a rich collection of stupas, monasteries, sculptures and such like.

Jajpur also holds the distinction of being a bountiful hub of various arts and crafts that are being preciously protected from extinction. Apart from safeguarding them for posterity, this will also bring pilgrims, devotees and tourists to Jajpur and thus ensure a sustainable future for this place, which is poised on the threshold of emerging as a popular destination for tourists across a wide range of interests.

Come, wander far back into history as I take you on a trail of this gem of a district which lies in Odisha, a state which in itself is bejeweled with precious treasures that span heritage, arts, crafts and culture and let us learn how to be a part of sustaining and keeping alive these riches.

Yes the Past is going to ensure the Future of Jajpur and the Present is going to take the responsibility to cherish and preserve that Past.

A 2 part series featuring my experiences at Jajpur, Odisha and covering the overview of the place and the specific list of things to do here.

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Guleria Kothi, Varanasi

It is night and the mighty river Ganga has finally fallen silent. The ghats are hushed without the characteristic intense hustle and bustle of the daytime.

The sounds may have quietened but the lights stay on and the illuminated ancient structures on the river bank, keep the show going all night, bathed in the glow of bright hues.

The only noise is that of my motor boat as it slices purposefully through the dark waters. I am the only passenger and my boatman has picked me up from Raj ghat where my taxi deposited me from the airport.

The December night is very cold and the sides of the boat are open. I am glad for the coat that was easily accessible in my baggage and is now hugging me in a valiant attempt to keep me from freezing. As I breathe in the chill air, warm memories rise up within me and a wave of nostalgia washes over my being. I am back in Varanasi after many many years, a place where I had spent 2 memorable years of my childhood.

We sail upstream for 20 minutes before my stream of thought is interrupted, as the boat glides up to the pier and docks at the ghat leading to the Guleria Kothi hotel. This is going to be my home for the next 2 days and I feel a deep thrill as I disembark and gaze at the steps leading to the imposing building which is all aglitter, as if waiting to welcome me in its dazzling embrace.

Come, step back into time with me and enter the portals of the very ancient mansion turned hotel … the Guleria Kothi, in the city of Varanasi, which is located in the district of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest states of India.

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Waghoba Eco Lodge – Experiences

So why does one go on a Safari in tiger land? Umm well … to see various birds, to spot hordes and herds of spotted deer, to gaze at bewildered looking Sambhar deer, to watch the antics of langurs and monkeys or maybe to spot a few small mammals too, right? Yeah right 😎

The various superstitions that are followed by the guides and guests, include not mentioning the name of the You Know What because some believe that talking about it or openly craving to see it, could result in failure to sight the star of the show which is the magnificent Tiger, also known as Wagh in the local language.

So if you can put on a really nonchalant swag while internally desperately praying to spot one, then you are said to have a better chance of seeing the sWagh of the Wagh as she/he does the catWagh for you right in front of your jeep.

So did we succeed in fooling fate into thinking we did not care? Shall we read till the end to find out?

But no, I am too excited to delay this and I must say, for me the good fortune that Pugdundee Safaris always bestows, came to my rescue yet again and my camera did manage to trap one beautiful specimen called Roma as she languorously lifted her 3 year old frame out from the thicket and performed a short, stylish parade in front of several waiting jeeps with their gasping passengers.

But don’t go away, now that the climax is revealed. Stay and browse through because there is much more that you need to know about what you can do, with the professional guidance of the excellent team at the Waghoba Eco Lodge.

A 3 part series featuring my experience at Waghoba Eco Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris, Chandrapur district, Maharashtra, India and covering The Overview, The Cuisine and The Activities.

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Waghoba Eco Lodge – Cuisine

Wearing Warli while wholeheartedly wolfing a wonderful Waradhi thali at the Waghoba Eco Lodge.

I am sure you will excuse this wild effort at alliteration (and also the use of W instead of V for Varadhi 😉), after you see the spread that I have presented below for you, courtesy the innovative Chef Ark and his enthusiastic team at the Waghoba Eco Lodge.

Also, I specifically took the trouble of carrying a Warli art printed kurta because that was the only pattern that I possessed which was ‘Maharashtrian’, even though Warli prints belong to another region of Maharashtra and not the Vidharba region where we were😏

So let us explore the food at Waghoba Eco Lodge, which is served in the cutest ever tiger themed plates that I have ever seen. In fact I must say, they are just paw’some. Want to know why? Well then, simply read on 😋

A 3 part series featuring my experience at Waghoba Eco Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris, Chandrapur district, Maharashtra, India and covering The Overview, The Cuisine and The Activities.

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Waghoba Eco Lodge – Overview

The car turns off the highway and gets onto the village road. In a while I can see a stretch of low lying, domed structures in the distance. The seemingly sedate construction in light colored brick, is set in a flat expanse of land and appears unlike any other jungle lodge that I have seen before. I am soon to find out that the laid back exterior is merely a veneer for the charm and potential that lies within. And we get a glimpse of the upcoming excitement soon enough, as we are blown away by the large picture window that greets us at first sight, when we step into the entrance of the lobby. The window that frames the hills of the not so distant core zone of the Tadoba National Park whose live treasures we are here to explore with the premium safari brand Pugdundee Safaris, whose hospitality we are about to experience at their newest lodge, the Waghoba Eco Lodge.

Lying conveniently in the buffer zone of the Tadoba National Park, this resort is situated in the Bhadravathi tehsil of the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, India, a region which bears rich forests that are abundant with wildlife and also said to be teeming with tigers.

So did we spot any? Now now, wait patiently because we first have to enter the portals of the hottest destination (pun intended only in summer 😎) of the year and explore the eco friendly and endearing environs of the lodge. I will then take you on the safari, I promise.

A 3 part series featuring my experience at Waghoba Eco Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris, covering The Overview, The Cuisine and The Activities.

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Pench Tree Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris-Part 2

Deja Mow … that familiar feeling of having posed with the same Mowgli before 😊

Little did I know three years ago in February 2020, that the world was going to abruptly be halted by a deadly virus which would likewise put a pause on all travel and life as we knew it. I had been fortunate to just about visit Pench Tree Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris, Seoni, Madhya Pradesh, India and to experience my very first and fruitful tiger safari in the Pench National Park.

Known as Mowgli land after Mowgli from the The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, the Pench forest has installed a figure of the little man-cub in the rest area. This of course is a big attraction for children and adults who queue up to pose with him and preserve their rendezvous on the camera lens, mainly to show off on Show’cial Media I suppose 😉

My two years of covid imposed stagnation were made easier to bear with help from the memories of the tigresses I sighted, namely (the late) Collarwali and Paddev, my ‘meeting’ with Mowgli and of course the warm and excellent hospitality of the Pench Tree Lodge.

Hence you can imagine my elation when I was scheduled to travel to this luxurious resort again, after the ‘end’ of covid (or so we hope). While I usually do not repeat places because there are so many new destinations to travel to in this world, in the jungle, no two experiences are the same and every time it is like visiting a new location. Besides, the lodge also promised a bit of novelty this time, with a hidden surprise that it had … or should I say Hide’Den. Well for the revelation of that secret, you will just have to read further.

So let us go on a second round of Pench Tree Lodge and be as charmed as we were the first time.

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