Tag Archives: Homestays in India

Henning’s two-week Homestay experience in Rajasthan
Henning’s two-week Homestay experience in Rajasthan

Henning wanted to explore the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and also experience more of Rajasthan in Pushkar, Jodhpur and Udaipur.

He was of course interested in the main sights and monuments like the Red Fort in Delhi, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Amber Fort in Jaipur, Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur or the City Palace in Udaipur. However, Henning emphasised from the beginning of the planning process that it is more the locals and their stories he is interested in.

So we planned a typical two-weeks-travel route from Delhi to Udaipur through Agra and Rajasthan and made him stay entirely at homestays. Also we planned one night outside of Jodhpur in a small village called Chandelao so give him a feel of the rural life and a short break from the busy cities.

We also gave him tips for activities in each place like a slum tour in Delhi or a cooking class in Udaipur. This way he was able to meet many locals and make friends.

This trip to North India can be modified to fit any budget. Below you’ll find approximate costs for different types of travelers and an example of an itinerary. If you have a fixed time period, then we’ll add or remove destinations accordingly.


Six Homestays to make your Home Base
Six Homestays to make your Home Base

India can be quite overwhelming at first. Not everyone has the advantage of a local friend to hold your hand and show you the ropes. We’ve made up a list of those families who’ve decided to open up their homes to people exactly like you. They’ll provide you a place of shelter and comfort from which to set out each morning, armed with their best advice and priceless hospitality.

Jade, Munnar:

Munnar is soaked deeply in the travel styles of a bygone century—the summer convalesence. Families from the harsh, dusty plains would save up and ship out for a month in the hills. There were no more amenities than a roof over their heads and a cup of tea in the mornings. Sometimes entire families gathered together to recoup. Often it was just an elderly couple making full use of their retirement years. Early morning walks and a half packet of biscuits with the morning newspapers. Idly snapping off a tea leaf as you stroll through the waist high rows of bushes. Settling in under a pile of musty blankets for an early night kept us sane through the rest of the chaotic year.

Jade promises you exactly this rebirth. Take a long soak in the beautiful pool and watch your fingers wrinkle up. Pull on a sleeveless cardigan and discover the mountains. Listen to the call of the birds carried in on the fresh cold air. Bicker over breakfast and debate over dinner. Just let go and embrace the strange sense of purpose that infuses the tea plantation life. jademunnar.com

Olaulim Backyards, Goa

Ditch the beach, there’s a whole other side of this bountiful state to explore. Most notably its intricate network of rivers. Overhung with coconut trees and carpeted in soft sparse grass, they’re blissfully unpopulated by tourists. Set out from Olaulim’s sprawling, hammock-strewn yards with a bellyful of finger-licking local produce and fresh sea-food. Traipse down the meandering village lanes. Come to the family or other travellers for tips or a couple of words in the local language that might help you bag that bargain in the market!

www.olaulimgoa.com

Chandra Niwas, Udaipur

Dr. Samvit Audichya is a man with a cause. Not only does he firmly believe in grassroots movements and working with the rural poor, but he intends to help you understand it too. Pick a room in his family’s beautifully located home away from the touts and tourist traps and get to know his amazingly hospitable family as they explain t you their people and their passions. Request a home-cooked meal on the rooftop, and they’ll be happy to let you join in in the cooking.

Read the full review by one of our travellers here. www.chandraniwas.com

Jaipur Friendly Villa, Jaipur

The website of this vast family home is lined with accolades from travel companies and review websites across the country. Luxury and word-class facilities combined with the intimate care of a family make for the perfect trip. Two airy green terraces make for the perfect spot to recuperate with freshly brewed tea and the city of Jaipur laid out before you. All the amenities of a high-end hotel, from WiFi to Air-conditioning, set this place apart from the simple homestays that usually make it onto these lists.

www.jaipurfriendlyvilla.com

Tree of Life, Delhi

A cushy little BnB run by two friends who’ve spent years in the tourism industry and yoga and reflexology community respectively. Well furnished rooms, simple rules, good food. It’s a good option for those worried about the over-congestion or safety issues of Delhi because it gives you a chance to step into the local life without stepping too far out of your comfort zone. Get to know your hosts, they have some worthwhile knowledge to share, and your trip will be easier for it.

www.tree-of-life.in

Bansi Homestay, Agra

Mr D.K. Burman, the owner of this three story megalith within 15 minutes of the Taj Mahal, is an Agra local and a ‘fountainhead of knowledge’, according to his user reviews. His home features walls decorated with cultural paintings, a chess lounge to butt heads with him at and a lovely terrace garden. The sophisticated website gives you a whole list of facilities from Doctor on call to Children’s Park in the Neighbourhood, though his guests seem most enamoured by the delicious food and great conversation.

bansihomestayagra.com


Homestays in Rajasthan – Castle Bera, Hem Guesthouse and Chandelao
Homestays in Rajasthan – Castle Bera, Hem Guesthouse and Chandelao

 

Staying at Castle Bera

Not quite sure what I envisioned for a home-stay. Perhaps something rustic like the small Hmong village I stayed at in northern Vietnam. I certainly didn’t picture a beautiful white castle with a marble-floored suite, replete with antique wood furniture, photos of maharanas (kings), and a chieftain to dine with. When my driver dropped me off, I thought we had just entered another walled city – it was actually the grounds of Castle Bera!

India Someday has exposed to me to an array of accommodations, all quite clean, architecturally interesting and filled with character and characters!  I haven’t researched any of them beforehand, leaving myself open to surprise in each locale. From tastefully restored Havelis (private mansions) to hotels with exquisite rooftop views, I have been blessed with safe, comfortable and generally pleasant stays (I do wish the WIFI would work better though – getting these blogs up is sometimes a challenge!) Some of my favorite accommodations have been the home-stays.

At Castle Bera, in Jawai, I was greeted by Thakur Baljeet Singh and it took me a while to grasp the nature of the place. We climbed the stairs and entered one of the many doors and sat in his personal living room, filled with family photos, plush furniture and with a well-lived in feel. We chatted for a bit about our late afternoon leopard safari, what time I wanted lunch and which part of the castle I wanted to stay in.

I had used the washroom in a large guestroom just off the living room – and there were other guest rooms to choose from just off the courtyard. His staff (I wish I could remember his name) walked me around a bit, pointed out the dining area where lunch would be served and we agreed on the beautiful guest room I would stay in. It’s arched-entry hallway, sitting area with nature magazines, king size bed, beautiful wooden antique furniture, changing room area, large bathroom, regal carpets and working fans and AC were all quite welcoming.

 

Curious and hungry, I went to the dining room as scheduled and was pleasantly surprised to see two place settings set up on the long dining table, an aspect of the homestay experience I quite appreciated. As I waited for the owner to join me, I enjoyed looking at the array of photos filling the walls, from family shots to royal visitors to leopard pictures taken by some of the most renowned wildlife photographers who have also stayed there.

It was a pleasant opportunity to get a better understanding of the rich history of the castle and his family, and to talk about contemporary life in India – our jobs, travels, work philosophies and more. I can’t lie, it was a bit awkward at first to make conversation and feel my way around the situation but it was exciting to get my first flavor of a homestay in India – and to be in a place where the proprietor opens up his home and shares experiences. After my bike ride through the area villages (accompanied by his friendly staff,) we embarked on our leopard safari. While it sadly didn’t turn up any leopards, it was a beautiful excursion. We returned to enjoy drinks, popcorn, and other snacks in the restorative garden, followed by yet another delicious Indian home cooked meal.

My next homestay was at the HEM Guesthouse in Jodhpur. The driver arranged for me by India Someday dropped me off just outside the clock tower area where I was met, on a motorbike, by one of the two exceptionally sweet brothers who carry on the legacy of their hospitable mother Hem who founded and ran the homestay before she passed away.

Greeted by an adorable two year boy old (who generously handed me a toy truck), colorfully decorated wood furniture (the brothers’ other business), bean bag style chairs and a cup of hot chai, I immediately felt the family feel of this operation. The five-year-old animated daughter came home from school in her endearing little school dress, and excitedly held up her plastic container, sharing with great enthusiasm that she hadn’t eaten her banana! Very sweet.

The Nepalese teen who works for Hem’s walked me up a couple flights of stairs, where we passed the family’s kitchen and on the next floor, the clean and small (only relative to the other places I’ve stayed) room and finally, the beautiful rooftop view of the fort. En suite bathroom, a small balcony and fun artwork on the walls made it a pleasant place to catch up on some sleep and take advantage of the WIFI for writing.

Eager to experience more delicious home-cooked food, I was a tad disappointed by the lunch and the very thin (runny) lassi I ordered. Similarly, perhaps I should have chosen Indian style for the morning breakfast, but I was getting used to the lavish western spreads at my first few accommodations and was let down here as well, only to later learn that Hem is very popular for it’s Indian cuisine.

I think my disappointment in the food could likely be attributed to the caliber I had been receiving at my other places – and it was probably a big dinner meal that could have wooed me at Hem’s but I never gave it a try. In fact, working hard on writing and resting, I could not connect nearly as much with this exceptionally warm and friendly family as I’d have liked and as it seems they’re open to. Most regretfully, I didn’t get to know the women of the house. Pregnant and radiant, they probably would have been amazing to speak with and learn from.

Chandelao, my other recent homestay offered a glorious, relaxing and restorative environment (the bright blue pool waters called my name loud and clear) coupled by a rich experience of personal connections. I entered the beautiful fort residence and again had to pinch myself that this is where I would be staying.

In the family for generations, the land was gifted to them for having fought for the Maharana centuries ago. I had the opportunity to visit the women’s empowerment and craft-making center serving the local village, and to meet three of the generations, each one warmer than the next. I enjoyed lunch with the mother/grandmother (pains me to not recall first names) of Chandelao. Though she didn’t eat, we enjoyed our conversation, despite some language challenges! She was excited that her daughter and grandson would be joining for dinner.

It was a joy to meet them as well, to talk about everything from women’s issues to the family history and Bollywood film! We will likely get together in Jaipur to go see one. Veer, her grandson, had an infectious laugh. As I laptopped away with giant grasshoppers and other insects accosting me, he chatted on the phone with a friend he would connect me with in Jaisalmer, laughing hysterically for the duration of the call.  Always a great sound!

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Personal connections, shared elaborate meals, interesting architecture, luscious pools and a sampling of real-life living (wherever it might fall on the social class spectrum) has been a true joy to experience here in India.  Figuring out the norms of each place presents its own unique challenge but overall, I highly recommend breaking away from the backpacker hostels or 5-star conglomerates to give the home-stay a try.

Thank you India Someday for making sure I have some truly memorable home-stay experiences!