Travel Post – Vintage charm at Chidambaram and Tranquebar

I enjoy reminding Yuvan that school starts in just a few weeks, just about a week now. And that I am really excited that he will be starting full working days. It irritates him no end. He’d charge at me. Now he pretends he hasn’t heard.

Although the beginning of the school year brings joy and an overwhelming respect for school teachers, I am also worried I may break the school’s record for late-coming, that Hasini may turn me in and the principal may punish me, make me stand in the verandah/on the bench,  for being the most incorrigible parent. I am too ingrained in the summer holiday routine now. We haven’t started on any of the holiday assignments. They whiled away the summer holidays, colouring, watching cartoons, playing at the beach, in the swimming pool, decoding everyone’s mobile pins and using up their data plans, hijacking the ice-cream vandi and not letting the lady move until somebody bought them ice-creams. I whiled away the holidays contented not to have to sit through homework time.
We happened to go on a small vacation at the beginning of the holidays in April. We were going to a dear friend’s wedding in Chidambaram and we decided to turn it into a mini vacation. I’ve been waiting ever since to share some of that experience here with you guys. This is a photo-heavy post. Please be warned.

Maatu vandi

I don’t know if you know that I am mad about antique stuff. Antique rosewood tables, grandpa clocks and typewriters make me weak in the knees. Dressers and Almirahs make me dizzy. Brass vessels, high ceilings and cane armchairs make me babble in joy. This particular vacation had most of these elements, which is why I thought I had to share.


There is a small heritage bungalow just off Chidambaram called “Lakshmi Vilas Heritage hotel” that must have been some zamindar’s place long time ago. It has been beautifully converted into a heritage hotel complete with “Ammi kallu” (traditional grinding machine of Tamil Nadu) and Ural and Ulakku lining the corridors, the reception desk at the entrance set beside a large spacious thinnai, a wooden swing at the far end and a couple of employees stretched out beside it. The staff were all one family, really. The receptionist was a petite girl in her early twenties from the same locality. The security cum general helpers were her uncles and mamas. Just like those olden days, when entire families worked in one house, one farm.

lakshmi vilas reception
They have a large lake adjoining the property where you can try your hand at fishing if you wish to. They’ll provide you with fishing rods. They’ll also tell you that you stand a chance only early mornings or evenings. Nevertheless we tried at noon with the sun glaring down at us. A couple of boys from the nearby village who dived in, swam over and watched us for some time and then adviced us how to go about it. We didn’t expect to catch any fish. We didn’t.

Tea kadai Boiler
The roof-top dining area is a classic piece of 1980’s village hotel/tea stall scene. A tea kadai boiler sits atop a table lined with cinema poster. Nearby a radio set on a bench plays tamil movie songs. The terrace walls are lined with pretty pink flowers. 

flowers on terrace

A small air-condidtioned dining room is at the centre of the terrace with more seating space outside all around the terrace. We chose to sit inside. Summer – TamilNadu! We looked around while the girl (the receptionist) set up our table for lunch. The biryani was from their hotel in Chidambaram town. It was a wonderful setting. A large dining table surrounded by lovely wooden chairs with arm rests, tall ceilings with madras style terrace, glass panels above doors, vintage lamp shades and black and white photos here and there on the walls. I felt transported back in time to my Vitto Periamma’s dining room in Katpadi.

Dining area

This is a great place to go if you like a nice, quiet place with loads of vintage charm.

Chidambaram temple

While in Chidambaram we visited the Nataraja temple, old, beautiful and un-touched by modern day flourishes. There aren’t numerous counters, long queues, barricades and crushing crowds. It is still an old world temple, run down in places, overgrown grass in the outer praharam with a few stray dogs lazing around, cool stone floors inside the temple and all the time in the world for you to gape at the beauty of it all. No hurry.

temple painting

After the wedding in Chidambaram, we reluctantly checked out of Lakshmi Vilas and headed over to Tranquebar about 1.5 hours – 2 hours away. Tranquebar or Tharangambadi as it is locally called is a small town on the east coast of Tamil Nadu, an erstwhile Danish town. It is a small heritage town, quiet, quaint and laid-back. It is a very tiny version of Pondicherry but un-adultered and non-touristy. We stayed at the bungalow on the beach (part of Neemrana group of hotels) in Tranquebar. The Bungalow on the beach is.. well, on the beach. Sitting in the balcony in our white wicker chairs, we watched the waves crashing below. We’d remain seated that way for hours at a stretch. It was mesmerizing.


The hotel building was originally a Governor’s bungalow during the colonial period, a magnificent structure, which changed hands in more recent times to the Taj group of hotels and then to the present Neemrana group of hotels.


Our room was on the first floor. The rooms on the first floor open out on to a verandah that runs around the circumference of the building. Lovely white wicker chairs and tables sit outside each of the rooms. The rooms have sky high ceilings and massive walls so thick, it was naturally cool inside without even the air conditioner. I was absolutely smitten by the rosewood table/dresser in the corner of the room. Beautiful ceramic tiles adorned either side of the mirror. I wanted to sit down and write my next book there. I couldn’t find my fountain pen. Or I would have.

Rosewood table
The little blue cupboard and the blue bed curtains seemed to bring in the sea. A lovely easy chair in the corner completed the picture.

bed curtains

The swimming pool was mostly empty and we spent most of the evening at the pool. Hasini and Yuvi enjoyed the pool thoroughly. You can see the beach from the swimming pool. That for some reason seemed very cool to me. 

swimming pool

We returned to our room, changed and headed over to the beach for a walk. Just off the beach is the Danish fort that houses a small museum. There was a small crowd on the beach, kids hanging around sweet corn stalls, ice cream carts, a woman frying vadai, a lone camel being led by a tall wiry old man that took kids on rides. We had ice cream. We went back to the hotel for dinner.  

Danish Fort

If not for the food, this hotel would be my most favourite hotel ever. The food at the hotel was abysmal. It was undeniably poor. That is really a shame for a hotel that looks so beautiful.

Morning tea

The next morning, we woke up before dawn to watch the sun rise. Miracle right there! We heated up some water in the kettle and made ourselves some tea, earl grey tea for Jagan and ginger tea for me and took it out to the verandah. We were not taking a chance with room service. We sat there and watched a couple of DSLR enthusiasts with their tripods, waiting on the beach to capture the sunrise. A few fishing boats bobbed in the distance. We wondered how different the fisherman’s daily routine was. Their job was done by the time we were up. 

Veranda 3

We sipped tea and talked. We watched as the sky transformed from a grey to a violet-pink and then to a fiery orange. The kind of meditative quiet that makes you close your eyes, makes you feel un-tethered and free, that makes you reflect on life, change direction maybe, fall asleep. Beautiful!


  1. nsangheetha says:

    Love those last lines. It describes the kind of vacation you had.
    Kudos Jayanthi, you write really very well. I so wish you could have found your fountain pen 😛

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