Tamilnadu is one of the most underrated states, from the tourism perspective. And honestly, by the name, certain specific images come to my mind- veg food, all food items tasting sour, idly/ vada….. blah blah blah. So this time, when I was invited to go on a road trip across the enchanting Tamil Nadu, I didn’t think twice. I am sure, it’s impossible to see an entire state on such short notice, but this was just the tip of the iceberg. Definitely, there will be multiple blog posts on the same trip, but this is the basic informative blogpost.
Day 0 and Day 1:
We were asked to report at Hotel Ramada, Egmore for the evening briefing, and the tour was supposed to start the next morning. It was a gala press launch and 10 of us went on the bus, which will take us around the length and breadth of enchanting Tamilnadu. The participants had different niches and genres- from food to lifestyle, from travel to travel Instagrammers and to drone champions- it was definitely a good mixup.
TTDC Mamallapuram, or Mahabalipuram
The first stop was at Mahabalipuram. Now, I am not really someone who’s very interested in heritage and archeology. But the TTDC property at Mahabalipuram turned out to be one of the best budget beach properties, that I’ve come across in recent times. The property is a huge spread and they have golf carts to take people around. It can be booked here. Rather than me talking about the property, have a look here.
TTDC Boat house, Mudaliar Kuppam
Lunch was at the Boathouse at Mudaliar Kuppam. It’s a relatively new spot, identified by TTDC, and is conveniently located beside a quiet waterbody. The lunch was a homely non-veg lunch. Yes, it may come as a surprise, but the majority of the Tamils are non-veg and hardcore meat-eaters. Do check my experience in the video below.
Food is served on banana leaves and there is a ritual to be followed post-meal. If one is satisfied with the meal, he/ she is supposed to fold the leaf towards them- which shows happiness and to the opposite side, if there is a problem. This ritual is followed throughout Tamilnadu.
Next was the Brihadisvara Temple, at Gangaikonda Cholapuram. It was constructed during the great Chola kingdom and in the late afternoon twilight, looked gorgeous. It was a shortstop and we were moving towards our destination for the night. Brihadisvara Temple is a great place for someone interested in photography- still or video. Do spend some time here, if possible.
Mantra Koodam, Kumbakonam
Out night stay was scheduled at Kumbakonam. It’s a quaint waterside village and the primary attraction there is the Mantra Koodam property, run by CGH group. It’s a luxury resort, with all the facilities that one can think of. Good nice rooms and great service. The restaurant serves Cholenadu cuisine (pure non-veg), which is slightly different from other cuisines. As I said, most of the Tamil-speaking people are serious non-vegetarians and we had everything from squid to mutton to Chicken here.
The first trip of Day 2 was at Tranquebar. It’s a sleepy coastal ex-Danish settlement with a Danish fort. And boy, it’s super photogenic. The sky is blue, the sea is quiet, and sea-beach serene. Please check the Google location here. Well, they don’t have a TTDC property here, but this property has a gorgeous view of the sea. Do check this out, while planning for Tranquebar.
I tasted something really interesting here at one of the kiosks. It’s called Nannari syrup. Nannari is a herb, with cooling medicinal properties. In Tamilnadu, food is considered medicine. The syrup made from this herb root is Nannari syrup. Tranquebar has quite a few of these roadside stalls selling them. A dash of lime juice, crushed ice, and water, fiercely shaken with Nannari syrup- and voila, your drink is ready at 25/- per glass. The taste is sweetish with a strange aftertaste.
Well, the final stop for the day was at TTDC Thanjavur. It’s a moderate property- clean and decent. Nothing superlative- not bad either. The main attraction of this town is the Brihadeeswara Temple, a vast Chola-dynasty temple complex dedicated to Shiva, with 64-meter tower and a fresco-lined interior.
Experiencing clay pot cuisine
The good part of this Enchanting Tamilnadu road trip was that, it took care of interests for everybody, Honestly, i am a food lover and was looking forward to it. In Tanjavur, the lunch was planned at an interesting place- Chellamal’s Clay Pot cuisine. Chellammal’s clay pot cuisine is a unique restaurant at Tanjore. They serve a 31-course Satvik meal at 250/- pp with unlimited serving. And what does it mean? Vegetarian village-styled heritage food. If you check with anyone in Tanjavur, they’ll guide you to this place.
I told earlier also, in Tamilnadu, food is the cure. So almost every item of the items in this menu have cooling or medicinal properties. I got slightly confused with the items getting served continuously and hence, need to recheck the names. Regarding taste, it was definitely a good experience, but after some time, items start tasting similar- the differentiator being the vegetable. But anyway, this is probably more towards the Japanese Okinawan meal concept and a must-try experience at Tanjore.
Sirumalai- the hilly jungle
Sirumalai is the last mountain range in the Western Ghats and is 25 KM from Dindigul. IT has dense forest and a good variety of flora and fauna. We were put up at Coffee County Resorts. It’s a serene hamlet tucked inside the jungle. There are luxury bungalows mostly used for family getaways. Recently, they have opened up for the public stay. Please check the location here. On request, 4-wheel drive to a private waterfall is arranged… It’s a short 1/2 hour hike from the last spot and is recommended for the wild souls.
It’s not a place for the masses. But if someone is looking for tranquility and serenity, Sirumalai is the place. It’s a 1000 Acre private forest with wild bison and peacocks. But please do not worry, the territory is secured with an electronic fence and you’ll need to walk a little inside the forest to enjoy its beauty.
Sirumalai is 25 km from Dindigul and for a foodie, the very name of Dindigul features just one thing- Dindigul biryani. It’s a biryani cooked with small pieces of meat and the fragrant short-grained Jeera Sambar rice. The famous spot for the same, in Dindigul, is, Venu Biryani… And we were taken there.
Venu Biryani is super crowded- always. And once you grab your seat, you’re asked one simple thing- mutton or chicken. And the very false notion that Tamilnadu means veg food, is shattered there. The cuisine at Enchanting Tamilnadu is much much beyond the usual fare of Idli Dosa. These guys are serious meat eaters- from Gurda to spleen to brain, they have it all. Even a rustic version of the famous Shunti Kebab is there. Please remember, Shuntiu Kebab is supposedly the oldest kebab, to have originated in India.
The biryani is served in an interesting way- in an enamel bowl. and they serve in two sizes- half and full. One full is decent for a hungry soul and you may think of having another half portion. A full portion has 4 small pieces and a half portion- two. Meat gravy is served complementarily with the biryani, but it’s better avoided. But honestly, the taste is average. Now, I don’t know whether it was a bad day or not, the taste was pretty average. I mean, I’ve tasted better stuff at the Jr Kuppanna at Chennai. Being close to Madurai, the Jigarthaanda was good. For the new ones, it’s a heavy drink made with kheer, falooda, and hand-churned ice cream.
And our night stay was a surprise. Poombarai was a mountain hamlet tucked inside Palani hills and is 18 km from Kodaikanal. It was a camping experience. And by that, I mean a hardcore camping experience. While few of us had this experience beforehand, few were new to it. We had individual tents for us and the facility, though rustic, was good. Once you get down from the bus, it’s a one-hour 4-wheel drive and sometimes, the jeep was moving at an elevation of 40 degrees. solar electricity is there and a decent toilet facility. Just one suggestion, you need to carry a few books and master the art of doing nothing to enjoy it here. And honestly, I’ve never thought that I’ll get to experience a mountain camping experience at enchanting Tamilnadu.
Halfway through the road trip and we reached the famous hill station- Kodaikanal. It’s a typical hill station- loads of tourists- hustle-bustle and lots of options for shopping. The handmade chocolate is quite famous there and is recommended. TTDC Kodaikanal is a decent property. Slightly up ahead from the lake, it has a huge sprawling campus and the view is gorgeous.
New Imran Biryani Center, Kodaikanal
Though there is a pretty decent restaurant serving pretty good food, I planned to venture outside for dinner. A brief search got me a place named Imran Biryani center. And it was not wrong. In fact, there are two shops and I went for the quieter and nearer New Imran Biryani. The pepper chicken fry was good at 100/- and is good for one person. The parotta was fantastic. In fact, this is something, which I’ve noticed in Tamilnadu. They’re less oily and super flaky. The crispiness is not their USP and the good news for us Bengalis is that they’re made out of white flour- good stuff and definitely recommended. This is the good part of the enchanting Tamilnadu campaign- experiencing diversity.
That sweet named Palkova
Well, as usual, we started the next day and it’s time for the town of waterfalls- Courtallam. And on the way, came this small town named Srivilliputhur. Apart from a few temples, the place is famous for one of its sweets- Palkova. Palkova is very similar to our Kalakand- only more intensely sweet. It’s sticky and pretty heavy. Sri Venkateswara Vilas is famous for making sweets and we got some from there. It’s 300/- per kg and is available in boxes of 500 gr each. It’s not something very very unique (at least for a sweet-fanatic Bengali) but definitely recommended once you’re passing through the town. P.S: they’ve for GI tag for the same.
And finally, it’s Courtallam- the land of waterfalls… But that calls for Part 2 of this blogpost on the enchanting Tamilnadu.
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