What is an excellent holiday? My definition starts with a good drive, a gorgeous resort, great food and some interesting things to see. We booked CGH Earth’s Visalam for a long weekend. The options for a holiday from Bangalore were all scheduled by the super early planners. Wayanad was full, Coorg was over-booked, Ooty was jam-packed, and the idea of Chettinad was refreshing.
Visalam is an 80-year-old art deco style built bungalow is located in the Kanadukathan village of Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu. This bungalow has been restored to perfection by the lovely CGH Earth. CGH Earth is a chain of hotels that are curated around experiences. So when you stay in a property by CGH earth, you can be assured it's not going to be a boring staycation but so much more than that!
Description: The traditional courtyard in Visalam, CGH Earth
The mansion Visalam was a gift from Ramanathan Chettiar to his beloved daughter Visalam when she got married. This house is a real example of the lavish life and times of the wealthy trading community of Chettiars. Every corner of the house is studded with understated yet authentic design. You are welcomed here with a traditional shawl for the men, glass bangles for women and a refreshing glass of nannari sarbhath, a juice made out of Indian sarsaparilla root.
While you are walking into Visalam, you can see the past beautifully preserved. There is a big courtyard open to the sky. On either side of the courtyard are rooms with old wooden doors, walls made with egg shells and beautiful flooring with patterned Athangudi tiles. There are photos from the past, pictures of the great Ramanathan Chettiar, of his daughter visalam, visalam’s daughter Valliakshi who is currently 80 years old in thinay, or the verandah.
Our room was on the first floor, and it had a tiny little balcony opening to a pretty lawn. The rooms are huge, had a high ceiling and they were adorned with period-style furniture crafted in Burmese teak. Visalam exudes the feeling of the times it was built in.
Description: High ceiling rooms adorned with antique four post bed.
Chettinad cuisine’s unique character comes from its blend of south-east Asian spices; the chettiars brought in from their work trips to Burma/Malaka and Indian ingredients. The food is spicy and flavourful. On the weekend we decided to go, Visalam was running on full occupancy. We had a bad experience with the food. We requested for Vegetarian, and when they served us the pakoda curry, we saw traces of non-vegetarian in it. The chef, manager and the whole team apologised for the same. Their head chef had a family emergency and had to leave town on a day they were a fully booked. But they fixed it before the next day’s breakfast and it was meal was fantastic. Their banana leaf meals are famous and supposed to be authentically Chettinad. We were apprehensive and did not try it. The team made up for it by being apologetic about the whole fiasco, and we were pleased by how the situation was handled. The team in Visalam works hard to make sure you get a good experience.
Description: A delicious breakfast of Kuzhi Paniaram and fruits at Visalam
At Visalam, one can experience a variety of things. We started our morning with a cycle ride to an airstrip which was used during the world war two. We, later on, went to a couple of typical Chettinad houses to see their architecture, to take a little peep into their lifestyle. We went to an exciting lane studded with antique stores which gives you a bit more insight about their lavish lives. There is a whole shop dedicated to old iron vaults which were imported from Britain to store their valuables, We further visited a couple of famous temples around the area and one of our most favourite part of the trip, to Athangudi tiles factory. There are over one hundred small scale tile factories in Aathangudy village where the entire tile making process is handmade. They give you a demonstration, and you entirely cannot leave the town without deciding that when you have your own home, it's going to have athangudi tiles.
Description: A hidden gem in the streets of Karaikudi.
Description: Artisans working at Athangudi Tile Factory
Description: Early morning cycling tour from Visalam
Visalam boasts a vast freshwater pool with an inbuilt jacuzzi. After a long day of sightseeing, we relaxed at the pool and watched the sky turn blazing red. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end a day experiencing the beautiful Chettinad region.
Description: Gorgeous pool in Visalam CGH Earth
CGH Earth Visalam also offers a bunch of other activities to their guests like a village walk, cooking classes by aachi (The Grandmother), a bullock cart ride through the meandering streets of Karaikudi, and cycle around the village. We couldn’t fit all of these in the two days we stayed there.
Go to Visalam for the grandeur, go for the luxury, go for the food, go for the experience. Go to wander through the town So as you do it, you’ll find yourself going back in time, through a heritage that is well preserved. Like we said before, CGH Earth Visalam is not just a staycation in a beautiful mansion but more like living and blending in a 100+-year-old story.
Description: Us with the team Visalam.
By Road: Visalam is 415 km from Bangalore, 405 km from Chennai.
Flight: It’s 85 km from Trichy Airport and 90 km from Madurai Airport.
Tips For When You Visit Visalam.
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