Road signs ahead. Or not.

For some reason, the Gormint of Tamil Nadu wants you to explore the country-side. To truly make the journey, the destination. To let you know that sometimes, where you want to go is not as important as how you get there. I see no other explanations for kilometre markers that quote 25 KM to point A and then a few KM later tell you that Point A is now at 30 KM. Or the fact that you’ve sign boards to the next town as you enter Point A. But none at the crucial T-junction on whether to turn right or left for point B. If you turn right and drive for, say, 5 KM, you’ll see the missing sign board. Pointing the other way.

But, I’m not here to quibble about that. I’m all for making journeys destinations and taking whatever road as all roads lead to God. With a little help from our fellow citizen road users who either a) wish to get there or b) are trying to get you there. To God, that is, if I was not being clear. So it was a good thing that the Missus and I were not exactly trying to meet a deadline when we set out to Tharangambadi. Tharangambadi is about 260-ish KM south of Chennai and was known as Trankebar or Tranquebar to the Danes who settled and ruled this piece of India for all of 225 years. Yes, the Danes. Who I guess figured Denmark was too cold for them and it is time they caught some sun. And you will get a lot of sun here. Picking July, when the rest of the country is getting soaked, to go to the Cholamandalam Coast will remind you the part of geography that you missed in school, that this part of the country gets the Returning Monsoon. It was as hot as Denmark can get cold. Things people do to add some spice to their food. As to the why we went there, well, because. Because it was on the list for a long time, because I got a long vacation after a long time and because the Missus said so.

Now, of course, there is not a lot left of the original colony. So don’t expect a Puducherry, with the Danish equivalent of brightly coloured French-built houses that you see there. For those so inclined, I would definitely recommend shooting in black and white. The place lends itself for that. Obviously, you’ve to do what I say and not do what I do, which is why the colour photo to the bottom. The actual heritage area is quite small, and can be covered in a day. The fine folks at INTACH have also mapped out a walk that you can take. They’re working with the local bodies to present this destination as a heritage town and to preserve this slice of our country’s history. Points of interest are the Dansborg fort, the Zion Church and the Five Tamil Houses that INTACH has restored. The Governor’s Bungalow seems to be under restoration for now.

The Bungalow on the Beach and the Dansborg Fort at Tharangambadi
The Bungalow on the Beach and the Dansborg Fort at Tharangambadi

One of the buildings that they helped restore is the Bungalow on the Beach, which is one of the places to stay while you’re in Tharangambadi. The same chain also operates the restored Gatehouse, Nayak House and manages the more modern Hotel Tamil Nadu. The only wrinkle if you don’t stay at the Bungalow is that you’ll have to walk there for every meal. Not that it is more than a 5 to 10 minute amble away.

The Masilamani Nathar Temple at Tharangambadi, built in 1306, but now heavily eroded.
The Masilamani Nathar Temple at Tharangambadi, built in 1306, but now heavily eroded.

The beach here is quite clean seeing as this is not exactly on most people’s maps. The reasons could be two-fold, one Velankanni which is about 40 KM away and two Karaikal which is 10 minutes away. Both of these would attract people looking for spiritual salvation of differing kinds and hence would want to leave Tharangambadi alone. In fact, Karaikal offers you a bar roughly 500 metres into it’s border. For those who’re scratching their heads, Karaikal is part of Pondicherry, and the same cheap booze rule applies here as well. So those that’re so inclined, could drive down here for all your meals. Karaikal has a very scenic beach drive/esplanade and a wide, curving beach. There is a small restaurant that serves excellent food right on the beach. On the minus side (the Missus’s, not mine), the waiter who was serving us lunch at 12:30 was keeping company with the Brahminy kites flying around the beach.

And for this find, I’ve to thank the Gormint, for if they had their road signs in place, I would never have seen this sight. For the others who want to just put your feet up and soak in some sun and history, point your drive towards the south. I’m sure Tharangambadi will come up in another 50 KM. Or 75.

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