For someone who had spent 20 years in a small town in central Tamil Nadu, with no beaches around, Chennai was the beginning. Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram were frequented for unknown number of times. The special affinity towards beaches and history had always kept us looking out for places to carter the wandering soul in us. We explored on the internet, a little down the Coromandel Coast to stumble upon Tranquebar @ Tarangambadi. We read about the rich heritage tied to this town and nothing could stop us from planning a trip on a weekend in June -not even the scorching summer.
Here I begin my history lecture and I promise to keeping it short. 🙂
Before the Danes settled here in the 17th Century, this town served as a maritime trading center during the 10th & 11th century Chola period. This coastal town had attracted Arab, Portuguese and German traders. During the 17th Century, the Danish East India Company settled here and the Dansborg fort was constructed to serve military and naval purpose. The Danes took control of the town and when they could not afford the threat and pressure form the British, they handed it over in the 1800s.
Tranquebar is located approximately 300kms from Chennai off the main road along the ECR. As you enter, the town gate akka ‘Landporten’ welcomes you with the Danish emblem inscribed and a few movie posters stuck on the wall! This is not the actual one built by the Danes, but a renovated structure. Cross the gate and you will be entering a different era. We’d vouch for that. The streets with cobbled roads and pavements, the gone-by era houses lined in symmetry, the churches, old buildings and every bit reflects the medieval style.
The New Jerusalem Church on the King’s street(100 meters from the town gate) is a perfect example of the mix of Indo-Danish architecture. The high ceilings, stained glass windows and the brass plaques adds beauty to the quaint little church.
Walking along the King’s street, you will reach the Dansborg fort facing the sea. This again is a renovated building, oddly painted in peach. That’s somehow not very appealing.
The fort which once served as the residences for the government officials, a prison, kitchen and a warehouse with canons mounted on the walls, is now a museum housing artifacts belonging to the Danish era,old coins, sketches,whale skeletons and copies of the treaties signed between the Danes and the Indian kings.
Right next to the fort is the then Collector’s bungalow, which is now run and maintained by the Neemrana group.
The bungalow on the beach is a revamped boutique hotel which offers a breathtaking view of the sea with vintage furniture, decors and a vast sit out area where you could just curl down with a book or sip some Merlot looking at the signing waves splashing the rocky shore.
Luxury and tranquility served together at a not so nominal price was our choice of stay for a night.
A few yards walk able from the property is an old temple built by the Pandiya kings, but devastated by the 2004 Tsunami and you could see it confronting the sea encroachment.
There is a rocky pavement (something like a pier) that stretches up to 100 meters in the sea and servers as a spot for photos.
Tranquebar was devastated by the 2004 Tsunami and the remnants of the devastation pop up here and there from the middle of the sea. The tremendous support by the government and the NGOs in bringing up the livelihood of the victims of the disaster is commendable.
We loved how the streets of Tranquebar reflects colonialism with names like King’s street, Queen’s street, Gold-smith street even today.
You will find people crafting and bamboo weaving in every corner of the street, even today to make their livelihood. It is also said that a printing press was established in the 1700s by the German Lutheran missionary who mastered the Bible in Tamil and in English.
The beach here is said to be rich in ozone and for any laid-back traveler, this is heaven. It is an experience to sit on the remnants of the Tsunami and watch the sunset in tranquil, as the fishermen return home.
We had all the privilege of playing in the salty water for hours together, with no one odd-ly starring at our madness. Except for the weekends, this beach has very less visitors and zero touristy activities.
As the sun went down and when small lamps adorned the streets, the whole town called it for the day. The streets were empty as people returned home for their evening chores. We sat down on the paved benches on the King’s street and it took us back to the childhood when quietness used to crawl in after the sunset.Life gets busy with urbanization, and how we forget to appreciate the calmness of an evening!
Where to Stay : Tranquebar has two of the Neemrana’s properties to carter the touristy needs. 1. Bungalow on the beach and 2.Gate House (Contact details unavailable- best to visit Tranquebar and enquire).Approximate price for a night stay is INR6000-1000(depending on the room you choose)
What to eat :Neemrana serves Indian and continental food. Sea food is a must try. There are no other shops or restaurants. So if you are going on a day’s trip, remember to carry bottles of water and eatables.
What to buy : The town’s main source of revenue comes from fishing and bamboo crafts. There are small outlets as you leave the town, selling bamboo baskets, chairs, trays, decors, coconut shells jewelry and a lot more.
Tranquebar can be done in a day from Pondy. But we’d ask you to take it slow. A night’s stay is all worth-it. Get rid of your cars or bikes. Put on your shoes and explore the paved streets of the yester-year town.Walk along the shore letting the waves caress your feet and un-earthern those wave-washed shells from the coast.Embrace the calmness.Get transported to a different era.There’s nothing fancy about Tranquebar, but the beauty of this heritage town lies in its utmost simplicity.