I walked into a Christmas card in November!!!
The phrase Pretty as a Picture, may be cliched to shreds but at times it is the first one that springs to mind, hence I will begin by thus labelling The Tamara Kodai resort!!!
I had the privilege of beginning my 2019 with a visit to the Tamara Coorg and now I (almost) end the year with the Tamara Kodai and my year that has been sandwiched between the 2 Tamaras, has turned out pretty good.
Perched high up in the the charming town of Kodaikanal, in the district of Dindigul in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India, the Tamara Kodai is a 1.5 year new born resort that takes root from one of the oldest 19th century residences in Kodaikanal.
Straddling the past and the present, this luxurious place offers the guest a lavish modern experience, blended with a strong dose of its glorious heritage and history.
Have you ever felt the warmth in chilly Kodaikanal? Well that is exactly what you sense when you enter the welcoming and hospitable environs of The Tamara Kodai.
About Kodaikanal –
The town of Kodaikanal, one of India’s well known hill stations, lies atop a plateau, nearly 7000 feet above mean sea level (msl), high up in the Palani hills range which is a part of the mighty Western ghats. Also referred to as the Princess of hill stations, there are many theories as to how it got its name. Kodi kaanal meaning forest of Creepers, Gift of the forest, Mist of the forest, the Summer forest and even the End of the forest, are the various interpretations of the Tamil components of its name.
Though the indigenous tribal settlements like the Paliyans of that region, date right back to the era BC, the town as such was established in 1845 by American missionaries. This is the only hill station that has more American influences than British. The town took shape when the British and the Americans were scouting for a respite from the heat and diseases of the plains where they were dropping dead like flies, from the illnesses spread by flies and mosquitoes.
The first settlers built 2 bungalows that still stand today as the Shelton and Sunnyside and subsequently more homes followed, like the Baynes bungalow which was built in 1847, the Pambar house and Roseneath.
About The Tamara Kodai –
The Tamara Kodai resort is a part of the Tamara Leisure Experiences Pvt. Ltd which also owns the Tamara Coorg.
Tamara translates to Lotus and signifies the purity, tranquility and divinity of nature. In Sanskrit it also means Spice and in ancient Europe, it stood for the goddess of rivers and lakes.
The Tamara Kodai occupies 7.8 acres and is set at an altitude of 6500 ft. The aforementioned Baynes bungalow now forms the core of this resort, adjoining which the newer portions have taken shape.
The bungalow started off by being the private residence of Mr Baynes who was a British District Judge. It was eventually sold off in 1860 to the Jesuit priests headed by Father Louis Cyr who renovated it to function as a retreat and rest house for the priests who used to visit from Nelakotta. It was renamed as La Providence, meaning Under the guidance of God.
Down the ages, the property changed hands, to eventually come into the possession of Tamara in 2007, after which the resort was constructed. The Tamara Kodai finally opened its doors in May 2018 and today this 1.5 year old property sits astride the old and the new, while maintaining a deference to its history, that is seen in several facets including the 3 stone Jesuit cassocks that stand sentinel at the entrance, the stone walls and also the names of the restaurants and halls.
Resort overview –
Spread across 7.8 acres of gently undulating land, The Tamara Kodai lies serene in a quiet locality, a couple of km away from the main town.
The old bungalow stands in its original glory, largely unmodified and retaining even the doors, windows, flooring, ceilings etc that have merely been cleaned and polished.
The recent extension hugs the old as if seeking its support and energy and seamlessly and tranquilly grows out into the new.
The original study is now the buffet restaurant that holds on to the same name of La Providence and the earlier chapel on its mezzanine floor, now serves as a library and recreation area.
Likewise time stands still, in the name of the second restaurant which bears the date of Kodaikanal’s birth. The Bistro 1845, is where the offices of the Jesuit ministry used to be.
Features of the resort –
The large reception area is where you are first greeted with a garland of fragrant cardamom and a teeka on the forehead. A steaming cup of honey lemon tea (which you will have several encounters with during your stay) is brought to you along with a nice hot towel. ‘Hot’ is the theme here and a welcome one at that, with temperatures not crossing 20 deg c even in peak summer.
2 large fire places, a few board games and even a piano, are what you will see in the lobby. To the right of the reception is a foosball and chess table and another seating area done in stunning pink for some reason 😀 which adds a flash of color to the stone grey walls. This ensconces 2 more fireplaces.
Further right is the old building that has been converted into 2 restaurants.
The part behind the reception leads to the boutique store, some more recreational games and the conference hall and board room.
The first floor that is accessed by a solid wooden stairway, houses the gym and spa.
The rooms, the pool and the yoga and meditation center are all behind the main building.
To the right of the building are the lush green lawns, dotted by numerous pear trees that unfortunately were in the shedding stage of the year. These trees apPear’ently were laden with hundreds of juicy fruit just a few months before my visit. The 2 plum trees and lone apricot were also not doing their thing.
The lone magnolia in the center however, was more magnanimous and delighted my camera with its beautiful blooms.
The flower beds were a riot of colors and provided me with multi hued props for my food shots 😀
A rustic wooden bench totally completed the enchanting picture.
The rooms –
The Tamara Kodai offers nothing less than plush suites. Of the 53 suites, 52 line the pathway in 13 clusters of 4 each, 2 below ground level and 2 higher. The French Provincial facade makes for a pretty picture with the pristine white interspersed with flashes of brick red awning.
42 of these are Luxury, 8 are Superior luxury and 2 suites have access for differently abled people. All these spaces can accommodate 2 adults plus one more on the Diwan in the living room.
The suites that are at a distance from the main building, can be accessed via buggies, though it is not really a great length to walk.
The 53rd suite is the Presidential one and stands apart from the rest (pun intended). This can accommodate 4 people.
The suites are a mix of the colonial and modern with an inexplicable dash of Rajasthan in the tile inlaid wooden entrance stairway 😀 The Indian tiles are actually a thing throughout the resort and I could not quite understand where the fitted tiles fitted in the scheme of things. However, I love colorful printed tiles, so no complaints from me 😀
The main door is inset with brightly colored glass panels. The rooms have wooden flooring (which makes it really comfortable in that cold weather) and they are equipped with cozy beds with pillows that you can choose from a menu, heavy wooden (antique style) cupboards, side tables and a sufficient number of plug points. The adjoining balcony with lounge chairs, looks out on the expanse of Kodaikanal.
An electronic safe, in room heater, intercom and stable 24 hr WiFi form the rest of the features.
The living area is of colonial ambience, with a heavy wooden writing desk, plush seating and a couch that doubles up as an extra bed.
A large window with a ledge, offers similar views as the nearly bedroom balcony.
There is a 49 inch LED TV, tea and coffee making facilities, a mini bar (non alcoholic) and options of snacking from regular junk on the left or completely certified branded organic non junk on the right 😀
A 24 hour In Room Dining facility is also available.
The bedroom can be separated from the living room with the aid of a sliding wooden door that also bears a secret full length mirror (which was so secret that I forgot to click a picture!!!)
The washrooms are luxurious with separate wash basins for Him and Her, a separate toilet area (with warm water in the health faucet, God bless them) and pressure control showers in the bath cubicle.
Hairdryers, bath robes and cruelty free and paraben free toiletries from Kimirica’s Earth by Five Elements, complete the lavish set up.
Having always felt that individual bottles of toiletries are wasteful, I loved that here they have common dispensers from which guests can use whatever they need without having to discard partially used containers. All hotels and resorts should do this.
Luxury suite –
This is a 450 sq ft generous space with all the above details.
Superior Luxury suite –
This is identical to the luxury suite, with the advantage of being so located as to offer a better view of Kodaikanal, which includes its famous lake in the heart of the town.
In addition, there are a few more perks that include gift hampers, transport to town, a daily hot tea time snack and a few other complimentary activities. Please check details at the time of booking.
Presidential suite –
Set apart from the other suite clusters, this 2 bedroom luxurious space also features a living room, dining area, kitchenette, bath tub and a state of the art Jacuzzi in the balcony that comes with an inbuilt music system so that you can twirl as you swirl. That makes no sense but it rhymes 😀
La Providence and The Bistro 1845 are the 2 dining spaces. An upcoming Pool bar (non alcoholic) is also on its way to completion.
Read more about the cuisine here.
There are 7 fireplaces at various locations as mentioned earlier. While the 2 outdoor ones are fired by wood, the ones indoors are fueled with special non sparking coal which is also conducive to low emissions.
Boutique store –
The Verandah is the in house boutique store of the Tamara group and it stocks mainly organic products and the handiwork of women’s self help groups and other local groups. Items like eucalyptus oil, hand made decoratives, soaps, honey etc. are what one can purchase here.
There are 2 halls namely the conference/banquet hall – Puliyan Hall and mini boardroom – Paliyan Hall, so named after the original indigenous tribes of the region.
The Puliyan hall is the banquet hall that can accommodate around 80 people round table style or nearly 200 in theater style. This is suitable for business as well as weddings and other private events.
The Paliyan is the boardroom which is fitted with state of the art audio visual and other equipment. This has a capacity of 12-20 people.
The resort provides a host of indoor board games, a library, a PS4 gaming Playstation, table tennis, pool table, swimming pool, outdoor games like archery and many such activities.
Sightseeing and trekking trips are also curated for the guests.
More on this in the post of activities.
Video – A quick glimpse of The Tamara Kodai
Environmental commitment –
The Tamara group is highly eco conscious and strives to reduce the use of non bio degradable material wherever possible. Glass water bottles throughout the resort contain RO purified water which is provided unlimited without charge.
There is an impressive 36 lakh kiloliter capacity rain water harvesting tank which usually is brimming full after the monsoons.
Re purposed wood and other recycled material has made use of wherever possible in the entire property.
Phone and internet connectivity –
Phone signals are available though a bit tricky in patches. The Wi Fi however, is very stable and I had uninterrupted access throughout.
Visitor profile –
The Tamara Kodai is a destination for every kind of traveller. It is a wonderful option for a family vacation since it is child friendly and has many activities for children to indulge in.
Being a very safe place, it is also suitable for solo travellers, both men and women. It is a romantic destination for couples, honeymooners and just anyone who is still in love 😀
It is suitable for business travellers and corporate meetings.It is a beautiful wedding venue and a reunion venue. It is a picturesque location for artists, photographers and writers. There are also enough stories to keep history and heritage lovers sufficiently enthralled.
It has several trails for trekking, nature walks and picnics. Though it is not a hardcore birding location, there are around 150 species of mainly Indian birds that can be found in its forests.
Best time to visit –
Kodaikanal is a year round destination. The peak season however, belongs to the months of March, April and May since the hill station is a welcome getaway during the summer. This is also when Indian schools close for the annual break. Temperatures do not cross 20 deg c even in peak summer, even when the nearby plains below are being assaulted by the blazing sun. I was also given to understand that certain fruits like wild raspberries are ready for harvest in this season. Several multi hued flowers also add to the brilliance of the landscape.
June, July, August and a bit of September are when the rains arrive and while movement may be rather restricted, it is still a good time because the numerous waterfalls cascade in all their glory and the landscape is greener and lusher than ever. The pear and plum trees are also laden with fruit.
October to February are the winter months and temperatures dip even as low as 0 deg c in peak winter. But of course, the cold has its own charm and bonfires and heaters are put to good use to make the stay as cozy as ever. The skies too are very clear in this season which makes it a delight for star gazers.
Getting there –
Kodaikanal is a hill station which is located at quite a distance from the plains.
The nearest relevant railway station is at Kodai Road which is 80 km away from the town of Kodaikanal. It takes a minimum of 2 hours to reach the Tamara Kodai.
Dindigul and Madurai are bigger stations at 100 km and 120 km away and it takes 2.5 hours and 3 hours respectively from there.
The nearest airport is also at Madurai.
Both state transport buses and private luxury buses operate right up to Kodaikanal bus stand, from major South Indian cities like Bangalore, Madurai, Chennai etc. The bus stand is around 2 km from the resort and private cabs charge around Rs 150-200 for a drop.
The best means of getting to the Tamara Kodai from the airport or railway station, is by private cabs or the resort cabs. Local buses are also available though probably not too frequent.
Private vehicles or cabs are also a comfortable means of getting to Kodaikanal from cities even as far as Bangalore, since the state highways are excellent.
Within the Kodaikanal town, the only means of transport is walking or hailing a cab. There are no autos or app based cabs.
My journey –
I travelled by the Mysore Tuticorin Express that leaves Bangalore at 9.15 pm and arrives in Kodi Road by 7 am the next morning. This is a convenient train to travel by.
My return was likewise by the Tuticorin Mysore Express that crossed Kodai Road station at 8.30 pm and arrived in Bangalore at 6.40 am the next day.
I availed of the resort cab from and to the railway station.
A word of advice though, would be to depart from Dindigul since the train halts longer there (5 min) and it is a better station. Kodi Road station has a very limited area where the platform is sheltered and I had to stand for over an hour in a completely deserted part in the pouring rain. The porter’s umbrella which I borrowed, was the only saving grace. Also the train stops for just 2 minutes and that does not do great things for my travel anxiety.
Booking and contact –
No. 22, La Providence,
St. Mary’s Road, Kodaikanal,
Tamil Nadu – 624101.
Phone – +91 4542248800
Email of The Tamara Kodai – firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Note – This is a collaboration, based on the invitation of The Tamara Kodai and I thank them for hosting me with their warm hospitality. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
This itinerary was specially curated, hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Nov 12th-14th, 2019