John and I recently realised that its been 14 months (!!) since we took a proper holiday and thats way too long for anyone. So one of the things we decided was to regularly try and do short weekend trips to places close to Madras that would interest us and offer us things to see. We're just back from a 3 day road trip to Tranquebar which is roughly 300km south of Madras.
We left early on friday morning stopping at Mamallapuram for breakfast and at Pondicherry for a shopping cum lunch pit stop. Pretty much all of friday went in driving there and by the time we reached Tranquebar in the evening we were really glad to find that our place of stay, The Gate House had a compact swimming pool right outside our room. The evening swim was bliss after the long drive and the rooms were tastefully restored and well appointed.
Tranquebar is a 17th Century Danish fortified settlement that traded actively with the existing Indian rulers. After it passed hands to the British its importance declined steadily. It is now little more than a sleepy fishing hamlet. But hidden in the quiet lanes of the village are remnants of the past.The town gate, crumbling bastions, a cemetary laid out in 1620, the Danish Governor's residence and the New Jerusalem Church.
April is not the ideal time to visit since it's too hot and most of the monuments and museums are open from 10 to 5 which is really the hottest part of the day. So satruday morning we drove off early to the mangrove forests in Pichavaram and took a leisurely two-hour boat ride which was breathtakingly beautiful. Post lunch we walked around Tranquebar exploring all the hidden heritage buildings and also visited the Intach office and the Tranquebar Craft Resource Centre. With funding from the BestsellerFund there seem to be long-term plans being implemented to turn the place into a heritage destination.
While it may take a few years for all the heritage monuments to be restored, the main attractions and the two most prominent buildings on the Tranquebar coast are the Dansborg Fort and the British Collector's bungalow. The latter has been restored by Intach into a hotel which is also the only place in town to get a decent meal. The spire that you see rising in the background is the Zion Church completed in 1701. Its the first protestant church in India!