Jani Jermans – Travel Diaries

January 12, 2021

Ushering 2021 at Rajakkad Estate, a 18th Century Palace

Filed under: India — jani @ 6:11 am

I came across Rajakkad Estate from one of the Conde Nast Traveller articles on palaces converted to hotels. I found quite a few listed there, which we are familiar like Oberoi Rajvilas & Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad and Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. However Rajakkad Estate, came as a surprise as I have not read about it anywhere and also this was situated in South India. Even though it didn’t look as grandeur as palaces in Udaipur, Jaipur, Hyderabad or Mumbai, we wanted to give a visit once because of the historical significance that it had.

When I went through the website (http://www.rajakkadestate.com/) I looked at the pictures and it didn’t do justice to the place. Initially I felt it was a bit overpriced and still we were ok to explore as we read that it was a palace from 18th century. This wooden structure had been a 18th century palace in Kerala, which got dismantled and brought to Dindigul after the owner (Mr. Robesh) bought that place and it had been reassembled back in the 80 acres of land that he bought in a hilly terrain in Dindigul named Rajakkad Estate. Mr. Robesh is the brain behind for this such beautiful work and responsible for bringing such beauty and history from Kerala to Dindigul. He also ensured that he kept the old architecture marvel intact even when he had to do minor repair work to fit the modern facilities to convert it to a home stay.

When we shared this estate details to our friends circle, three of them were happy to accompany us as they needed a break after being locked up at home due to Covid. We five of us decided to drive and asked Shashank to join in the car since Tamil Nadu is usually warmer and will be difficult to ride a bike in that hot weather for almost 7 hours from Bangalore to reach the estate. But as expected his love for bike riding made him to stick with solo bike ride while we four of us enjoyed our car ride, with Sur behind the wheels.

Day 1: We started our journey early morning and it was drizzling. We thought weather will change and will be sunny as we hit Tamil Nadu. For our bad luck, it continued to rain and it started pouring heavily. Since rain decided to give us company throughout the trip, we had to drive slowly, keeping Shashank in mind as it’s difficult to ride in a bike in the heavy rain. We took extra breaks to ensure all of our safety and slowly we started enjoying the drive in the rain.

We stopped for breakfast when we found a local restaurant in Tamil Nadu. We were ok to get in as it was not crowded as we still have to be cautious due to Covid situation. Except myself, others were reluctant to have breakfast there initially. Since I could never miss a Tamil Nadu breakfast, I ordered a plate of Idly and it was served with sambar and three varieties of chutneys. For me that was one of the delicious and healthiest breakfasts. As I started eating, slowly others also started to order the idly as they couldn’t resist the delicious breakfast. We ended the breakfast with a filter coffee, which you should never miss in Tamil Nadu. After such hearty breakfast we hit the road. As Ayush and Akanksha went for a nap, I had to login to attend my online law classes.

After another stop for fuel, we entered Dindigul. The roads from Dindigul to the estate felt like we were in Kanyakumari/Kerala, because I could only see coconut trees all around. Then we started climbing to the hilly terrain which had almost 18 kms of hairpin bends. It was tough to drive in that road as they were narrower than other hilly roads like Ooty or Kodai. When we thought we were almost successfully manoeuvring these bends, without any hitch, we were in for a shock as a mini truck coming in the opposite direction hit our car bumper hard, even though our car had been stopped on the side much before as we saw the mini truck coming from the opposite direction and we had to give him a way to go. Looks like the truck driver was little distracted and he didn’t notice the car parked on the side even though Sur had been honking it to alert him. By the time he saw it, it was late. He did try to put a sudden break, but due to rain, the truck skidded a little and car bumper bore the brunt of it.  We were relieved as it was just the bumper. Truck driver did say sorry, since he realized it was his mistake. We had to just let go and requested the driver to drive carefully in future for his own safety.

After almost 9.5 hours of drive, we entered the estate and Mr. Robesh was waiting in the car near the gate so that he could guide us to take us straight to the homestay without we getting lost in the estate. We reached and we were in for a surprise as the house was beautiful with an open courtyard in the middle (similar to lot of Kerala houses) and we instantly fell in love with the place. We had our welcome drink and Mr. Robesh took us around the house to show the property. They had seven rooms and we had booked three of it. He told us that we can pick up anyone of the rooms out of seven as we were only the guests there. We were glad that as we had the house all to ourselves. We picked our rooms and each room was overlooking a beautiful garden and we were super impressed with it.

Then we freshened up for our lunch which staffs were waiting to serve as it was way past lunch hour as we got reached late due to rain. The food was pure South Indian, which consists of mostly rice, sambar, rasam, papad and varieties of vegetables grown from their own garden. I was little skeptical if others would enjoy as except me all of them were North Indians. This is the place for vegetarians since they get to explore lot of new vegetables which they would not tasted earlier. Since the non-vegetarians like myself never get satisfied with just vegetables for our meals we requested Mr. Robesh to have some non-veg option for the three of us and he ensured we had a chicken dish for all meals during our stay there. We enjoyed the vegetables like raw jackfruit, raw papaya and banana flower. Others have never tasted them before and to my surprise, they loved it as these were not new to me. My biggest surprise was from Sur, who loved the vegetables as Sur hardly eats any. I do make fun of him as even though I am a Non vegetarian, I have eaten more vegetables than him.

Mr. Robesh ensured that staffs were available throughout the day to help us with snacks etc. in case we needed at any time. After such a hearty meal, we went around exploring their library and other indoor games that they had. Then we sat for sequence game which found it during Covid and also catching up with each other since this was the first-time, we were meeting after the covid separation. We also found another favourite herbal tea made of ginger and tulasi from their garden. I lost count of the cups that we had as this was soothing as the weather was way too cold and others were not prepared for that weather. I have to thank Sur who insisted that I carry electric jacket which helped me in that cold.

Since it was last day of the year, we were waiting for the new year to usher. We couldn’t step out as the rain didn’t stop. We had our dinner so that we could retire the staff for the night, and we thought we will go back to rooms and will continue to play as we couldn’t handle the cold in the open lobby. This place also has a bad network due to strong winds, so it’s also a perfect place for digital detox. To our surprise staff had made the bonfire, just when the rain stopped. That came as a pleasant surprise and we were happy to enjoy the new year near the bonfire. We celebrated the new year and we had to step into our rooms as it was getting colder every minute. Since all of us were tired after a long drive, after welcoming the New Year, we crashed for the night.

Day 2: We woke up a little late and went for our breakfast. To our surprise Shashank didn’t wake up and we couldn’t wake him up either. So we had our breakfast of Idly, Dosa, homemade bread, omelette etc. As we finished, Shashank joined and once he finished, we headed for a walk in the garden as we had a pleasant day on New Year. First we noticed a big tamarind tree, that’s usually when the child in us awakens and we challenged to pluck at least one tamarind fruit even though it was above our reach. We had a grin our face when we succeeded and then walked towards the yoga platform which the staff had asked us to visit. It had nice rose plants around and we sat for sometime enjoying the sun and then walked towards the hill banana plantation (Hill bananas are grown at a height of 2000 to 5000 feet. This is unique to the state of Tamil Nadu, are known for their special flavour and long shelf life).

After enjoying our morning walk for an hour or two, we headed back to the homestay. We had a hearty lunch and Mr. Robesh suggested that we can visit a waterfall nearby, so we went to visit the waterfall which was just 15 minutes of drive from the homestay. We had to cross a hanging bridge before we got the view of the waterfall. We enjoyed few minutes there and then walked around close by to spot giant squirrels and birds. Then we headed back as we also wanted to enjoy the garden around the homestay which was beautiful and then played badminton for some time which we carried. We couldn’t continue longer as it was getting darker so we headed back for few more indoor games, had our dinner and crashed early as we were planning to start early the next day.

Day 3: After a good rest, we woke up, had our breakfast outdoors in the garden and we had to bid bye to the homestay. Mr. Robesh was kind enough to pack a carton full of hill bananas and the staff also got few saplings of Fragrant Glory Bower which I have been hunting for a long time for my garden. Then we hit the road and enjoyed our drive as we had a nice and sunny weather.  I was planning to get the biryani from the original place of Dindigul Thalapakatti as it’s famous there. However we were too early for that, so we gave a miss this time.

Then we were looking for a place to stop for lunch in the afternoon, however lot of places didn’t have dine in option due to Covid, so we did find it difficult to decide. Finally we spotted Radisson Hotel in Salem and we stopped for the lunch. Surprisingly it was crowded, so we decided not to go with buffet and ordered ala carte. We enjoyed the chicken biryani and the Non Veg platter and the vegetarians enjoyed their naan and paneer. For dessert, we ordered the Choco Sin and it was yummy. If you love chocolate, do give a try and next time I am close to this place, I wouldn’t mind to order again. Then we hit the road back and as we were entering Bangalore, it started raining. We reached after 11 hours of drive and we reached home with such rich experience.

A big thanks to Mr. Robesh for building such place and keeping the rich history intact and not to forget for such a beautiful garden. The staffs were friendly and they were ready to meet our needs at any time of the day. We enjoyed their amazing hospitality. This is the place difficult to find on our Indian booking sites as it’s not listed in any except to connect directly. This property is mostly visited by foreigners who enjoy such places and they are the frequent visitors and its mostly not known to the domestic tourists. If you find this place, do make a visit and you will come in awe and with rich and beautiful experience which would be carved in your memories for lifetime.


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