The next leg of the journey is going to the longest one since we started off from Bengaluru: Rameshwaram to Mahabalipuram, with a pitstop at Karaikudi – the heart of the Chettinad region.
It is nearly a 10-hour drive, and we want to make good time but don’t really want to rush.
There are two routes to Mahabalipuram from Rameshwaram – one is through ECR (East Coast Road) taking you through Tanjore, and the other one is through Karaikudi. It is nearly the same time, and we chose the latter to make our pitstop.
For the first time ever, we counter bad roads in Tamil Nadu. They are narrow, one-lane roads, with a few potholes and bumps and we cannot really maintain the speeds we’re accustomed to.
We call ahead to The Bangala on recommendation from a friend and make a booking for lunch.
The Bangala is a heritage boutique hotel that’s run by one of the prominent Chettiar families in the region. They are popular for their rooms, but we’re making a stop only for the food, which comes highly recommended. Another positive of visiting the place is the potential to visit the mansion, located a short drive away.
We arrive exactly in time for lunch, and are escorted through the leafy mansion by the manager. Lunch is served in the open dining hall, overlooking the courtyard. The meals are all served on banana leaves, and are pretty extensive including vegetarian, chicken, mutton and fish. There are a variety of sides as well, and I barely manage to make it to dessert.
Yet, through the meal, I feel a little incomplete. Chettinad food is known for its spices and these are nice, but not really spicy. They seem mellowed to suit their audience, part of whom are foreign travellers, unaccustomed to spice. I’d have loved to have some super spicy Chettinad food.
Yet another thing the region is known for is antiques, but given the delays we do not have time for antique shopping or even visiting one of the mansions. I settle for some shots of these beautiful treasures as we drive past them.
We’ve nearly 8 hours to get to Mahabalipuram!
Read the earlier journey here: