CGHearth justly pride themselves on their green credentials and their commitment to the environment.
At Visalam this includes a policy of having no television, and no refrigerator in the room. Since the government of Tamil Nadu refused liquor license permits for hotels of fewer than 21 beds, the hotel now has no alcohol. It may be just a little austere for the guest looking for a few modern comforts along with nursing their ecological beliefs. It helps if you are aware of the facts before arriving. We had been mistakenly informed by our agents that wine and beer was available at meals. Alas no more.
As with all CGHearth properties the building has been sensitively and stylishly restored.
It is a beautiful property set in a small garden of flowering trees and shrubs and the sunbirds flocked to the shrubs outside our door. The region is famous for the traditional floor tiles produced in village workshops. The floor tiles in the foyer of Visalam are old traditional tiles of exquisite quality.
It is popular with American, French and English small tour groups.
Our room on the ground floor was spacious and airy. With a dressing room and bathroom we were well accommodated. The beds were very comfortable. The door opened onto a little terrace and garden that was a quiet and a pleasant place in which to sit.
The gardens continue to an excellent pool in an enclosed area. There’s a small bar and loungers.
The locally produced fine Chettinad cotton provides towels for the bathroom. They are thin sheets which are superb for hand towels but are not really adequate to dry a tall adult and ends up as a wet rag. We mentioned it to the manager who had them replaced on the second day of our stay.
The guest relations manager, Ramu, is a great asset to the hotel. As a local man from a Chettinad family he knows the history and geography of the area intimately. He has excellent English and great communication skills. We thought his guided tours on two days were as good as any we have ever had during our many years of travelling in India. We were privileged to be invited to his home, a traditional mansion of sixty-four rooms.
The village is a wonderful place in which to wander. There is much to see and local people are friendly and welcoming.
On our arrival at Visalam, as we mounted the stairs to the entrance of the hotel, a young woman standing on the top steps sprinkled us with water from what Catholics will know as an aspergillam. A bit of a surprise, but there you go. We accepted the traditional -looking scarves and began the check in.
We were invited to sit down on a low settee. We handed in our passports and voucher for the usual reception formalities. The young lady who stood in front of us delivered her welcome speech unrelentingly. It was all material that could and should have been given in a leaflet or on a single sheet of A4. The history of the hotel might more usefully be printed from the website. We felt rather like school children being instructed. The fact that we were sitting and she standing over us didn’t help. We didn’t enjoy it after our tiring day, we wanted to check in, get to our rooms and wash up. The introduction was unrelenting.
The climax came when she asked us, “Do you like surprises?”
We answered, “It depends” and “Not especially.”
She ignored the response and produced a wooden box.
“Here I have a live cobra. Put your hands on the front of my box.
Go on, it is a real cobra and I want you both to place your hands on the box here.”
Reluctantly and unenthusiastically we did so.
“Are you ready? Remember it is a live cobra.”
We looked at her.
“I am going to open it up. Keep your hands where they are…”
She teased a little longer and then opened the box.
It contained a large room key.
The fault was not with the receptionist, it is with whoever designed such an unappealing fey ritual, more suited to eight year old children than to the level of tourism to which the property aspires. She then gave us a tour of the property before freeing us to go to our room. We found it to be an unpromising start to our stay.
We hope the management will reconsider this unwelcome welcome routine.
Our first dinner at Visalam was a disappointment. We were rather taken aback at when, after waiting for fifty minutes for our fish grill, and after it arrived, a diner at a nearby table lit up, and we ate our meal accompanied by cigarette smoke. The reaction of the staff was to bring an ash-tray. It must have been difficult for them to challenge assertive Europeans, but some small no smoking signs in the dining area might have clarified the position. The hotel says it is a non-smoking property, and where is it more important than in the dining area during meals service? The food itself at our first dinner was frankly indifferent.
Though there was a considerable amount of cupboard space in the room there was no place where one could hang things. The space provided, with cut-out coat-hangers, was not deep enough to hang a shirt or a jacket. The manager said he would remove shelves under the rail and make a full-length wardrobe from the armoire.
These may be considered as trivial comments and we must add emphatically that when we drew the general manager’s attention to them he apologized profusely and immediately rectified those things that could be easily changed.
By the second day the situation was transformed. We changed from being unhappy guests to enjoying our stay.
We had the service and the charm that the many reports in TripAdvisor describe so enthusiastically. In fact we might have been in a different hotel. We had an excellent dinner with fresh and perfectly cooked seafood. The courses were all interesting, carefully prepared and it was all thoroughly delightful.
Wi-Fi in Visalam is free and reliable. It is peaceful and quiet.
We would recommend Visalem as a memorable place to stay and the region is certainly full of interest and unforgettable places.
On top of its game Visalam is superb.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Visalam ( A CGH Earth Experience) is where you would want to go to experience a unique Tamil culture. Located in Kanadukathan village in chettinad, Visalam has many a stories to tell of the heritage, culture, food and people of this interesting tamil community, the chettiars. Stay at Visalam for that journey back in time and for that warm tamil hospitality. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Hotwire, HRS, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Priceline, Agoda, Hotel.de and Evoline ltd so you can book your Visalam reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Visalam Hotel Kanadukathan