Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Neemrana Bungalow on the beach, Tranquebar

This post is a detailed review of Neemrana Bungalow on the beach non-hotel hotel at Tranquebar, South Tamil Nadu. A quick summary first:
  • Location: Tranquebar (Tharangambadi), near Karaikal, Tamilnadu
  • Hotel Name; Bungalow on the beach
  • Rent: Rs 4000-Rs 6000 per day, + 20% tax, includes stay, tea and breakfast
  • What’s good: Great view of the ocean, spacious rooms, walkable distance from all tourist attractions in Tranquebar
  • What’s not so good: Highly customized for Danish tourists, hardly anything Indian in the menu, very few English books, and campus was under maintenance during our visit, aging AC units and few other minor nuisances
Last week a cousin decided to ride down to Chennai from Bangalore on his newly bought bike. He was keen to go on long ride on the ECR. I was also targeting to visit couple of destinations in South TN, Pichavaram, Chidambaram, Tranquebar etc. I quickly hatched a 2 day plan to visit these places. Had to decide on a place to stay on Saturday and what came to my mind instantly was Tranquebar and the Bungalow on the beach.

I called up the hotel on Thursday morning and I was told only 1 room is available. We were 4 and I asked if we can have 2 extra beds, to which hotel staff refused, saying max people per room is 3. I asked him to go ahead with the booking and a room was confirmed. I was given a quote on phone of Rs 6500+ (Rs 4500 for room + Rs 900 for extra bed, + 20% tax). I asked if 4 people can hang around, with 4th person going out to some other hotel for night for sleeping, they said OK. I asked if we’ll have access to swimming pool, but I was told Pool will be under maintenance and not likely to be available.

Next day I called him to ask if we can get a room at Nayak House (another property run by the same group), I was told Nayak house has been closed down. I asked if there’re any other accommodation in town, he said None. He did not mention the Hotel Tamilnadu facility or the Gate House, both which were very close.

Check in time was 2 PM and check out time was 12 Noon (21 hours, not 24). I understand they’ll need some time to clean the room and keep it ready for next guest, but why 3 hours for that? Isn’t 1 hour enough?

We reached the campus in time for check in on Saturday. When I asked if they can accommodate the 4th person, I was given an option of taking a room without AC at 40% discount. Apparently one room was under maintenance as its AC was not working and the manager offered a discount. It was a superior room in 1st floor, with listed rent of Rs 6000 + tax. I confirmed that the fan was working and felt it is manageable without AC, hence agreed to the offer. We took one room in ground floor (Elephant) and another in 1st floor. (Queen Anna Sophia). Anna Sophia had AC problems, but cool breeze from the sea was fairly compensating. Ground floor rooms do not receive as much breeze as the first floor, due to compound wall.

Rooms are large and have antique feel. Feels nice and spacious. View photos below.
An antique looking fan would have been great.

Above: Huge & Tall central area in first floor and a large chair.
Below: View of the ocean from the first floor of Bungalow on the beach

View of the Danish fort
View of the pool and ocean

Our tariff included evening and morning tea, but these weren’t offered voluntarily. We had to remind them on these to serve tea. What would have been nice is hotel staff asking what time we’d like our tea to be served and bring it to room on that time.

Luckily the pool was operational. It had no shower though. The garden seemed to need some maintenance and some painting work was in progress (looked like May-June is their off peak season and some maintenance planned for that period had spilled over to July. If we'd gone 1 week earlier, would have got 20% discount.

I checked their dinner menu, couldn't understand a single item. It was all designed for western tourists and had no Indian items. We went to Karaikal town (13 kms) for dinner).. Even the breakfast was fully continental, except for plain dosa. I was told that only recently they've started getting Indian tourists, hence have introduced Plain Dosa. Earlier they didn't have even that.

The Danish fort, beach and governor's bungalow are all walkable distance from the hotel.

Looked like most of the AC units are very old. The outdoor units had severe rust (see images below). May be they are new, but close proximity to the sea is taking its toll on these units. I don’t know. As we were checking out another guest complained to the manager that their room AC is not working and needs to be checked. So in case you’re very particular about having AC in your room, state that explicitly during booking, to be doubly sure that they block a room with good AC.
Candle in the room was big and bright. Stay was comfortable and rooms are spacious. But bathrooms are narrow by palace standards.

The chess set had missing pieces, so we made up with substitution from the bathroom. Transparent and opaque items went well with the colour combination of the set.
Read Sankara’s review of Bungalow on the beach.

During checkout I was told that my discount for non ac room has been increased to 50%, but tax still applied on full amount. If tax was applied on discounted amount,  would have paid less overall, but it seems govt is adamant on receiving luxury tax, even if I didn’t had the luxury of AC. (Rs 6000 rent- Rs 3000 discount, +20% tax adds to Rs 3600, but for us it was Rs 6000 rent+ 20% tax-Rs 3000, which is Rs 4200.

Bungalow on the beach doesn't seem to accept credit card. Be sure to carry cash. There're no ATMs in Tranquebar either (I didn't notice any).

You can opt for Friends of Neemrana membership, which will get you 10% discount for future bookings (note: for future bookings only, not for current one)

Overall Bungalow by the beach is nice place to stay (there're not too many options anyway). But set your budget and expectations right before booking

Similar: Shalini Palace Kolhapur * Jungle Lodges and Resorts, Karnataka * Club Mahindra Coorg *


Arumugam Easwar said...

But for the lodging and boarding, the place is very nice one. You might have felt a bit bad about your staying, but not the place. Karaikal too is a small country town, but has a nice temple.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

I don't dispute that. It is indeed a nice place and in fact best option in town.

Just that our experience was not optimal.

My Unfinished Life said...

I think the views make up for the issues of service..but yes, i wont be going there especially too have a luxury experience said...

very nice and detailed post !! The snaps taken are adding to the excitement !!

Sankara Subramanian C said...

It is a shame to see Neemrana not taking care of this beautiful property. When I went there 3 years back, it was in top shape. Looks like things have changed.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Sankara: I wouldn't say they're not taking care.. looked like maintenance activities have got delayed. Overall it is fairly decent. May be if we go in season, it will be at its best.

Mysay: Thanks

MUL: Agree. I wouldn't say Don't go there. It is still the best option in town.

Sharon Bush said...

That's nice bungalow, But that's need maintenance. Thanks for share this post with us...

mohan dhamotharan said...

Dear Shri Nidhi, great report. I am having few small houses in Tranquebar and try to mangage them from Germany.I can just tell you how difficult it is to maintain a heritage building in that rough climate. We are continously engaged with termites, painting and rust. Considering this I think the guys from Neemrana do a great job to maintain that building. I do not believe that they do a lot of profit there..We stayed several times in that Bungalow as well as the Nayak House and enjoyed that very much...I agree that they should improve their food...cheers Mohan

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Sharon Bush: Thanks for your comments

@Mohan: Good to know you and thanks for sharing the insights. Yes I understand the maintenance part.