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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Visalam: a Chettiar mansion turned chic, sustainable bolthole

Built in 1939 in Art Deco style by a Chettiar merchant as a wedding present for his daughter, Visalam still has the charm of a family house….

By Febin Thomas
Hotel Manager of Visalam

We don’t like to call this a hotel. It was built in 1939 in Art Deco style by a Chettiar merchant as a wedding present for his daughter, Visalam, and it still has the charm of a family house. After CGH Earth leased it from the owners in 2002, we spent five years restoring the interiors and filling the building with beautifully made period furniture and handmade tiles in keeping with its original character. There are 15 large, high-ceilinged rooms in total, including two suites, so it’s a boutique, and very atmospheric, property.

We may be small, but we offer a variety of dining experiences. We serve breakfast in the garden under a veranda that’s covered in bougainvillea. We serve traditional Chettinad lunch on banana leaves in our kitchen, and if you want you can arrange an interactive session and learn a few dishes. For dinner, there’s the Terrace Grill, with more spicy Chettinad dishes and a barbecue overlooking the garden. Finally, there’s the café next to the swimming pool for light lunches and snacks. The pool, by the way, is special as it’s chemical-free, so you feel as if you’re swimming in bottled water.   

Engaging with local communities is very much part of the CGH Earth ethos, so the experiences we offer our guests reflect that. We do morning cycle rides and sunset walks to show people our own village, Kanadukathan, and some of the others nearby, where they can see more palatial mansions, small temples and the workshops of cotton weavers and tile makers. Most of our staff are from the immediate area as well, and though we’re a small property, we have eco-friendly features such as a biogas plant and don’t use any plastics.

The things our guests seem to like most about Visalam are the staff, the food and the experience of Chettinad. For my part, I like the legacy of the house and the working culture. I don’t feel like I’m working in a hotel or an institution, I feel I am at home.

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  • Culture
  • History
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Alfred & Febin Thomas

Febin Thomas has worked for CGH Earth for 18 years and counting. His background is in food and beverage, but as manager of Visalam, his main role is motivating his employees and creating warmth in their workplace. He uses his positive attitude and tireless energy to encourage others to work hard and succeed, and is inspired daily by both the positive feedback of the guests and the ethos of CGH.