We are on the Pamban Bridge. Below us the pristine turquoise blue waters of the Bay of Bengal glisten in the warm October sun and gently break on the shore a few metres away. What is striking though is how quiet the sea is considering the boisterous beaches the East Coast is famous for. It’s like even the waters here emanate a divine calm — a quality that this legendary temple town is known for. However, we are eagerly scanning the scene for the hoot of an approaching train, the visual of which never fails to inspire awe from onlookers — a vast expanse of the sea and a lone train chugging in the middle of it, on a bridge that was until 2010, India’s longest. Post the Bandra-Worli Sealink, Pamban has become the second longest. Nonetheless, the joy of watching this visual is eternal and the sheer number of tourists around us who have similarly gathered to watch this sight is testimony to the enduring appeal of the rail running over the Pamban Bridge. The evening shadows take over, reminding us to proceed and savour the other delights this town has to offer. We are in no run-of-the-mill touristy town; it’s Rameswaram after all and nothing here can be passed up as ordinary. Such is its history, such are the tales, such are the visuals… such is its impact.
But first up, we need to put our feet up; having driven from distant Karaikudi under the harsh afternoon sun. And the Hyatt Place Rameswaram is our chosen retreat. Driving into the foyer of the hotel, our bags are quickly scanned and we’re ushered towards check-in. The lobby is pleasant on the eye, done up in shades of grey and white with dim lights and is a picture of activity with umpteen guests eager to explore the temple town. Check-in is swift and we proceed towards our room on the third floor. Murals and paintings of South India dot the walls and make for a pleasant viewing. The room is striking and done up in the same pleasant tone as the lobby and the average views below are easily compensated by the sheer comfort the room has to offer. The staff has thoughtfully laid out a personalised plate of cakes on our bed. A quick splash of cold water on the face and we hit the poolside bar. Snazzy, it has plush seating and a mug of cold beer instantly soothes the tired senses. Guests relax in the pool outside and Chitra Das, the marketing coordinator of the property who comes over to greet us, informs that this is the sole hotel on the island to have a swimming pool.
Hungry stomachs after that long drive calls for a hearty meal and the in-house restaurant, which is teeming with diners, is a sure sign that good times are ahead. There’s an elaborate buffet and although the hotel serves strictly vegetarian food (given the religious tag of this town), the plethora of options leaves one spoilt for choice. Continental, Indian, Chinese, Jain food… the range is vast and the breads and dessert section haven’t been sampled yet! We choose a simple Margherita pizza, a helping of tandoori mushrooms, some pasta and soup and we’re left soul satisfied!
Having retreated to the welcoming confines our room and an even more inviting bed, sleep takes over almost impulsively. At dawn, after a quick breakfast of some scrumptious pongal, crisp and piping hot dosa and traditional filter kaapi, we head out for a quick dekko of the legendary floating stones (that have so famously featured in Lord Rama’s crossing over to Sri Lanka) at the neighbouring Hanuman Temple. Dhanushkodi, the ghost town, is next on the list. A church that’s in ruins, a passport control office and a railway station that’s in equal disrepair make for surreal views by the waterfront in Dhanushkodi. Make sure you go here well in time, as tourists aren’t permitted entry after 5.30pm. And how can one not visit the Ramanathaswamy Temple that gave this town its name! Believed to have been established by Lord Rama himself, the linga of the temple is said to have been installed by the Lord, too and is said to have been made from the sands of Rameswaram. The 22 temple tanks in the temple from which we savour the holy waters are a perfect wrap to our temple run followed by a beautiful darshan of Shiva, the presiding deity.
The tourist trail is now complete, thanks to the close proximity of the hotel to all the local attractions, and we head back to our haven just in time for lunch. Yet again, the mind boggles at the sheer range of cuisine that’s in store. From simple kichidi, to rasam and rice, fried rice and Manchurian balls in a tangy sauce, rotis to pasta; the fare is eclectic. A tall glass of wholesome buttermilk lends the perfect finalé to our elaborate lunch. Oh yes, two bowls of ghee-laden moong dal were gulped before that!
Our time at the Hyatt has come to an end and just before our check-out; we head to the 24-hour coffee shop, The Market where we grab some sandwiches and coffee for our journey ahead. A selection of retail delights like chips, chocolates, aerated drinks and juices besides cakes and pastries are available for patrons-on-the-go. The check-out is equally smooth and our bags are neatly placed at the foyer to be loaded into our car. As we drive past the hotel gates, a hint of wistfulness takes over. We might have been in this temple town for just 24hours, but Rameswaram grows on you. The gentle breeze, the azure waters, the sing-song dialect of its people… one truly feels blessed at the end of it. The Hyatt experience sums it all up perfectly.
For more information, contact the hotel at +914573231234
@Hyatt Place, Rameswaram
101 spacious guestrooms and suites, all of which feature a swiveling 42-inch HDTV, the plush Hyatt Grand Bed and Cozy Corner sectional sofa
Gallery Kitchen Breakfast stocked with South Indian and international vegetarian specialties
24/7 Gallery Menu and Market serving made-to-order vegetarian entrees and appetizers around the clock
Coffee to Cocktails Bar featuring specialty coffees and premium beers, as well as wines, cocktails, and mocktails by the poolside
Free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel
Outdoor swimming pool
4,757 square feet of flexible, high-tech meeting/function space