The complete travel guide to Coimbatore
Known as the Manchester of South India for its textile industry – may not seem hip on the surface, but if you give it a little time you will find it’s cut from a different cloth. The city is brilliantly located – on the way to scenic hill stations like Ooty and Coonoor—friendly enough and very liveable, with an unhurried pace. There are a number of tourist places near Coimbatore that you can visit on your trip. Drop by soon before the rest of the country cottons on. The city is cool from September to March, and pleasantly warm during the rest of the year. Because of its location – it’s quite close to Ooty and Kodaikanal—it has brilliant weather for most of the year. Coimbatore airport is conveniently located about 13 km from the center of the city.
What to See and Do in Coimbatore
Coimbatore’s biggest draw is its splendid flower market at RS Puram. Flood the senses with irresistible blooms, by the bucketful, with flowers that range from the everyday to the exotic. It’s absolutely chaotic, but then the beauty of the flowers calms you down. Head there at 6am when the vendors begin trickling in, and don’t forget to take a bag of rose buds back home.
Next on the tourist circuit is Kari Motor Speedway: This racing circuit plays host to the National Championship races for a range of vehicles, from go-karts to motorcycle road racing and even formula racing events. Did you expect anything else in Narain Karthikeyan’s home town!
In the mood for some art of the silent kind? Check out paintings, installations and photographs at Contemplate Art Gallery, an initiative that incubates and supports up-and-coming artists and hosts exhibitions by them.
When you’re done take a walk back in time: Visit the Gass Forest Museum, off Cowley Brown Road. Housed in an imposing British-era limestone building, it displays—in an oddly interesting way—a number of intriguing exhibits to catch your eye: including a rare collections of endangered stuffed animals and birds, tribal clothes, animal skins and skeletons including a 456-year-old cross section of a teak tree weighing 1.75 tonnes.
Among Coimbatore’s tourist places, you can visit famous temples that date back to 1500AD, to immerse in the local culture of the destination.
Where to eat
It’s often a worry when you visit a small city off the tourist circuit. Where do you go for dinner? Are there any interesting places for a night out or will you have to order in? Not so in Coimbatore. The dining options in the city are authentic and interesting to the out-of-towner. Make sure you drink ‘Siruvani water’ (from the Siruvani River) rather than generic bottled water. For the most part, it travels without any interference from human habitation, making it pure and unpolluted.
On the Go, Race Course RoadA chic and turquoise (if slightly overpriced) little restaurant on Race Course Road. They offer global cuisine and are known for their mushroom risotto and their luscious Oreo cookie tart. Try and snag a table on one of their supper theatre nights, for some added drama to your fine dining experience.
Sree Annapoorna, multiple locationsLife is too short for bad coffee. And the filter coffee at any of the Annapoorna restaurants in Coimbatore is superlative; the owners take their coffee as seriously as the French do. Other reasons to visit are the rose milk and the south Indian tiffin, particularly at the RS Puram outlet if you can; it’s been literally impossible for anyone to replicate their menu.
Chin Chin, Race Course RoadChin Chin does unabashedly Indo-Chinese food. Their fried ice-cream is sensational: it’s quite simply rock-solid, frozen ice-cream dipped in a crazy batter and deep fried. Possibly the most decadent dessert you can ever have.
Valarmathi Mess, Race Course RoadThis little restaurant serves authentic Kongunadu cuisine, so good that Narain Karthikeyan is a regular. The simple biryani has been elevated to an art form here and guests must also spare some appetite for the pallipalayam koli, kothu parota together with a sprinkling of Eno salts.
Where to Stay
Aloft Coimbatore SinganallurThis is the closest luxury hotel to the airport and to the city’s IT hub, TIDEL Park, where Bosch, Cognizant and Wipro have their office. The clientele here is a well-heeled mix of locals as well as textile buyers and business travellers from abroad. Come dinner time, try the hummus and fried pita at Estia, the Mediterranean restaurant.
Vivanta by Taj – Surya, Race Course RoadShards of stone are laid out at the entrance to bring the sun inside the hotel. It’s a nice take on the name, Surya. The Dalai Lama and Shah Rukh Khan are some famous personalities who have been guests at Vivanta by Taj - Surya. Karthikeyan is a regular, as most of his family functions are held here. Guests mustn’t leave without sampling Latitude’s idlis, which are fantastic. Red Pearl gives Coimbatore an authentic Chinese experience.
Zone by the Park, Avinashi RoadThis funky, contemporary hotel describes itself as a hotel that’s ‘Social by Design’. The rooms have free Wi-fi, flat-screens, iPod docks and minibars. They’re all controlled by smart technology which saves your preferences whether it's the temperature or your choice of television channels. Loyalists can also save these for future visits across any Zone hotel in other cities.
Le Méridien Coimbatore, Avinashi RoadThe Tamil Nadu suite at Le Meridien, inspired by Chettinad architecture, is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi stayed while campaigning in this part of the country. The hotel has 55,000 sq ft of banqueting space, ideal for all those endless conferences. When it come to dining, there’s Peacock for Indian cuisine, Ponzu for Asian fare, Favola for Italian and a cigar lounge too. The possibilities are endless.
Where to Shop
The city is a haven for textile lovers. While label junkies may hit a brick wall, you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for an exquisite saree or some metres of pure silk.
VKR Woman, Kamaraj RoadFrom handwoven kurtas to organic cottons and hand-picked handlooms sourced directly from weavers across India, the environmentally-conscious shopper will feel at home here. Explore their mind-boggling range of striking fabrics: Ajrak, Kalamkari and Matka silks, to name a few. Mom, back home, will be thrilled with this unexpected addition to her collection.
Ramraj Cottons, Mangalam RoadEveryone knows Ramraj Cottons does the best dhotis. What isn't really well-known is that they stock the crispest cotton fabrics. Ask for their whites. And then make a shirt out of it from your neighbourhood darzi.
PSR Silks, Ram NagarThis is the kind of store most of us would open if only we had half a conscience, or at least six yards of it. The owner, PS Rangasami had humble beginnings: he began as a weaver. Years later, he brought several villages under his fold by training master weavers and giving back to his community. The result is an exquisite range of sarees, the kind that makes a trousseau brilliant and heartfelt.
A-1 Chips, multiple locationsWhen you’re in Coimbatore, you can forget about Pringles and Lays. Stock up on chips from any one of the A1 outlets in Coimbatore. Tapioca, banana, potato—they do them all. Take a few bags back home, but pack them well if you don’t want them to break before you get back home.
6E & Cheeky
The average Coimbatorean may be a picture of calm—undoubtedly because of his visits to the transcendental Isha Yoga Center—but he does indulge in a nocturnal activity or two. One of them is dining in a natural cave at Kurumba Village Resort, an hour or so via the Nilgiri mountain railway, in Conoor. Eerie but this is as close to wild dining as you can get. The adventurist should check into Camp Splendour near Udumalpet and sign up for a visit to the crocodile farm, a spot of hot-air ballooning, try coracle rafting or experience a dinner with friends around a campfire. Air guitar not included.
|Avinashi Road, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641014||CJB|