A Travellerspoint blog

Madurai to Periyar Tiger Reserve - Saturday, 8 February 2014

A little story from last night's dinner.  The red onion salad consisted of red onion and mayonnaise and something else that I couldn't recognize.   I asked Paula the tour guide and she didn't know.  She asked Eugine and he didn't know.  Eugine asked the head waiter and he didn't know.  The head waiter asked the chef and he didn't know.  The head waiter then removed the plate and took it back to the kitchen and finally came back with the answer.  It was chicken sausage!

After breakfast,  we hopped on the bus and went to the Meenakshi Temple.  It is a marvellous sight in the daylight.  A few of us went back into the temple while some,  Phil included, stayed outside.  He didn't want to walk around in his socks again so he minded all the cameras as we weren't allowed to take them in again.  We had the same guide as last night and she told us a lot more stories today and we went to a lot more areas in the temple.

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I gave an elephant 50 rupees in his trunk, he gave it to his keeper and then the elephant was supposed to touch me on the forehead as a blessing.  He actually whacked me on the forehead with his trunk.  It was a bit rough!

My Tamil name for 4 October is Sharti and it means "full of energy".

Phil walked around the entire perimeter and took photos from all angles.  We all met up again at 11.30am and went up on to a shop's roof and took photos of the temple.  Back to the hotel to put our bags out, then in for lunch, then on the bus for the three hour drive to Periyar Tiger Reserve in the state of Kerala.

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Dirty Temple feet!

Driving through the countryside from Tamil Nadu to Kerala was lovely.  The country side changed and we saw rice, bananas, grapes, palm trees and sugar cane growing.  It is very green and fertile.

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At one stage we averted having a very bad accident.  Another bus, full of Indians came out on our left hand side and our driver slammed on the brakes and missed him by inches!  We were all pretty shaken up and poor Eugine was thrown into the door.  He said he was okay, but I think he will be bruised and battered tomorrow.  After that very close call, we stopped for a toilet break and a cup of chai at a roadside stall.

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We entered Kerala at a town called Kumily.  We are in a communist state and it shows.  It is clean and tidy and looks quite prosperous.

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Our accommodation is very nice.  We all have our own separate bungalows.

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We went to a dance show before dinner and then had a nice buffet dinner on the verandah.  It is quite cool here, 15 to 25 degrees.

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After dinner we sat in the bar and hooked into the internet there.  There was a gnawing noise and I thought it was Phil's foot on the chair, but the bar staff told us that there was a rat in the wood somewhere. Well, whatever it was, it was having a good time.

Sent from Samsung tablet

Posted by gaddingabout 07:22 Archived in India Comments (0)

Chettinad to Madurai - Friday, 7 February 2014

sunny 35 °C

Left the hotel at 9am for the two hour trip to Madurai. As we were leaving, the staff presented us all with a small basket of flowers. Lovely gesture.

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Before we left the area, we called into the 7th century Pillaiyarpati Temple, dedicated to Lord Ganesh. No photos allowed inside and as usual, shoes off. My poor feet have never been so dirty. We parked the bus in the designated parking area and walked through a row of market stalls along a remarkably clean street, which by the way was paved. Apparently it is privately owned and that is why the road is looked after.

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The temple was quite large inside, but very dark. Lots of noise with drums and other instruments making a huge amount of noise.

Back on the bus for the two hour ride to Madurai and the Heritage Hotel. It is a sprawling complex and our room is huge. There is a weddimg in the grounds here tonight, so it should be in full swing when we return from the Meenakshi Temple. We had a nice buffet lunch in the dining room.

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This afternoon we went to the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace that was the home of the Nayakas who made Madurai their capital in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was absolutely massive and is sort of being restored by the government. Unfortunately, contrary to the signs saying don't write on the pillars, people have. It is such a shame.

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Sat down in the palace and attracted a lot of interest from some Indian ladies who wanted to have their photos taken with me and their children. It's funny because we are always wanting to photograph them, but we look just as different to them as they do to us. It was a nice interaction.

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We had early dinner as at 8 pm we were going to the Meenakshi Temple to witness the evening puga ceremony. Our departure time was put back to 8.30 pm and in the meantime, all the guests were arriving for the wedding dressed in beautiful saris. We had to leave before the bride and groom arrived. The bus took us as far as it could and then we transferred to cycle rickshaws to pedal us through the narrow streets to the temple.

This is the temple I have been waiting to see and I was certainly not disappointed, even in the dark. There are five large temples, seven smaller temples and two eastern temples which are gold. We are going back tomorrow morning. It will look even better in the daylight.

We checked in our shoes but Phil got a special dispensation to leave his socks om (because he is a little princess!). Inside the temple is huge. We stood around for about half an hour, waiting for the ceremony to begin. As non Hindus, we had to stand outside and weren't allowed to watch the full ceremony. It is all about preparing Shiva and taking him to Pavarti, for their first night together as a married couple.

With a lot of smoke, fire, drums beating and trumpets blowing, the silver panniken containing Shiva, was carried into the temple, whereupon they proceeded to fan him with smoke for about half an hour to cool him down and prepare him for the marriage chamber. Then they took him away to meet Parvarti, but as non Hindus, we weren't allowed to see that part. My feet are so filthy. I don't think I'll ever get them clean again!

While we were watching the ceremony, a huge cockroach climbed onto Phil's head. I brushed it off his head, into the fire. Because I killed something in a temple, I will probably go to hell when I die now!

We arrived back at the hotel at 11.00 pm only to find that the wedding was over and the bride and groom had left.

Posted by gaddingabout 09:58 Archived in India Comments (0)

Puducherry to Chettinad - Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Very early start today. Up at 5am, bags out and breakfast at 6am and on the bus for the long drive to Chettinad. We drove for four hours through the very fertile region known as the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. Sometimes we were told that there were roadworks up ahead which had closed the road, so we had to take several detours. How anyone can find their way around India is a mystery to me. There don't seem to be many signs or street names and they are always in the local dialect, not English.  Well, after all, we are in India.

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We had lunch at a hotel in Tanjore and it was a buffet. I tasted some very nice dried ochra and carrot which was deep fried. Very nice.

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After lunch we visited the Brihadishvara Temple. It was a huge complex and quite magnificent. Only problem - it was in the middle of the day and quite hot and we had to take our shoes off and literally run across boiling bricks to get into the shade of each temple. How we didn't get blisters on our feet, I'll never know, but we didn't.  The temple was stunning.  It is a world heritage site and is a symbol of the power and might of the Cholas who ruled between the 9th and 13th centuries.

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Then back on the bus for the three hour drive to Chettinad.  Chettinad is actually not a town but a region consisting of 74 villages.  Our accommodation is stunning.  An old mansion, wonderfully restored in the small town of Karaikudi.  Karaikudi is famous for its lavish European style mansions as well as its hot, spicy and non vegetarian cuisine.  No alcohol here.

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Our room is on the second floor and the huge bedroom is four steps up from the bathroom.  We also have the added bonus of a door that opens onto a patio, from which we could walk straight to dinner as we all ate on the terrace last night.

We went for a swim in the pool and then had dinner.  It was a seafood platter but Paula arranged for me to have chicken instead.

The wifi connection here is free and very strong so I was able to catch up on my blogging.

Sent from Samsung tablet

Posted by gaddingabout 19:09 Archived in India Comments (0)

Chettinad - Thursday, 6 February 2014

sunny 33 °C

We both had a good night's sleep and went down for breakfast under the bougainvillea.

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At 8.30 am, I went out the front of the hotel to watch the women preparecrangoli. This traditional art form is created by sprinkling rice powder and colours onto the floor to createca kaleidoscope of patterns. We were happy to watch them work as they are so proficient but as soon as they had done the outline, they asked us to colour it in. We all jumped at the chance. We quickly discovered that it is not as easy as it looks. However, I did the yellow bit, Meryl did the green, Margaret did the orange and Anita did the pink. We tried not to go over the lines and we weren't too bad but after we had finished, the girls redid the white lines. We were all very proud of our achievements.

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Hopped on the bus at 9.30 am for a tour of an old restored mansion, then the fruit and vegetable markets and then to a wood carver's place and a glass tile maker. As we were walking down the street to the mansion, we got caught up in a wedding. They were so excited to see us that they invited us into the wedding. Our group had a group photo with the bride and groom. It was an arranged marriage. He works in Singapore and had come back to India to get married.

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Photos of some of the guests.

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The wedding presents were all very practical.

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It was so chaotic. There were people everywhere. Some down the back of the room were eating, but most were just standing around looking at us and the bride and groom. They don't smile in Indian wedding photos.

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We left the wedding with lots of handshakes and wandered through an old mansion that is owned by the lady who owns our hotel.

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Back on the bus and we were driven to some local fruit and vegetable markets. It is becoming very hot now. The stalls are bright, colourful and fresh and there are people everywhere. They all want to say hello and have their photo taken. We tried some jackfruit which was okay but I didn't really like it. We walked down the fish aisle. OMG! All that fish sitting there in the boiling sun.

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Next we went and watched a wood carver assemble a door. He was working in a hot, dusty shed.

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Then we watched some men and a woman making glass tiles for the floor.

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Back to the hotel for lunch and met some people from Bowral and Bungendore in the foyer. Small world!

We had a traditional lunch

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and then at 3 pm we went on a bullock ride through the streets which caused quite a stir. It was very bumpy. It is so sad to see these magnificent mansions falling into a state of disrepair. Actually come to think if it, everything in India is falling down or grotty. It is such a shame.

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We went to a stick dance performance in the hotel before dinner. The girl was 16 and was a very good dancer.

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Then we had a Chettinad thali served on a banana leaf. It was delicious and I ate the whole meal with my fingers! I'm turning into a local.

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This is how they turn down your bed in Chettinad.

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Posted by gaddingabout 09:44 Archived in India Comments (0)

Puducherry - Tuesday, 4 February 2014

sunny 33 °C

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Sunrise at Pondicherry / Puducherry.

We both had a good night's sleep and joined our group for breakfast.  I have the same breakfast at every hotel and am finding it sustaining and not too fattening.  I have fresh fruit and yoghurt, a sweet lassi, an omelette and a marsala tea. Very nice. 

Met the tour guide and proceeded on a heritage walking tour of Puducherry.

Just outside our hotel was an old man on the footpath, telling fortunes with a parrot.  I said my name and the parrot chose a card for me.  Very clever bird to understand English!  However, the horoscope was - I am the King (which I think means I am the boss or bossy), I am going to live to 85 or 86 (no, no, I want to live to 100), and if I feed a monkey a banana, I will become very rich in a couple of days! I told everyone that I would shout the bar when I became rich, so everyone is trying to find me a monkey to feed!  How funny it all was.

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Visited the Aurobindo Ashram.  Shoes off and no photographs and definitely no talking.  What a shame photos were not allowed as we were met by the loveliest flower gardens at the entrance to the Ashram.  Inside is the grave of the Mother who started the Ashram and it is covered in beautiful flowers that are changed every day. There were a lot of people meditating around the grave and it was a very peaceful and serene place.  We visited the Ashram Museum and saw several photos of the Mother.  What a striking woman she was, in old age - very beautiful and serene.

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We visited the Puducherry Museum, saw the Governor's house and on the other side of the park, the Chief Minister's house.  Strolled along the Promenade and took photos of the Ghandi statue and the Bay of Bengal.  The French influence in this town is hige and it is very pleasant wandering along the leafy streets. We are noticing that it is a very clean town.

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Called into this cafe for a cool drink.  It took ages to come but was lovely sitting in the cool, chatting.   Most of us then went next door and had a very relaxed lunch.  It took ages to come too but we didn't mind.  We are on southern India time and everything happens when it happens!

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Went to the grog shop but it was closed.  It opens at 3.30 pm but we are not going back.  We have our bottle of Bombay Sapphire,  so we are okay!  Catching up on emails etc and then we are going for a swim.

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Had a nice swim in the pool. It is quite small and 5 foot deep, but I couldn't touch the bottom. We then went for a long stroll along the Promenade in the cool, just before sunset. We checked out a couple of cafes, but have decided to eat at the hotel tonight. Then into bed. We have a very early start tomorrow. Bags at 6am, on the bus b y 7am!

View from our room.

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Sent from Samsung tablet

Posted by gaddingabout 03:28 Archived in India Comments (0)

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