A Travellerspoint blog

Mamallapuram to Puducherry - Monday, 3 February 2014

Left at 9am and visited a world Heritage site built in the 7th century by the Pallava kings.  Rock caves, monolithic shrines and temples which are considered the finest example of Pallava art.  It really was a fabulous site and very interesting. 

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This is how they used to split the rocks in ancient times.

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Then we visited the Shore temple which is perched on a promontory by the sea and is the last of seven temples left standing, due to wind and sea erosion.  Luckily the tsunami of 2004 missed the temple completely.

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While we were at the temple, Eugine had arranged a sea food platter for our lunch at a local restaurant call Moonraker.  The photos tell it all.  I had some veges as I am not a great lover of sea food.

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Then back on the bus for the two hour ride to the seaside town of Puducherry (Pondicherry), the former capital of the French terrorities in India, established in 1674.  Our hotel, The Promenade, is right on the water fromt but has really seen better days.  Very disappointing after our hotel in Mamallapuran.  No one was happy with their rooms and we all changed. We now have a room at the front of the hotel overlooking the ocean.  With a big bit of "tlc", this hotel could be very quaint and atmospheric.  Had a drink in the courtyard with Malcolm and Fiona from Melbourne, and then walked with them to a bottle shop where they bought a couple of bottles of red wine.  It is very pleasant out walking with a nice cooling breeze blowing.

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Had a group dinner in the hotel dining room which was very nice.  Lots to choose from.  Paula, our tour guide, shouted everyone a pre dinner cocktail on Scenic, because of the disappointing rooms.

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Trying to catch up on my blogging.

Sent from Samsung tablet

Posted by gaddingabout 02:48 Archived in India Comments (0)

Chennai to Mamallapuram - Sunday, 2 February 2014

Late start today, 9.30 am on the bus.  First we visited the Fort St George.  No cameras allowed inside. We saw a statue of some British person,  and wandered around the museum, looking at paintings, coins and medals and uniforms.  Not very interesting.

Then we called into St Thomas' Catholic Church and as it was Sunday, there was a service going on.  The huge church was full so we tiptoed in up the sides and stood there for a while.  The priest was speaking in a local language so we couldn't understand a thing he was saying, then all of a sudden the power went off and proceedings came to a halt. We all then walked out, and almost immediately the power came back on and the service recommenced.  One of our group said that the power goes off all the time but I think they did it purposely so we would leave because the lights in the church went off one by one not just in one bang.  Then shoes off and we went into St Thomas' Chapel.  St Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, came to India in AD 52, died as a martyr in AD72 and was buried at Mylapore, San Thome, Chennai. The Basilica is built over the tomb of St Thomas. There is an icon on the wall that contains his hand bone.

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We then went to the Annalakshmi restaurant for lunch at Mahalakshmi Preeti Bhojan. It was great. It was a vegetarian restaurant and the cooking was done totally by volunteers. I'm not actually sure how that works but seems to work so well. I mean, what if no volunteers turned up to cook then there would be no food.  It is a very popular restaurant and our food was served in small bowls.  It was all so delicious and I was enjoying it so much, I forgot to take a photo until the end.

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The menu - soup of the day, curry lentil soup, paratha/poori (Indian breads), Dal, North Indian Sabji, Pulao, Salad, Raitha, Sambar / Rasam, Kootu, South Indian Curry, South Indian Rice variety, Kuzhambhu, Curd Rice. All yummy.  Desserts - sweet vermicelli almond milk and ice cream.  Totally new to us but totally enjoyable.

This is a photo of Phil chewing a beetle nut leaf with some sort of filling, after lunch. It had a very wierd taste.

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it was a very tight squeeze for our bus to get out of the carpark.

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Travelled on to Kanchipuram and visited the 7th century Ekambareshvara temple.  The group split in two and half went to the temple, while the other half visited a local weaver to watch him weave a silk sari.  It was a lovely temple.

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The mother of this boy asked if I would have my photo taken with him.  He was two and a half and was wearing a three piece suit, with a collar and a tie AND bare feet. He wasn't too sure about me and after a little while, burst into tears and screamed.  The photo tells it all.

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Then it was our turn to visit the weaver.  While walking to his house, we saw a lady making patterns in front of her house with rice flour, so we stopped and watched her for a while. She was very quick and accurate.

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We watched the weaver for a little while.  We had to take our shoes off, not sure why but there was not much to see, just a guy working a hand loom.

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 Probably our time would have been better spent all visiting the temple together and then heading off for Mamallapuram a bit earlier.  As it was, we didn't arrive at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay, Mamallapuram until 8 pm, in the dark.  We met at 8.30 pm after a very long day of heat and driving, with the last three hours in the dark, to attend our Scenic Free Choice Dining at The Wharf Restaurant. 

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This resort is absolutely huge and stunning.  Our room is so big that I get tired walking from one end to the other.  It is such a shame that we arrived so late and that we are only spending one night here.  

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Our dinner was in a very rustic style fishing villiage type restaurant right on the beach of the Bay of Bengal.  We could see and hear the waves crashing on the shore and there was quite a gusty sea breeze blowing.  Again we had a very interesting meal with small portions served to us. Into bed by midnight with an early rise tomorrow as we are leaving this stunning place for Pondicherry.

What a shame we aren't staying longer.

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Posted by gaddingabout 09:22 Archived in India Comments (0)

Chennai - Saturday, 1 February 2014

sunny 31 °C

Had a great sleep and leisurely made our way down to breakfast.

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Had fruit and an omelette and a drink of lassi and some Marsala tea. Chatted to a couple of guys at breakfast who live in London, but one was Argentinan and the other was Sri Lankan. They had been travelling around north west India for a few weeks and Len, the Sri Lankan had ended up in hospital for four days with a tummy bug. Yipes! It was a good reminder to us to be careful. Last night, I forgot where I was and cleaned my teeth under tap water. Won't do that again!

Wandered around the grounds and took some photos. It is a very nice hotel. The weather is warmish, about 30 degrees and a bit humid, but it's not too bad. Phil is feeling it, but what's new? Group meeting at 2.00 pm.

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We were supposed to meet the tour director, Paula at 2.00pm today,  but there was no one to be seen at the designated meeting place.  We checked with reception and they told us that the group was running late and just then Paula was on the phone and told us to meet at 3.30 pm in the foyer for our tour of the Chennai markets.  We made contact with Fiona and Malcolm, another couple who were already in the hotel and as we were chatting in their room, Paula arrived and told us to meet at 3.15 pm for our tour.

The group consists of a family of nine, celebrating the mother's 80th birthday, one couple from Melbourne, one couple from Toowoomba, one couple from Bemboka and female cousins from Sydney. They have all been travelling in the north on different trips.  One group with Paula and one with Clare.

We headed off in a very nice bus to visit the Chennai food markets.  It is so nice to be back in the hustle and bustle of India.

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We transferred to motorised rickshaws and weaved in and out of the traffic until we got to the markets.

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 Our first port of call was an Armenian Church which is quite unusual in India.  The Armenians arrived in India in the 1600s, trading in spices and pepper.  Today, the Armenian population of Chennai is nil.

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This man started the first printing press in Armenian.

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Our group divided into two and we wandered through the markets, tasting as we went.  Sundria was our guide.

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She was very knowledgeable and told us heaps about all the different vegetables and their medicinal qualities.  She is getting married on 12 February and it is a love match not an arranged marriage. We are breaking all our rules.  We would never normally eat things in markets but we tasted tamerind, jaggery, citrus tasting leaves, ghee and smelt snuff.  I started to sneeze as all these different smells and the dust stirred up my rhinitis.  It was a very interesting afternoon, learning about all the different vegetables on offer.  But the key thing is that every thing is fresh.  People shop every day for their vegetables.  The shop keepers have been here for many generations.  And as usual, rubbish lying everywhere, but no smell.

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Our group attracted a lot of attention as we were the only Europeans in the market.

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 One man was hanging around Phil a lot and Phil asked our guide how to say "I don't have any money", as he thought the man was after some money.  He went away and next thing he was back with some money for Phil! How special was that.  He looked like he didn't have a penny to bless himself with, yet he found some to give to Phil.  That's India for you!

Phil gave this guy a gold kangaroo.  He was in charge of organising our auto rickshaws and felt very important with this responsibility.

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We all met at 7.30 pm for our Welcome Dinner in the Rain Tree Restaurant.  It was very nice.  All the ladies were given a bracelet of fresh Jasmine flowers.  The perfume was lovely.  We had lots of different south Indian delicacies served to us, some a bit wierd, but on the whole it was very nice.  Paula has requested it not to be too hot and it wasn't,  though some things were quite spicy.  Beer and soft drinks were provided and I had a couple of beers which had a cooling effect on my mouth.  They served yoghurt at the end of the meal which would have been better during the meal but all in all it was a nice evening with good food and nice company. 

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There are mosquitoes EVERYWHERE.  This is the first trip where we haven't taken Malaria medication. On other trips when we were taking Malaria medication, we didn't see one mosquito, and of course, now that we are not taking it, they are everywhere!  That's Murphy's Law for us!

We are learning a totally new language in the south. I didn't have much trouble understanding the people in the north, but southerners speak a lot faster. And there is a lot of head wagginv down here too.  We don't say "namaste" anymore. We say "vannakum" for hello. Thankyou up north was "tannebar", but now it is "nandri". We have yet to learn how to say good morning and good evening, hello will have to suffice for the moment.

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Posted by gaddingabout 07:53 Archived in India Comments (0)

Singapore to Chennai - Friday, 31 January 2014

Kun Xi Fat Choi - Happy New Year!!

We were woken at midnight last night with loud banging - duh! Fireworks to welcome the New Year. They were rigbt in front of our window so we had a spectacular view. Of course the photos don't do them justice, but I'm sure you get the idea.

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The first sunrise of the New Year featuring the Marina Bay Hotel.

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Sitting in the lovely Silver Kris Lounge at Changi Airport, Singapore, waiting for our flight to Chennai, sipping a G&T! Getting into holiday mode, big time!

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The flight to Chennai took about 4 hours on a Silk Air Flight. There were no movies available but I slept all the way. Probably had something to do with the G&T beforehand! We were met at Chennai airport by Eugine, our Indian guide and a driver and then travelled for an hour to our hotel, the Vivanta by Taj. It is a lovely old colonial hotel and reminds us a lot of the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi. We were given some flower leis on arrival at the airport. We are the first of our group of 19 to arrive. They are all arriving at lunchtime tomorrow. I am very glad we arrived a day early. It has given us time to relax, and settle in properly and spend some time in this lovely hotel. On these trips sometimes you don't get much time to enjoy the surrounds.

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Jana, a girl from Latvia, gave us a guided tour of the hotel. We are in Room 230, in the original old section. We went for a swim before dinner, had a nice dinner at The Verandah and then into bed and asleep by 9.30 pm. Are we getting old or what? The pillows are so soft and divine.

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Posted by gaddingabout 22:11 Archived in India Comments (0)

Singapore - Thursday, 30 January 2014

overcast 30 °C

Had a good night's sleep and wandered down for a leisurely breakfast at about 9.30 am.

The view from our room.

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Wandered over to the shopping centre to try to find a jeweller to replace a couple of small diamonds in my ring. They are all telling us to go to China Town, so we did. Most of the shops are shut or starting to shut in preparation for Chinese New Year celebrations tonight. We found a very nice jeweller, who gave us a very reasonable quote to fix my ring, so we will give it to him on our return to Singapore from India in three weeks. All the shops will be shut for a couple of days.

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M
These people are reading their horoscopes for The upcomimg Year of the Horse.

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As we are going to Big India tomorrow, we decided to visit Little India in Singapore today, especially the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. We hopped on a bus and rode a few kilometres until we arrived at the Temple. $2.20 for the ride was pretty good value. Walking through the streets of little India, we were met with the lovely spicy and curry smells of India. Brought back nice memories of our trip there last year.

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Walking through Little India, we came across this lovely old building.

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Back to a coffee shop at the front of our hotel for a quick lunch.

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then check out the pool and we are now going for a swim.

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Our hotel, the Peninsula Excelsior Towers, from pool side.

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The pool was freezing, so I only stayed in for a little while. Phil stayed in longer and was chatting to a lady from Sweden who was holidaying here for 10 days, away from the snow and ice of winter in Sweden.

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St Andrew's Anglican Cathedral, constructed in 1862 and made of chunam which is a paste of shell, lime, egg whites, and coarse sugar mixed with boiled coconut husks. The recipe was imported by the British and applied by Indian convict labourers.

Ordered room service for dinner - satays, laksa and a nice salad. Into bed early - flying to Chennai tomorrow. Very excited!

Posted by gaddingabout 05:19 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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