A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5 - Madurai

overcast 28 °C
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Out at first light this morning as there is a full day of sights to see. Just coffee for breakfast and we are out the door.

First walk through the streets on the way to the Meenashki Temple and the firsts thing you notice is that Madurai is so much cleaner than Chennai and I am guessing it is the smaller populations which makes waste easier to control.

The streets are already a buzz early and upon arrival at the Meenashki Temple we are greeted by the four carved, colourful pillars of the outer wall of the temple. They are taller than I expected after seeing pictures and the extravagant carved figures have been done with perfect details. stupidly we didn't wear long pants for a temple visit but one of the shop owners invites us in and says he has cloth which he lends to tourists for the temple visit. Going inside the inner wall has smaller towers similar to the outer wall and the inside is a mix of painted ceiling and golden figures.

We are invited up to the rooftop of one of the carpet stalls to take pictures from upstairs and it was refreshing not to be asked to buy something. Everyone in Madurai has been so friendly.

From here we walk down to Vilakkuthoon (Lampost) constructed in memory of a British Collected that contributed to the expansion of Madurai. Interesting for a historical perspective but the lamp post is not that impressive.

Our next stop is the the Thirumalai Nayak Palace. The palace is very colonial and has hundreds of white columns which have been scribbled over with various messages. The painted ceilings are beautifully maintained but there are so many pigeons and with pigeons comes pigeon poo. The place is covered and seems to be building up faster than the poor lady can sweep it away.

Following our visit the palace we head to the Saint Mary's Church. I must say I am not a fan of the White wash paint and blue trip but I can see its fresh appeal.

Next on the agenda, the Teppakalum which is a island pavilion and garden and we are sad that we will be missing the Float Festival which is held here in February. Even so the place is beautiful and is nice to just stop and relax here as he walk seemed to take forever.

Our final stop of the day is to the Ghandi Museum. It's very interesting to read about the many wars dating back through the 1700's which make up such a large part of India's history including the effect and aftermath of the British Invasion.

Following a short rest after 13kms of walking we get a taxi back to the hotel and head to the rooftop for some much needed beer. Spending the rest of the night we snack on stuffed parathas, samaosas, dosa's (paneer and potato) and mixed vegetable bhaji.

We figure we have gone a little hard on the beer, as the staff seems to be having a discussion to see how many we will drink (since hey not cleared any of the bottles off our table). In the end it's a great evening and feels nice not to be cooped up in a rooms, bus or equivalent.

Posted by lee_1986 11:21 Archived in India Tagged food beer temple india madurai Comments (0)

Day 4 - Chennai to Madurai

sunny 32 °C
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So leaving Chennai for Madurai today and it hasn't been an easy task to say the least. First, NO TRAINS. I know who would have thought but there are no seats going to Madurai. Second, the hotel manager tells us to book bus tickets online and gives us a website - get to the end to pay... International Credit Cards are not accepted. After this we opt to have to tickets delivered to the hotel and our manager receives a confirmation call. That brings us to this morning ... Tickets have not arrived. So now we are heading to the bus station to see if we can get tickets at the bus depot.

There are so many buses to choose from and from looking online there is a decent seated bus that leaves at 1:00pm. So upon arrival things do not go quite to plan apparently a bus leaves at 12:30 and arrives half an hour earlier. Next thing we know it's 1:30 and the bus we should have got on left bang on time.

Glad to be leaving Chennai finally.

The bus ride in interesting in the sleeper bunk. Quite cramped and with bad air conditioning but we did managed to save a lot of money. However 9 hours is to long for anyone to spend in a box.

Arriving in Madurai, it is nice an cool. Out hotel (Hotel Supreme), has a rooftop bar with the perfect view of the Meenashki Temple which we be visiting tomorrow.

Even though it's late we are able to order dinner and get a couple of Dosa's, Samaosas and some Beers. Following a long day of travel we head back to the room.

The room is quite nice, but there is one minor *urgh* there is a full family of cockroaches in the bathroom. We will be hunting for the mother tomorrow and there are too many babies to kill. Anyway it seems comfortable enough but it's all worth it to have a rooftop bar.

Posted by lee_1986 11:16 Archived in India Tagged madurai sleeper chennai bustrip Comments (1)

Day 3 - Chennai (side trip to Mammallapuram and Pondicherry)

sunny 29 °C
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Happy Australia Day and Happy Independance Day India!

Out the door at 7:00 today to leave for our day trip to Mammallapuram and Pondicherry.

The drive to Mammallapuram is quite scenic along the coast and about an hour south of Chennai. We drive past pastures, rice fields, small towns and huge apartment complexes under development, all in stark contrast between old and new.

Arriving in Mammallapuram we start at the archeological site of Krishners Butterball which is a ginormous rock formation (shaped like a football) sitting on a rock hill. We take the mandatory holding it up and pushing it down photos and explore the areas other carvings, temples, rock sculptures and formations. Next stop is the five rathas. Each of the 5 or Pancha Rathas symbolises a chariot and are all 5 are carved out of a single piece of granite. To give context they are all at least 4 metres high and span across at leave 40 metres.

From here we drive down to Pondicherry which was once owned by the Portugese and now has a huge French expat population. Pondicherry is amazing - it's quaint and beautiful. It is reminiscent of a quiet European street, cobbled pathways, pastel buildings wrought iron gates. Spending hours walking around admiring the atmosphere is nice and relaxing. We stop for lunch at an Indian/French fusion restaurant and the first place we have found beer. I have a Sole Fish with mustard and masala sauce and paneer pakoras. Everything is delicious and a few beers to wash it down doesn't go astray.

From here was stop at Auroville, which we weren't sure what it was but it does feel like a sort of 'commune''spiritual place' the have a medicinal garden and there were lots of people hugging trees so not my sort of place. We do not stay very long as things seemed a little on the nose.

After departing, we spend a long three hour trip back to Chennai. We was around the street near the hotel and find some interesting sweet to try, but after a long day we head back for some much needed rest.

Posted by lee_1986 12:09 Archived in India Tagged india pondicherry chennai madras mammallapuram Comments (2)

Day 2 - Chennai

sunny 32 °C
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Up early at 6:30 today, even before the hotel staff, we set out prior to breakfast to explore the neighbourhood. The Royapettah region of Chennai is a little away from he main drag and about 2km from Marina Beach. This section is more residential than anything and the streets are lined with beautiful trees, cows and not so beautiful rubbish. A Little nervous as after walking around for an hour we cannot find away looks like a single restaurant and in addition we are one of only 2 hotels we walk by.

After the walk we head back to the hotel for what we are told is a southern Indian Breakfast which consist of a light onion omelet, toast with butter and jam and fruit platter.

Following breakfast we arrange for our day trip to Mammallapuram and Pondicherry tomorrow and our transportation to Madurai in a couple of days time.

After some intense bus booking which was difficult as they do not accept overseas credit cards we set our sights on heading to a Marina Beach. After a dangerous half an hour walk with constant traffic and animal hazards to avoid we read the beach. Marina Beach is not what I had expected. The beach is flat, no dunes and extends about 1km before you reach the water. The shearer amount of vendors selling wares food and drinks is immense. We aren't hassled to much and and we make good progress down the strip to see the University of Madras, which is a lovely terracotta coloured campus which makes note to Queen Victoria as one of its contributors.

Further down the beach, Chennai has its very own Coastal Pool complex, which is under consideration in Scarborough, Perth but interesting to see similar developments in unexpected City's.

From the Marina Beach we take a 3km walk to St Georges fort which is still used by the government as an administration complex. The old fort has been developed into a museum featuring garments, coins, flags, weapons from the British occupation of India and the many wars Indian troops have been part of over the years. It is both interesting and shocking all at the same time. My must recommend exhibit of the fort is the oil painting portrait gallery, which has amazing painting of Queen Victoria and many of the generals which presided over the Indian States/providences. The painting are amazing and so detailed.

Following the visit to the Fort St George, we leisurely walk back to Marina beach and walk through some of the back streets where you really can see the thatched housing with bed sheets used as roofing, and corrugated iron for walls. The people here are so welcoming and all the kids want shake hands and say hello. We are followed down the road for a while and the hit the Main Street in the Mylapore District which to my astonishment was even busier than the beach boulevard.

After waking its length we stop in at a supermarket to pick up some water and snacks and then head back to the hotel. Still full from breakfast we snack on some masala peanuts and hit the hay.

Posted by lee_1986 12:07 Archived in India Tagged marina beach india fort chennai madras Comments (0)

Day 1 - Perth to Chennai (via Kuala Lumpur)

semi-overcast 30 °C
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Departing Perth Early today arrive at the airport for our flight to India via Kuala Lumpur. Anticipation of an amazing Indian adventure awaits. This is the least prepared for a trip I have ever been but that will leave a lot of room for spur of the moment travelling.

The flight to Kuala Lumpur is uneventful aside from the standard turbulence. A four hour stop over gives us enough time to knock down an Thai chicken salad and coffee and then walk to the next leg of the journey... To Chennai.

Arriving at 5pm the weather is quite humid but a quick stop at the taxi rank and we are on our way to the first of our accommodation stops the Springhaven City Centre - Chennai. We spend 2 hours in the taxi as we are all having trouble finding the hotel which is a little out of the way. Finally arriving around 8:30 we order dinner at the hotel, Vegetable Biryani and Paneer Parathas. The quantity is huge and I am having a hard time polishing it off, and the parathas just keep on coming. The meal (for two serves) sets us back only $5AUD including the drinks and we are full and ready to sleep.'the room is sparsely furnished and beds a little hard but in general is really quite nice.

Looking forward to our first day really exploring Chennai tomorrow.

Posted by lee_1986 12:03 Archived in India Tagged india kuala lumpur chennai Comments (0)

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