A Travellerspoint blog

February 2015

Tanjore - hot and noisy with superb "Big" temple

Not as straight forward for the transport this time - auto rickshaw to bus station, bus to Cuddalore, then a train (from Tirupadripulyar station) to Tanjore and finally auto rickshaw from the railway station to the hotel. Allowing good time for the change at Cuddalore, and with the train arriving an hour late in Tanjore, we finally arrived not far short of 7 hours after we had set off - at four in the afternoon.

The mid-range hotel is well located in the centre - a large room with flat screen satellite TV (which seems to be standard for hotels in the category) and free (good) wifi. The weather has been so hot in the middle of the day that we have needed to come back to the room to cool down and rest - and watch the 2015 World Cup cricket - India won last time in 2011 so the locals are very involved - apparently 1 billion people watched the India v Pakistan game played whilst we were in Chennai.

The town is very busy, very hot and very noisy (the buses have particularly piercing horns which they blast to a maximum, continuously) - but we persevered, found some interesting areas, the locals were friendly, the waiters helpful - and the town has grown on us.

There are two principal sights: - the Royal Palace, which simply is not maintained and could be substantially better if given some attention - the Brihadishwara temple (the Big Temple), a superb temple complex built in tawny coloured granite during the 11 century (which we visited in the late afternoon and in the morning to catch the different effects of the light). This is a UNESCO world heritage site, was substantially restored after 1950 and is beautifully maintained. What was also notable was that we, as non Hindus, could still go everywhere, including into the inner temples (which are normally reserved for Hindus).

The Big Temple was certainly worth the visit to Tanjore alone.

Brihadishwara Temple ("Big Temple"<img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Brihadishwara Temple ("Big Temple";)


Comfortable spacious hotel room

Comfortable spacious hotel room


Train travel 1

Train travel 1


Train travel 2

Train travel 2


Train travel 3

Train travel 3


Indian level crossing

Indian level crossing


Royal Palace 1

Royal Palace 1


Royal Palace 2

Royal Palace 2


Royal Palace 3

Royal Palace 3


Royal Palace 4

Royal Palace 4


Royal Palace 5

Royal Palace 5


Royal Palace bronze statue 1of many on show

Royal Palace bronze statue 1of many on show


Royal Palace bronze statues 2 - 4 of many

Royal Palace bronze statues 2 - 4 of many


Around town 1

Around town 1


"Best coffee in town" - preparation

"Best coffee in town" - preparation


"Best coffee in town" - enjoyment

"Best coffee in town" - enjoyment


Around Town 2

Around Town 2


Around Town 3

Around Town 3


Around Town 4

Around Town 4


Around Town 5

Around Town 5


Around Town - fruit and petal sellers

Around Town - fruit and petal sellers


Around Town - fruit and petal sellers 2

Around Town - fruit and petal sellers 2


Around Town - fruit sellers

Around Town - fruit sellers


Around Town - more fruit sellers

Around Town - more fruit sellers


Town Bus station

Town Bus station


Town Bus station commerce

Town Bus station commerce


Town Bus station commerce 2

Town Bus station commerce 2


Big Temple - Plan at entrance

Big Temple - Plan at entrance


Big Temple - Nayak Gate (entrance)

Big Temple - Nayak Gate (entrance)


Big Temple - Nandi (Shiva'a sacred bull)

Big Temple - Nandi (Shiva'a sacred bull)


Big Temple - Nandi 2

Big Temple - Nandi 2


Big Temple - Nandi 3

Big Temple - Nandi 3


Big Temple - Entrance to an inner temple

Big Temple - Entrance to an inner temple


Big Temple - Entrance to an inner temple 2

Big Temple - Entrance to an inner temple 2


Big Temple - temple compound

Big Temple - temple compound


Big Temple 2

Big Temple 2


Big Temple - Image at main shrine entrance

Big Temple - Image at main shrine entrance


Big Temple - Ganesh at main shrine entrance

Big Temple - Ganesh at main shrine entrance


Big Temple - 3

Big Temple - 3


Big Temple - Lots of linga (in colonnades)

Big Temple - Lots of linga (in colonnades)


Big Temple - Image (in colonnades)

Big Temple - Image (in colonnades)


Big Temple - colonnades

Big Temple - colonnades


Big temple 4

Big temple 4


Big temple 5

Big temple 5


Big temple 6

Big temple 6


Big temple 7

Big temple 7


Big temple 8

Big temple 8

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Pondicherry - Contrasts: French, Tamil, Ashram ...

Lucky again with the transport to Pondy. Took an auto rickshaw to the Mamallapuram bypass after breakfast and the bus arrived a couple of minutes later. Two hours to Pondy bus terminal. The bus was quite busy this time with a driver who was quite relaxed but liked to keep a steady pace, making extensive use of the horn and just overtook anywhere, expecting those coming the other way to pull over and in fact those going the same way had the horn blasted at them until they pulled in too! Looking forward to catching a train! Auto rickshaw to the guest house in the French quarter.

Very nice place, lovely room with small balcony looking out onto the street and trees with squirrels for company. There is a lovely area up on the top floor for breakfast or just relaxing, with a good view out to see. We have not got tired of the spicy food for lunch and dinner yet, but the daily masala omelette and boring white sliced bread and mixed fruit jam we had eaten every day so far was needing a change - so the delicious mixed fresh fruit, muesli and yoghurt breakfast with excellent coffee have been a joy! (Croissants, baguettes, home made jams and fresh fruit juices available too!)

The English owner and the Indian manager were both very helpful and we were given useful handout info. They have free and pretty consistent wifi - useful for getting up to date with the blog!

Pondicherry is actually quite a big city (200k), much like other Indian cities but it does have quieter quarters, in particular the French quarter, with colonial architecture, and plenty of trees to provide shade in the midday sun (30&deg;C).

We spent our time walking round the town, searching out the interesting streets in the French and Tamil quarters as well as the Ashram area, checking out some of the craft shops, the main street downtown, and the busy Goubert market. After some lunch and by mid afternoon we needed a break from the heat and headed back to the guest house for a rest in our room.

From 1800 they close off the promenade road to traffic for the night. It makes a pleasant stroll - enjoyed by large numbers of locals and visitors alike (particularly busy on the Sunday we arrived) - in the light of the setting sun with the breeze off the sea. Then it is time to share a beer before heading off for dinner.

Although Pondy has quite a few options for non Indian eating (steaks, pasta, pizzas ...), we prefer sticking to the local Indian options. The Surguru restaurant on Mission street was our (almost) exclusive choice - lots of choice, the food is tasty, and the place is popular with the tourists as well as the locals.

We certainly enjoyed the 3 days in Pondy, and particularly the guest house and surrounding quartier, but there are no special sights in town, and we did not fancy going out to Auroville to see the community out there and, not being into Ashram culture etc, that was long enough for us.

Pondicherry - seafront early evening

Pondicherry - seafront early evening


L'Escale Guest House

L'Escale Guest House


L'Escale Guest House 2

L'Escale Guest House 2


L'Escale Guest House - room with glimpse out to ba

L'Escale Guest House - room with glimpse out to ba


L'Escale Guest House view from room

L'Escale Guest House view from room


L'Escale Guest House welcome motif

L'Escale Guest House welcome motif


L'Escale Guest House breakfast on the roof

L'Escale Guest House breakfast on the roof


L'Escale GH bkfast fresh fruit, muesli, curd

L'Escale GH bkfast fresh fruit, muesli, curd


L'Escale Guest House view from roof

L'Escale Guest House view from roof


French quarter

French quarter


French quarter 2

French quarter 2


French quarter 3

French quarter 3


My new car (still lots of these around in India)

My new car (still lots of these around in India)


French quarter (  new car again!)

French quarter (+ new car again!)


Shady street

Shady street


Bicycle rickshaw - not many around these days

Bicycle rickshaw - not many around these days


Street signs

Street signs


Sunday entertainment Gandhi in clay

Sunday entertainment Gandhi in clay


Notre Dame des Anges

Notre Dame des Anges


Pondicherry seafront early evening 2

Pondicherry seafront early evening 2


Pondicherry seafront early evening 3

Pondicherry seafront early evening 3


Pondicherry seafront early evening 4

Pondicherry seafront early evening 4


Pondicherry seafront early evening 5

Pondicherry seafront early evening 5


Immaculate Conception Cathedral

Immaculate Conception Cathedral


Downtown

Downtown


Downtown 2

Downtown 2


Street scene near temple

Street scene near temple


Lovely Tailors and surroundings

Lovely Tailors and surroundings


Tamil quarter 1

Tamil quarter 1


Tamil quarter 2

Tamil quarter 2


Tamil quarter 3

Tamil quarter 3


Tamil quarter 4

Tamil quarter 4


Sri Aurobindi Ashram

Sri Aurobindi Ashram


Ashram Bhavan

Ashram Bhavan


Goubert Market

Goubert Market


Market vegs

Market vegs


Market petals

Market petals


Market petals 2

Market petals 2


Market petals production

Market petals production


Market petals products

Market petals products


Pondicherry Station - making a reservation!

Pondicherry Station - making a reservation!


Goggle doesn't have all the answers

Goggle doesn't have all the answers

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mamallapuram - temples, seaside and relaxation

Took an auto rickshaw to the large CMBT bus station (10 km, 45 minutes) and we're straight on the bus to Mamallapuram at 0900. It's 2 hours for the 65km journey (most of which is in the horrendous traffic of the Chennai suburbs which go on interminably). Very happy with the accommodation choice we had made - right in the centre of town, large comfortable room, leafy courtyard, balcony overlooking a lovely large pool - just right for a few days relaxation - in fact, decided to extend stay to 4 days.

Mamallapuram is a large village by the sea with characterful 6th and 7th century temples dotted around the landscape. We spent our time walking around these, relaxing by the pool and watching the scene down at the beach in the late afternoon - the masses down by the shore temples and the fishermen setting out for the night - followed by a Kingfisher beer at a resto overlooking the beach! Pleasant.

There's quite a traveller's enclave built up in the Fishermen's Colony area with loads of shops and restaurants catering to them. So, there's plenty of non Indian food for those that want it. After having an average fishy meal at our hotel the first night we reverted back to the veggie restaurants we came across in the middle of town (Marmalla Bhavan and Sri Anand Bhavan)- far cheaper and tastier (most plates 1 euro or under). Marmalla Bhavan is the first place we have eaten off banana leaves this trip.

Really relaxed and enjoyed Mamallapuram.

Mamallapuram Shore Temples

Mamallapuram Shore Temples


Bus from Chennai and traffic!

Bus from Chennai and traffic!


Bus from Chennai - tout confort!

Bus from Chennai - tout confort!


Hotel Mahabs - our room

Hotel Mahabs - our room


Hotel Mahabs - view from balcony

Hotel Mahabs - view from balcony


Hotel Mahabs - enjoying the pool

Hotel Mahabs - enjoying the pool


Hotel Mahabs - breakfast by the pool

Hotel Mahabs - breakfast by the pool


Village centre - by bus stand

Village centre - by bus stand


Five Rathas - all made out of one very large rock

Five Rathas - all made out of one very large rock


Five Rathas 2

Five Rathas 2


Five Rathas 3

Five Rathas 3


Five Rathas 4

Five Rathas 4


Carvings shop -debating which statue to take home!

Carvings shop -debating which statue to take home!


Temple on Mamallapuram hill - Photo opportunity

Temple on Mamallapuram hill - Photo opportunity


Lighthouse on Mamallapuram hill

Lighthouse on Mamallapuram hill


Cave temple on Mamallapuram hill

Cave temple on Mamallapuram hill


Temple by Marmallapuram hill

Temple by Marmallapuram hill


Krishna's Butterball!

Krishna's Butterball!


Mamallapuram hill - local fashion

Mamallapuram hill - local fashion


Mamallapuram hill  - rock reliefs

Mamallapuram hill - rock reliefs


Beach scene by Shore Temples 1

Beach scene by Shore Temples 1


Beach scene by Shore Temples 2

Beach scene by Shore Temples 2


Beach scene by Shore Temples - tug of war

Beach scene by Shore Temples - tug of war


Beach scene by Shore Temples -Tug of war 2

Beach scene by Shore Temples -Tug of war 2


Beach scene by Shore Temples - Ladies in water

Beach scene by Shore Temples - Ladies in water


Beach scene by Shore Temples 2

Beach scene by Shore Temples 2


Mamallapuram Shore Temples 2

Mamallapuram Shore Temples 2


Mamallapuram Shore Temples 3

Mamallapuram Shore Temples 3


Mamallapuram Shore Temples 4

Mamallapuram Shore Temples 4


Mamallapuram Shore Temples from fishermen's beach

Mamallapuram Shore Temples from fishermen's beach


Fishermens Beach 1

Fishermens Beach 1


Fishermens Beach 2

Fishermens Beach 2


Fishermens Beach 3

Fishermens Beach 3


Fishermens Beach - getting ready to head off for n

Fishermens Beach - getting ready to head off for n


Beer with sea view 1

Beer with sea view 1


Beer with sea view 2

Beer with sea view 2


Marmalla Bhavan

Marmalla Bhavan


Eating a south Indian meal (at Marmalla Bhavan)

Eating a south Indian meal (at Marmalla Bhavan)


What is life?! (Sri Ananda Bhavan)

What is life?! (Sri Ananda Bhavan)

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Chennai - A "full on" intro to Southern India

Flying Emirates from Nice to Chennai with around 3 hours in Dubai (around the middle of the night) was quite a comfortable way to get to India. A typical western meal on the Nice Dubai leg, with probably our last taste of wine for two and a half months, was followed on the Dubai Chennai leg by a breakfast at about 0600 in the morning with Mushroom and Chickpea Masala or Keema Mutter to get us into the spicy food we will be having. We expected lots of formalities on entry to India and there were forms for Ebola check (and body temperature checks), customs declaration and entry forms to complete but it passed relatively calmly and our arrival at the baggage hall coincided with that of our rucksacks. The main problem was finding an ATM to get some rupees. At last, one was found but with 10000 rupees limit. That's around &pound;100 - We don't like to think about euros (10000 rupees is more like 135 euros) at the moment! The last time we flew into India (Delhi) we were victims of a taxi scam from the airport - instead of taking you to the hotel you requested the driver takes you to some sort of travel shop in the middle of nowhere saying he does not know where your hotel is and you end up being obliged to stay somewhere they suggest for the first night until you get your bearings. We were determined this would not happen this time! Probably the same does not happen in Chennai, but we found out that there is a suburban train into town if you walk out of the airport and across the main road. It's around 40 minutes for just 5 rupees each! Checked into hotel around 2 hours after landing which was as good as we could hope for. Decent room, 3rd (top) floor which was handy to reduce the noise from the trains passing by directly below (although the whole building shakes with each passing train which unfortunately is rather regular - at least the noisy aircon manages to dull it down a little!). Big screen TV with lots of channels - handy during our stay for watching the cricket world cup and BBC World. (Check out the photo of the lovely view out the window!) Time for a few hours sleep! Chennai day 1 Took a late afternoon walk along from the hotel (in a fairly non-descript area) to the Egmore Railway Station area (the station is beautiful architecture with an excellent local veggie restaurant nearby). This was a good way to get us back into the flavour of things in India - pavements in dangerous condition and often blocked by all manner of obstructions (sleeping bodies lying across the pavement, shop goods, cows ...), so necessary to walk on the roadside with everyone else AND all the chaotic traffic (horns blasting all the time), and often, with the overriding smell of urine (not helped by 30&deg;C+ temperatures). By now we are used to all this and just appreciate all the positives - which are easier to see/photo than describe! After a look at the station and a walk round the surrounding streets we were ready to pop into the local Saravana Bhavan restaurant and have our favourite Indian snack - Masala Dosa - delicious. Welcome to India!! Back to hotel, aperitif (bottle of beer from liquor shop next door), and meal at hotel, as it was the first night.

Chennai day 2 Chennai is not rich in specific sights. We spent all day down town in the Georgetown area with a quick detour to the Fort (not really worth bothering with). Caught the local train (along with a few locals) - and wandered the narrow streets - each different street with a different trade - electrical, tools, bathroom fittings, shoes - but the most interesting (and busiest) were the streets with the vegetable shops/stalls - and the beautiful Indian fabric and jewellery shops, full of local women in colourful local dress. In total a heaving mass which assaulted all the senses - people, motorbikes, tuktuks, bicycle rickshaws, taxis, small vans, cows - the noise, the colours, the smells ...

Chennai day 3 We took another suburban train (yet again) to get to Marina Beach which, being a Tuesday morning was quiet. It is 7km long and we probably walked half of it's length. Nice and breezy for a walk but not for sunbathing or swim. The locals obviously bathe at the weekend - five had apparently drowned at this beach on the previous Sunday! Walking south its best to call it a day at the lighthouse! We carried on further thinking we could carry on our circuit to the St Thomas church in the Mylapore neighbourhood (which looked easy on the map). We got to an area with loads of fishing boats and it looked pretty but we realised that the quality of the beach had rapidly deteriorated (we had to be careful where we stepped!) and the walk across the beach back up to the road through the semi shanty town we found behind the boats was not relaxed! There was no way through to the place we wanted to go to so we hailed a passing auto rickshaw to get out us of the area. Looked round the cathedral, and then a pleasant walk down a quieter road to the top sight in Chennai - the Kapaleeshwarar temple, beautiful and tranquil (although busy with locals) when resting in the shady spots around the complex, very hot on the bare feet in the sunny parts! . Eating in Chennai Apart from the 'included' breakfast and one evening meal at the hotel, every other meal was at one of the Saravana Bhavan chain of vegetarian restaurants. There are 33 in Chennai (as well as others all around the world - there's 7 in the UK and even one in France (Paris Gard du Nord)). The southern Indian version of a 'meal' (Thali) is around 100 rupees and the snacks (for lunch) like a Masala Dosa are less. You have to like eating spicy food ALL the time - even the breakfasts consisted of a variety of curries and/or omelettes (with onions and chili mixed in, of course!).

Chennai was a great way to start our journey - but certainly not relaxed. The hotel room was a pleasant place to return at the end of each hard day. The locals were friendly and not pushy (as they can be in other parts). We saw only about 20 non Indians in 3 days! Time for a few days R and R in Mamallapuram.

Georgetown -  NCS Boze Road 1

Georgetown - NCS Boze Road 1


Suburban train from airport 1

Suburban train from airport 1


Suburban train from airport 2

Suburban train from airport 2


Egmore Railway Station

Egmore Railway Station


Egmore Railway Station Entrance Hall

Egmore Railway Station Entrance Hall


Egmore Railway Station 2

Egmore Railway Station 2


MTC bus

MTC bus


Georgetown -  NCS Boze Road 2

Georgetown - NCS Boze Road 2


NCS Bose Road 3

NCS Bose Road 3


Auto rickshaws by Fort station

Auto rickshaws by Fort station


Georgetown - Selling grapes

Georgetown - Selling grapes


Georgetown street scene 1

Georgetown street scene 1


Georgetown - street scene 2

Georgetown - street scene 2


After you ...

After you ...


Georgetown street scene 3

Georgetown street scene 3


Georgetown - veg market

Georgetown - veg market


Georgetown - veg market 2

Georgetown - veg market 2


Local fashion

Local fashion


Local fashion 1

Local fashion 1


Local fashion 3

Local fashion 3


Georgetown - Mint Road

Georgetown - Mint Road


Mint Road foodseller

Mint Road foodseller


Mint Road sugar cane drink seller

Mint Road sugar cane drink seller


Mint Road 4

Mint Road 4


Mint Road 2

Mint Road 2


Mint Road 5

Mint Road 5


Georgetown hardware shop

Georgetown hardware shop


Local fashion 4

Local fashion 4


Marina Beach 1

Marina Beach 1


Marina Beach 3

Marina Beach 3


Marina Beach 2

Marina Beach 2


off Marina Beach

off Marina Beach


St Thomas Cathedral

St Thomas Cathedral


Temple from other side of tank

Temple from other side of tank


Kapaleeshwarar Temple 1

Kapaleeshwarar Temple 1


Kapaleeshwarar Temple 6

Kapaleeshwarar Temple 6


Kapaleeshwarar Temple 5

Kapaleeshwarar Temple 5


Local fashion 5

Local fashion 5


Kapaleeshwarar Temple 6

Kapaleeshwarar Temple 6


Kapaleeshwarar Temple 2

Kapaleeshwarar Temple 2


Kapaleeshwarar Temple 4

Kapaleeshwarar Temple 4


Kapaleeshwarar Temple 3

Kapaleeshwarar Temple 3


Not a pleasant place to live

Not a pleasant place to live


Not a pleasant spot to live

Not a pleasant spot to live


View from hotel room!

View from hotel room!


Wide screen TV in hotel room - BBC World weather

Wide screen TV in hotel room - BBC World weather


Saravana Bhavan

Saravana Bhavan


Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa


South Indian "Limited Meal" (Thali)

South Indian "Limited Meal" (Thali)

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

BELOW = A & L GO EAST 2009

The following entries are for our A & L Go East Trip between February and June 2009. They were originally on the Travelpod blog site and have been imported to Travellers

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Posted by Lindseyalan73 08:27 Comments (0)