Exploring Tamil Nadu

Farewell to the Bangala Hotel. We loved it. But more adventures await.

On the road in our little van we had Mr Speedy with the nice hair as our driver. He took us yesterday and we found he was very ‘hair proud’. Every time we stopped he coiffed his hair!

The drive to Madurai was once again incident free. Quieter roads and plenty to see.

Madurai is big compared to our last few stops. Big, busy, noisey and dusty.

Our hotel The Heritage is set in large gardens. And has a beautiful reception area and pool. Designed by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa it reflects is love of the natural landscape, the frangipani the symmetry of design.

The rooms we have are large so three to a room. Always interesting sharing with others! But good fun.

We left our bags and booked a driver to take us to the Gandhi museum. It cost 1200 rupee. The equivalent of $24. So cheap for a half hour drive. He waited an hour while we looked at the Museum and brought us home. Between 6 $4!

Prices here are so cheap in comparison to other countries. We are eating very well for a small amount of money.

The Gandhi museum was very interesting and helped understand just how much the people of India endured. I do wonder what Gandhi would make of present day India. There is still so much poverty. So much divide between rich and poor.

We made our way back to the hotel in time for a facial. Oh my. It sounded great and was bit in a different kind of way. The girl was lovely but quite rough in massaging my face. I had to ask her to go softly softly. But by the end my skin felt great. It was a Ayurvedic massage. Cost – about $35

Time the. Got a quick G& T on our verandah then dinner.

The Banyan Tree restaurant is good but slightly lacks something we found at the Bangala.

The manager had reserved a special table for us to make up for our rooms not being ready. It was decorated with flower petals. Ten we got a scroll which they requested we read out. I think they got us mixed up with another group. It was a message of Bon Voyage! Wishing us a safe journey saying they were proud of us for choosing to come to India. There were at least 6 points to read out. I could barely contain myself.

We ordered a bottle of wine and the manager came over and put on such a performance. He danced with the glass as he aerated the wine. Quite spectacular! And insisted on Shelley joining him in the dance!

The rest of the dinner went without too much theatre!

Our night was quiet after that as we discussed plans for tomorrow. Yoga, swim, breakfast and then when it’s cool a visit to the Palace a rickshaw tour of the city and then the Temple for the evening puja.

Good Morning Yogis from Chettinad,India

We’ve been having a few restful days in the Bangala Hotel. I don’t think we realised how tired we were.

I started the day with yoga beside the pool. Our instructor was a very kind, softly spoken man who was gentle with us – especially my knee.

He would show us the movement and whispered ‘listen’. We’d then do it and he’d finish with ‘reeelax’.

Following this we had a swim and breakfast on the terrace.

We decided to walk through the village. The hotel owner Mrs Meyappan offered to let us visit her house not too far from here.

The hotel is very special. Read this article about the owner 83 year old Meenakshi Meyappan.

https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/83-year-old-meenakshi-meyappan-serves-fantastic-chettinad-food-at-a-palatial-home-1758033

Walking in these villages is dusty and rocky and constant beeping from cars and bikes doesn’t make it all that pleasant but there is plenty to see.

We found the ATM to restock our rupees and looked into various businesses. They are very poor looking but Interesting.

The afternoon was spent swimming, resting and have a massage. Completely relaxing.

Mrs Meyappan house.

Farewell Pondicherry as we go to Temple towns.

Leaving Pondy is a little sad but exciting. Another adventure awaits.

We have a new driver and this time also a guide. Although on talking to him it turns out he’s a computer programmer working for his father’s travel company on the weekend! He’s with us because the bus driver doesn’t speak English.

We set off through the country side heading for Swamimalai. It’s in the Temple area and we’ll be seeing some temples on the way.

First stop was Chidambarum and we met our guide a very petite gentleman with gentle slow speaking English and very bad teeth.

There are 4 temples of various sizes and they are preparing for a festival. So arches are being prepared with newspaper to then be painted in a very colourful style.

We’re finding the removal of shoes for these huge structures rather wearing on our feet. There are quite long distances to walk. There is some matting which can be very dirty and then the stones which are hot and hard. I’m hopping a bit!

The Temple grounds had people sitting everywhere enjoying a picnic Indian style with tiffin boxes laden with delicious food.

It was Moms Day Out with mothers and their children from a town an hour away enjoying time together at the Temple. I got talking to one lovely lady. Her English was very good and it turns out she’s a Doctor. A gynaecologist! And was so friendly and chatty about her life and family.

We soon left there and continued further into the countryside through lots of villages and saw what I think is fairly authentic village life.

Arriving at our hotel was a treat. It was actually a small village which has been turned into a hotel. It’s called the Indecco http://www.indecohotels.com/swamimalai.html

Check it out. It’s so lovely. Steve Borgia the owner has spent a lot of money restoring it. It has a farm, several housing blocks all furnished in wonderful antiques. The pool is beautiful. At first we thought it looked a little slimy! But that was explained. It was meant to look like a village waterhole. It’s elegant and serene.

We were treated to an arrival foot massage! Heaven after walking barefoot through the temples.

We went the main village to see the bronze casters. A really Interesting process. We walked through the workshop are were able to see the various stages of production.

Google bronze casting Swamimalai. The business we went to is called :

Shri Rajan Industries (Statues/Bronze Castings Manufacturers/Panchalogam Statue Manufacturers)

Linda was very keen to own a statue. She particularly wanted Shiva as the dancer. Natajara. As a thank you from us for planning this very special trip, we decided to buy one for her as a gift. This meant visiting the sales area but no one was there to show and discuss pricing. A lovely young man rode up on his bike. His family owned a temple and he was picking up a commissioned statue. He guided us to a local family home where they have a small workshop.

Such a special experience. Linda spoke to them and found one she liked.

Meanwhile the children from the little street we were in all gathered and wanted to chat. They were delightful.

Finally the statue was polished and delivered to us and we drove off with everyone in the street waving.

Back to the hotel for a drink and a dance show and to bed.

We had a very late lunch when we arrived so couldn’t eat a thing.

Mahabalipuram: Traditions continue

Breakfast in a new place is always a treat. Indian breakfast is a whole different experience. Don’t expect a western breakfast ( well maybe in 5 star generic hotels ).

My plate contained a little rice cake called Idli, a rice donut , little accompaniments if coriander, tomato sambal and

And a rice congee. All delicious.

Kandan our driver picked us up at 8 and we set off for the 1.5 drive to Kanchipuram.

The drive through the countryside was wonderful. Past stone sculpture businesses, local markets fresh chicken shops and saries everywhere brightening the rather dusty and sadly dirty villages.

Kancheepuram is an ancient town of important Hindi temples. We visited this huge three thousand year old temple with many other Hindi people. We appeared to be the only westerners.

We started with a toilet stop and had the privilege of paying 20c each to wade through water to a communal trough. A bonding experience for a group of sheltered woman. But for us not a problem!

Then into the courtyard with our guide to remove shoes. We paid a lovely girl 100 rupee to mind our shoes.

We walked over coloured designs on the floor which our guide told us were new – ready for the festival to be held in the temple in three weeks.

The long corridor opened onto a courtyard with the famous mango tree. This tree from one 3.5 thousand years ago was famed as the place where Shiva married Kasakshi.

Nearby a wedding was taking place.

Everyone loves a wedding and an Indian one in a temple was joyful to watch. They invited us to take photos and even wanted to be in one with us.

The bride and groom were beautiful.

Continuing along the corridor we came to an altar where a Hindi priest gave us all a blessing.

We recovered our shoes and set off for another temple nearby. This one does not have the religious standing of the last one so is not part of the Hindi pilgrimage.

It was strangely quiet until we heard drumming outside. Lots of drumming.

It was a local funeral. The street was roped off. We were told it was an elderly man and following the drumming there would be drinking. So we were to stay away.

Starting back to Mahabalipuram we couldn’t resist stopping at one of the stone carving places one of many along the way. Like many local craft industries it looks a little overwhelming to see so many things together. Individually they would look lovely in a garden at home but collectively they are too much.

We asked to stop at a silk and Sari shop. There are many in this area – it’s famous for it and judging by the variety of Sari in the street they all do well.

We had a chat about the production then went to the buying floor.

It was quite a scene. Men sitting with their women looking at bolts of fabric in the most stunning colours.

We decided scarves were a better buy for us so had the scarf show!

Back on the bus

Another supermarket stop, getting lost in the aisles looking at products. I bought a few packets for the pantry. Others bought aurtheic soaps and shampoo.

Back at the hotel by 3.30 we had a refreshing swim along with chai tea.

Before we knew it it was G&T time.

Dinner was down by the water at the Santana restaurant. Choices included mint and lemon prawns, fish in carrots sauce, crispy calamari and my selection prawn biryanis. Delicious.

The walk home involved a little shopping. How can you not shop. Inviting goods: floaty tops and dresses, scarves, earrings , rings, pendants beads, bags. I bought a floral dress for $20! Marlene bought the same one!

And a stop at the shop across from our hotel to pick up a few things they made for us. The men on the machines were sewing away. Today we saw a mobile tailor shop. A sewing machine mounted on a little cart being pulled along by bike. So practical.

A full day. We haven’t wasted a minute. Tomorrow Pondicherry or Pondy as the locals call it.