Walking through Historic Forte Kochi

Up early for our walking tour. We booked with a lady at the hotel next to our homestay. She said she had an elderly gentleman who was a very good historian.

So at 7.30 sharp a very well groomed man appeared outside our homestay. Mr Anthony Thommen was smiling widely and spoke in a gentle way. He launched into a little story about himself telling us he was born in the area, was a historian an author and guide and lived alone since his wife’s death and his only child had moved away.

We began the story of Fort Cochin or Kochi as it’s known locally, in Princess St. We heard about the Portuguese arriving and settling up trading, then the arrival of the Dutch and finally the British. We wandered along the narrow streets stopping at Anthony’s street and then the large Catholic Basilica.

We heard about the rebuilding of the Basilica and how Anthony spent a year in the Seminary.

We moved along through streets dotted with houses showing distinct Dutch and English influence.

We saw our first lot of young men playing cricket! On a dusty ground.

And visited the Bishops House and Museum.

Next stop was the Dutch Cemetery. This was turning into a history / religious tour of Kochi. Not that I minded.

We visited the elephants I had seen yesterday and then spied a lot of photographers along with couples posing. Seems it is ‘post wedding photo week.’ Just before Valentines Day. Some lovely couples posed with just one in a wedding dress.

Our last stop was St Francis Church and Vasco de Gama’s house

Mr Anthony was more than keen to continue but after 2.5 hours we were ready for breakfast!

We paid him and he asked if we’d like to buy his book. How could we refuse. He was so sweet. So he found us later at the breakfast place and three of us bought his book!

By now all power was off. The poor shop keepers were beside themselves. No one was coming into their dark hot shops. Our rooms were hot and noisy – the hotel right next door had a generator making a huge racket. So I went walking by the water and eventually took my book out and enjoyed a read in the sea breeze.

Marlene and I also had another stroll and visited our Homestay’s brothers guesthouse a little further out.

It was charming. If you’re coming to this area the Delight Homestay looks good. It’s opposite a park and has lovely big rooms set in a garden. it’s also very reasonably priced. Around $A30 a night.

We had a lovely last night dinner at a hotel by the water. We all decided we had to wear something we had bought on the trip.

To top it off three of us Marlene, Linda and I all bought the same white dress! We decided we chance not ever wearing it on the same day!

Tomorrow we leave. I’ll miss the smiling faces and the colours.

It’s been such a wonderful holiday. Temples, the history, the bronze casters, mud bricks, tea plantations, dancing Shivas, beautiful people, colourful saris and men in dhoti, great food, elephants, farms, fashion, yoga and lots of laughter.

To my travelling Sari sisters. Thank you.

Fort Cochin : an Indian port with flavour.

Saying goodbye to George, Dai their daughter Susan and baby and Grandma is sad after a truly genuine Kerala experience.

But a new adventure awaits. This time in Fort Cochin or Fort Kochi. It’s was a small fishing village settled in the 1500 by the Portuguese. They were here for 160 years so the influence can be seen – a little evidence remains. Then the Dutch came and for 112 years took control. Again they left their mark after destroying many of the Original buildings. Finally the British arrived and fought for control. They stayed until 1947 so once again the building and customs reflect British influence.

We arrived around lunch time and checked into Walton’s Homestay. It’s more a hotel than a homestay but the family who run the business are very lovely people Mr & Mrs Walton and their daughter Charlotte.

http://www.waltonshomestay.com

We settled into our home for 2 nights and walked out onto Princess St for a spot of shopping. We’d had a detox from shops at our last farm stay and were ready for action. We all separated to explore ourselves and I headed for the water and checked out the Chinese fishing nets. These are something to watch.

Legend has it that a Chinese explorer introduced these nets over 500 years ago.

Dawn and dusk is when you see these in greater action but they were working some early afternoon!

Over four fishermen operate them

check out this video. It’s fascinating to watch.

I continued along the water front and came up a wonderful exhibition. It’s a travelling one and is here in Kochi for a few weeks.

It’s about the co existence between man and elephants. There are 100 elephants on display all made out of lantana.

It’s wonderful.

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/english.manoramaonline.com/lifestyle/news/2019/01/27/lantana-elephant-biodiversity-message.amp.html

I continued on and found some wonderful buildings of Dutch and English influence and then gave in and looked at the wonderful cotton clothes for sale. I bought two dresses at Anokhi

https://www.anokhi.com

There are some wonderful hand blocked clothes. I couldn’t resist!

Dinner was at the hotel near our homestay. The Jetty restaurant at the Forte Hotel. It’s lovely with the most beautiful staff. But it doesn’t serve any alcohol. The water was lovely!

After dinner we walked a little and enjoyed the cooler night air.

Tomorrow our hotel will be without power from 11-5pm as are all the businesses and hotels without generators. We could be revisiting the Forte Hotel!

Meandering down a Kerala River

George and his wife Dai live in the house at the front of the garden block , opposite the river and the 4 homestay rooms are towards the back looking past hammocks slung in trees over to green and golden rice paddies.

From the WebSite:

http://www.gkhomestay-kumarakom.com

‘Situated on the bank of river Meenachil in Aymanam, it is just 3 kilometres from the huge Vembanad lake and bird sanctuary. The village is an unbelievably beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy (rice) fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting water ways and canals adorned with spices and medicinal plants. It is an ideal place to explore Kerala’s traditions, real village life and to stay for a period in a calm and quiet pollution free zone. The village is decorated with ancient Christian churches, Hindu temples, country and snake boats. These snake boats can carry more than 100 rowers at a time. A boat journey through the back waters will be an unforgettable event.

Our rooms are big, simply but well furnished with good basic bathrooms, air con and fans, a fridge, hairdryer! lots of water, and a verandah with fans for relaxing. ‘

Our dinner in the main house was cooked by his lovely wife Di and served by George. Organic home cooking. A vegetarian curry with eggs and potatoes. Delicious. Followed by spiced carrot cake.

His daughter is visiting from Bangalore with her 3 month old baby girl. She’s very sweet and all the Grandmothers wanted a nurse!

George speaks very good English. He worked for 17 years in Oman – for the Sultan ! He has many good stories to tell.

We walked back down the drive to our 4 rooms overlooking the rice padi and had a quiet sleep. This time I have a room on my own and it’s rather nice to spread out.

We got up early in the cool of the morning for a trip in a large canoe down the river at our doorstep.

Our boat man is 75 and took a very leisurely pace along the cool calm river so we could observe the village life.

It’s hard to describe how beautiful and peaceful it was. The bird life is wonderful, the people bathing and washing clothes all waved in a friendly way greeting us with a “how are you” as we passed. We glided past several Catholic churches where the singing was was tuneful and mesmerising.

We saw families washing together, little groups of women in bright coloured saris walking under the shade of the trees.

We glided under bridges waving to the children playing or riding bikes.

The water is covered in places with a water weed and apparently there are river snakes though we didn’t see any.

At one point we stopped and got out to look at what they call a ‘snake boat’. It’s long and decorated and has seats 60. Twice a year at rice harvest there is a race along the river. Four boats compete and the whole village participate. Indians love a festival.

We arrived back at a George’s house for breakfast. Di had made us banana coconut pancakes with a few spices making it a delicious treat.

Then it was our washing day. Just like the village people we washed in buckets (not on stones in the river ) and hung out clothes around the garden – from trees, hammocks and a live slung under the eaves.

We chatted and sorted photos and read up on where we’ll be going next. A late but light lunch was brought to us by George. It was a vegetable curry with idly. Perfect.

Later in the afternoon after a walk it was massage time. I was first and went into the bathroom area of the main house. A lovely lady in a coloured sari was waiting for me. She was not very tall but very sturdy and strong. It was to be a Ayurveda massage with special oils.

All clothes off and into chair where my head and face were massaged first. My hair was pasted with oil and I received the most gorgeous face massage. And head!

Then onto a rather high narrow table covered in a brown coloured plastic and the bathing in Ayurveda oils started. It was heavenly.

But the end of it I felt like a baby being nurtured. It was wonderful.

Getting off the table felt like a fish sliding off a river back and

I slid into the shower room and was given a big bucket of hot water with a little bucket to dip in and tip all over myself.

I floated back to the room for a cup of herbal tea and a lie down.

Linda followed me and had the same expression on her face when she returned an hour later.

George popped by the give us the plans for our evening visit to a temple for a special festival involving elephants. How could we say no!

We planned on leaving by tuk tuk at 6.45.

He also walked us around the garden pointing out the cashew tree and explained how they are harvested and toasted. Then onto the story of this rice padi. He has about an acre which is green and lush and will be harvested in 2 weeks. He wanted to dry it out so will start draining the field tomorrow. Unfortunately for George it looks like rain tonight.

And so it was. As we set off in the tuk tuk it started bucketing down. We drove along exposed to the rain on both open sides of the tuk and after 10 mins headed back home.

Not temple or elephants tonight so an earlier dinner. Fresh caught lake fish in a tomato curry sauce. Amazing flavours. And no one has had an upset stomach.

Another quiet night awaits.

Hello Kerala

There’s nothing like a swim before breakfast in a warm climate.

Another dosa with sambal and assorted chutney along with paw paw and pineapple made a perfect breakfast before our trip to Munnar in Kerala.

It’s supposed to be a 4 hour trip but another traveller warned the road for the last part of the journey was very rough.

Our new driver inspires confidence. He’s well dressed and has good English and doesn’t seem preoccupied with his hair.

Setting off around 9 we headed west. We were surprised that this area of Tamil Nadu seemed more prosperous.

After a coffee stop where for the first time the owner hinted that a tip might be in order. So as he also supplied a cleanish squat toilet we did tip. At 200 rupees ( $A4) we were happy to leave him a tip.

Before long we were driving towards the area known as the Western Gnats.

Another stop at a mud brick works where three women were making mud bricks and keeping the kiln working. Such hard work but they were charming to us allowing photos. Our driver said they make 200 rupees a day but are housed by the Govt and their children educated.

Driving along you come across all sorts of things. Including parades with firecrackers. We’re told they are festivals!

Climbing up the Western Ghats was so interesting. The views spectacular. We hit the top and crossed over into Kerala state. Here the roads haven’t been upgraded. They are in the process of widening and repairing damage from the storms last year. It was hard going. Pot holes, dust , narrow places to pass but the views were great and the tea plantations beautiful to look at.

We stopped at a tea plantation for a tour and so found out about the process and the difference between the white tea, green and black tea ( of which there are 4 grades). The white tea has the most health benefits and was around $A24 for 600 gr.

A quick cup of tea and we were back on the bus for Munnar.

This small town is the centre for tea production and Ayurveda medicines. We stopped for a quick look then continued on to a cultural show.

These Cultural shows are often fascinating but are better if you can understand what is happening. The sound and narration wasn’t good though the costumes and make up were wonderful.

By the time we arrived at our hotel the Olive Brook Resort we were ready for a G & T and dinner. This hotel is a few km out of Munnar along a very bumpy road. It’s a little oasis in the cool hill. It’s almost English style with beautiful gardens.

Both were very welcome. As this is a cashew area some of us has the Cashew Chicken. Delicious

Our rooms were spread through a garden and for a change we had no air con. Fortunately I was with Shelley who also like fresh air and as it’s higher and cooler here we hoped for no mozzies!

We enjoyed a great sleep and woke to birds tweeting. So different to cars tooting!

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.

Tiles and Touring around Chettinad.

The next day started again with yoga – only two of us this time. Then breakfast followed by a 4 hour tour with Sarah. She works at the hotel for the few months of busy tourist visits. She takes guided tours of organises her own tours.

She’s American but grew up in the area, the child of missionaries. So she has a very good understanding of the life and people of the area of Chettinad.

Our first stop was a tile making business. It’s amazing to see how they make tiles in a rather primitive way. A technique from Italy. We had a demonstration. It involves putting a glass square in a frame then dropping in colour, making the pattern then putting sand and concrete over the top compressing it then turning it out. I was given a go at creating a design! Such fun.

This area was a big trading centre many years ago 1850-1950. Men left Chettinad for a few years to set up trading. They were traders and money lenders. This was how to make money in those days. When they returned they came with teak from Burma, enamel from Indonesia, woven mats and many other goods you see in the houses of the area.

As they returned rich they built mansions. The front door was used by the men for business. The back door women, children, the produce. There are around 4-5 courtyards in each house. When banks opened it changed Indian society. Rich money lenders lost a source of money making.

Most houses are now derelict. The owners – the men and the families are living overseas and only return for weddings and family occasions. A few have been turned into boutique hotels. The Bangala Hotel was first used as a men’s club.

We visited several of the mansion homes of the area.

Read about the area here: https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/www.cntraveller.in/story/looking-grand-mansions-chettinad/amp/

The first was Lakshmi House. We met one of the owners a men sitting at the house entrance. It was preparing for a wedding.

The people looking after the house were old and quietly dignified.

When we visit historic houses in other countries we see the furnishings as well here the mansions are empty. The people don’t have beds , tables and chairs.

Then the Kanadukathan Palace.

This sits in a small village which was obviously a centre for rich traders as there are a number of empty mansions. It has a large water reserve which is fenced to stop people and animals using it and it is the towns water source. People come with their water containers and fill them for home use.

We couldn’t go into the Palace but visited Mrs Meyappans fathers house. Once beautiful it was now neglected.

Last stop was a mansion which like the Bangala has been turned into a hotel. It’s lovely but we were pleased we were staying at the Bangala.

Back through the dry countryside to our hotel for coffee and fruit by the pool. No real lunch as we wanted to enjoy our 3 course dinner.

Another walk through the bustling village to the antique markets. They were in a particularly dusty street that was all dug up and hard to walk.

The antique traders weren’t interested in bargaining much. We tried hard to get better prices. But they stubbornly wouldn’t move much on price. Considering there were so many shops and so much for sale it was surprising.

Before dinner we enjoyed an aperitif on our verandah before our Indian fusion meal. Mrs Meyyappan the owner designs all the menus and the food is great. https://www.cntraveller.in/story/restaurant-bangala-karaikudi-chennai-28-top-restaurant-awards-2018-list/#s-cust0

Tonight we enjoyed Spinach & Broccoli soup, crab cake with spiced chutney and tangy cucumber salad , chicken stew with coconut rice and an egg hopper ( a delicious rice pancake like shape with an egg in the bottom – found also in Sri Lanka). Ending with bread pudding dressed with marmalade served with homemade vanilla ice cream. A delicious dinner for the equivalent of $A19 !

We’ll be sad to leave this gracious hotel and Mrs Meyappan who at 83 still has such presence. She is there every day with her diamond earrings twinkling as brightly as her smile – having a chat to all the guests.

Tomorrow Madurai and a visit to the Ghandi museum.

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.

Getting stuck into India feet first.

Packing up even after two nights is an effort. My advice is always stay somewhere at least two nights. You need that time to scratch the surface of a new place.

Some of us managed a walk down to the seafront. It is rustic and somewhat dirty. There are dogs and cows but no cats. We even saw a monkey run across some wires.

Leaving the hotel at around 9 we drove south towards Pondicherry. Our driver stopped for photos along the way and when we came to the salt fields he insisted we get out and check it out.

We crossed the road and walk along a sandy track toward to the salt pans with piles of salt drying for collection.

Being curious and wandering on I took one step too far and …….

I couldn’t move. I was scared of sinking further. The girls – when they stopped laughing formed a human chain and managed to pull me out.

A few local men nearby saw my dilemma and came to my rescue. I had a man washing my legs, my shoes and socks without so much as a glimmer of a laugh.

It took many minutes – which gave the girls plenty of time to take photos and laugh!

Finally a bit cleaned up and back into bistro continue onto Pondicherry. We kept laughing and I was thankful I hadn’t fallen in further, that my phone was lost in the mud, that I wasn’t warring white pants!

We arrived at our hotel the Anantha Heritage.

http:www.ananthaheritagepondicherry.com

It’s a restored Tamil House in the northern part of the Historic centre. Quite beautiful. We sorted rooms and decided they were big enough for 3 in a room. Our rooms open onto a lovely verandah overlooked the temple, and a breakfast terrace.

Leaving bags to unpack later we left with our guide for a tour of the city. Our driver phoned his friend, a policeman who became our escort. With roads blocked he became our entry into streets.

Down a wide crowded street we rounded the corner to the open seafront and beach. It’s several kilometres long , well paved and well used by walkers not swimmers. At night it’s closed to traffic and becomes a promenade for the locals to have their evening passagiatta.

By now starving, we made for Villa Shanti in the French Quarter. A restored French style villa it’s an oasis of quiet and comfort. And the food was delicious. There were Indian and French dishes and I had chicken ( yes I was warned to stay vegetarian in India) cooked so well with cauliflower two ways. Beautiful.

After lunch we called into Anokhi a shop recommended by a friend. The fabrics were wonderful. We all pottered around buying bits and piece. No clothes but homewares, note cards, handkerchiefs etc.

With our escort leading we went to the paper production business. Once a big industry it was shut down when the British took over. Now making a comeback the handmade papers made here are stunning.

A few of us walked back to our hotel for G& Ts on the verandah before heading off for a walk to the beach. The beach breeze was so fresh and reviving. The weather has been kind. Warm days but cooler evenings. As we head inland the weather will heat up.

Feeling peckish we wandered into a local food market. Lots of little stalls with people sitting around on plastic chairs munching on a variety of popular Indian foods. We decided on hot charred corn on the cob. The lady running the stall wasn’t too friendly to start but loosened up as we smiled, had photos and thanked her for the beautiful corn.

By now tired a walk through the gardens and a tuk tuk ride home finished our day.

It was a day of high mud drama but all was good in the end. I soaked my stinky shoes and scrubbed them leaving them on the verandah hoping with tomorrow’s sun they would be wearable.

India here we come.

Flying Air Asia is an experience. Not altogether bad but definitely not great.

The Sari 5 met at Roma St station at 2.45 for a 3pm train to the Good Coast. We got into Varsity lakes around 4.20 then a bus to the airport via the sights of Currumbin.

We passed the time till our 8.40 flight having coffee and trying to check in. We all had trouble getting the Indian visa sorted but did it! We had the correct paperwork but airline staff still took ages to check each one online. Not easy! Doesn’t India want visitors!

Our flight left on time and the no frills carrier took us off to Kuala Lumpur. I sat with Linda and the others managed to get a vacant seat next to them. Sleep 💤 was not a feature of the flight for me!

We arrived in KL at 3am ( body clock time 5am Brisbane) we hung about the unexceptional KL airport and met up with Di from Sydney to make us six.

The next flight was crowded and we were all spread out around the plane. I had a lovely lady ‘VJ’ from KL next to me. She was of Tamil heritage and was going on holidays with various members of her family to Tamil Nadu – visiting some of the places we’ll be visiting. We chatted away about her life in Malaysia and our expectations of India.

Finally India! Chennai, our first stop assaulted the senses. Our driver was there to meet us and take us down to Mahabalipuram. First stop was the Western union money changer. We brought Australian dollars and changed them into Rupees. $1 is worth about 50 rupee.

Next stop the supermarket. Who doesn’t like a supermarket in a foreign country. We walked the aisles stocking up on water and mozzie spray and couldn’t resist the sandlewood soap and a big bunch of bananas.

First impression of India. Noisey, first, colourful, funny signs!

We are in Tamil Nadu in Southern India. The women in this area all wear Saris. They look like exotic birds floating down the street.

We didn’t see any women dressed in western clothes. We also haven’t seen any westerners. None on our flight here and none on the streets.

Our driver took us via the beach, the fish market, various temples and down colourful streets with shops of every description. Even saw an Uber eats bike making it way through the traffic.

We stopped at the Museum to take in the bronze sculptures. There is a technique for casting these sculptures, such merging we will explore further later.

The sculptures were al of Shive , one of the main Gods of Hinduism. Along Parvarti his wife along with all the manifestations.

Our hotel in Mahabalipuram an hour south of Chennai is set in a garden and is quite tranquil. The boys behind the front desk are lovely and helpful and thankfully carried our bags up the 3 flights of stairs.

By this time we were starving so headed straight out to the vegetarian restaurant at the hotel. It’s been a long while since a meal. Only snacks along the way so the meal was welcome. It included mushroom mutter, eggplant curry and vegetable biriyani. All washed down with fresh lime. No alcohol at this hotel.

A walk around the streets to the Krishna cave temple with its fabulous rock carvings and Indian Hindu men in their dhoti trying to sell carved rocks and pictures.

A small detour after dinner to a clothing shop where men sat in a line at sewing machines whipping up tunics and pants. We couldn’t not get one!

And so our first long day ends. More adventures tomorrow.