A Travellerspoint blog

Days 7 - 9 - Pondicherry

sunny 30 °C

Day 7 - Saturday 24/12/16 - Mahabilipurum - Pondicherry

We awoke this morning to the sounds of an impromptu cricket match in the antiquities park across the road whilst a group of saffron clad men walked past beating drums and chanting and a cow and calf sauntered by. This is at 6:30 am! Only in India.

And then there was the "half Indian" incident last night.

When you visit some of the archeological sites there is one price for Indians (say R30 and another price for "foreigners" say R500). Well we were queuing up to pay our R1000 to visit the Shore Temple when an altercation broke out at the ticket window. A very tall, very fair pucker Englishman exclaimed that he was half Indian and wanted to get in for R30. He reckoned that his mummy was Indian.

He even went to the extent of taking off his Ray Bans and inviting the ticket man to look at his eyes for proof!

Needless to say, when he admitted that he didn't have an Indian passport he had to pay full whack just like the rest of us.

Mind you, I can't blame him for trying. $13 each is a lot of moolah to look at one temple, when you consider that there is no cost for visiting the other 10 or so older rock temples in the middle of town. Only in India.

IMG_0656.jpg Times have changed. A throw away cup used to be made of terra cotta - now it's just a paper cup. The chai is still delicious.

This morning we engaged an auto to take us to the Five Rathas which is a little out of town and then back through town to the Pondicherry bus stop. Luckily, we had saved our tickets from last night as these (with a thumb placed strategically over yesterday's date) got us into to see these five exquisite temples. So we actually got to see two very impressive sites for our ticket money. We're not complaining.

IMG_0658.jpg The Five Rathas

We were expecting a nice 2 hour bus ride for about R60 apiece, however, this was not to be. We must have spent an hour and a half sitting in the winter (30C) sun watching bus after bus speed through all packed to the roof rack with humanity and no room for a couple of old codgers with oversize luggage. (And to think we had the whole bus to ourselves on the way down from Chennai). We hadn't reckoned with the weekend and Christmas Eve.

So, back we went to the Butterball B&B and they ordered a car for us. It cost us R2000 and was worth every Rupee. It was a long enough ride in the car and would have been pretty average in an overcrowded bus even assuming that we had been able to get one to stop for us.

The car took us to the front door of Villa Sentosa. This is our most expensive accommodation yet at about R3900 a night. It is not quite located where we wanted to be, being about 1.5 km north of White Town. However it is very nice. Apparently it is an old merchant's house dating back to the 1800s. It it is 2 storeys and the rooms open off verandah which partly surrounds a central open courtyard/ terrace. There is a roof top terrace on which you can enjoy the cooler evening air. Its also the place where the wi fi works! I'll take some photos of it tomorrow.

90_IMG_0660.jpg Christmas Eve decorations on the temple near us. There were no lights on Christmas Day

IMG_0662.jpg Villa Sentosa. Home for the next 9 nights

IMG_0665.jpg The roof terrace

]IMG_0666.jpg The verandah

Day 8 - Sunday 25/12/16 - Christmas Day in Pondicherry

Well this wasn't the liveliest Christmas Day on record.

Carol has been suffering from some kind of flu since we arrived at Mahabilipurum and it knocked her pretty flat today.

So, apart from calling Andrew and Fiona, we spent most of the day vegging out.

We missed the children and particularly the grand children.

Our room looks out on to a four way intersection and it would appear that one corner of this is the agreed location for the dumping of household garbage. The local cow and dog population are aware of this arrangement and delight in pushing the rubbish around to get at any little titbits which takes their fancy. As most of the locals are vegetarian the pile of refuse is generally made up of vegetable matter with liberal sprinklings of paper and plastic. The cows, being vegetarian themselves, obviously fare the best out of the arrangement. They are invariably fat and sleek and contented whereas the dogs are usually thin and hungry looking.

IMG_0669.jpg. Happy cow

Later in the day the municipal garbage division comes along to remove what the cows and dogs have spurned. The team consists of a small open truck, a male driver and two ladies with whisk brooms. (The whisk brooms consist of a bunch of twigs about 45cm long tied together at one end to make a short handle. The sweeper basically has to squat on the ground in order to use them).

While the driver finds a shady lamp post to lean on, the ladies pick up all the garbage by hand and then use their whisk brooms to sweep any small bits and pieces into the monsoon gutter channels.

When the truck brigade has got rid of the bulk garbage, another lady with a pedal tricycle with three 44 gallon drums on board carefully sweeps out the gutter channels using her ubiquitous whisk broom and a piece of board for a dust pan.

Everything looks spic and span, but an hour or so later the pile of garbage has reappeared and the cows and dogs are back scavenging!

We have only seen one or two very scrawny looking cats. This is a little surprising as there is a healthy population of rodents scurrying around. Our DuCATi would have a field day here, although she has only brought little mice home to show us.

Other 'wildlife' that we have seen included a mongoose (or maybe he was a squirrel) in Chennai, a few monkeys at the monument park at Mahabilipurum and some goats. The cows look the best fed.

No tigers, camels or elephants yet.

Day 9 - Monday 26/12/16 - Boxing Day in Pondicherry

Are we indeed too old for this? I guess time will tell. Carol is still crook and wants me to to go off sightseeing on my own. I want to take her to the doctor. (Yes there are still some doctors left over here!). But she won't go.

So we spent the day resting.

Not so another bit of wildlife that I forgot to mention before.

A colony of tiny black ants entered our room through one of the power points and ravaged our emergency food store. This had consisted of a couple of large packets of biscuits which we had been enjoying with a cup of tea.

Of course it's frowned upon to harm any creature - even an ant.

(A good Hindu housewife prepares a daily offering to the little creatures. This takes the form of often intricate and colourful designs in powdered rice set out on the roadway at the front gate to her house.)

IMG_0663.jpg A rice design with scooter for scale.

Anyway, we added our contaminated biscuit offering to the pile of garbage at the street corner and the cows and dogs had a field day.

I was particularly sad to have to throw out the best part of a packet of "Sweet and Salty"s but, being kind to animals is good Kharma. I just hope the cows and dogs were as kind to the ants!

Now we understand why packets of bikkies and lollies are often tiny here in India. That way, you eat them all in one sitting and just leave the crumbs for the ants.

Hopefully we'll get out a bit tomorrow.

Posted by Vicschu 21:39 Archived in India Tagged pondicherry cows villa_sentosa Comments (1)

Days 4 - Day 6

Chennai - mahabilipurum


Day 4 - 21/12/16 Chennai

We were finally able to remit payment to the walking co so we are ok for this afternoon. We met Rucha's husband Ashish Gupta.

This morning we went off to Fort St George museum. This was the birthplace of British empire, almost as an offshoot of the British East India Company. Founded on acquiring fine painted cloth for the European market. They ploughed the profits back into spices where the real money was.

They had some amazing military pieces and even the original flag that was raised by Nehru at the Fort upon the granting of independence to India. There was not a lot more to see at the Fort so we came back to TTL, bought some veggie puffs at French Loaf and carrot cake at the Old Madras Bakery.

Back home to await the commencement of the Peacock walk at 4:00. We travelled to the start point with Mike and Linda, outside the Kapaleeshwara Temple. The other member of our party was Irish Rebecca whom we briefly nodded to in the Bakery earlier today. Our guide was Aquila a lovely Brahman lady. Her explanation by means of stories was highly entertaining and informative. The tour ended at Santhome Basilica, the goal of yesterday's search. This time we were able to view the 'relic' of st Thomas' finger bone.

Well Kristine, we have just visited one of the only three churches built over an Apostle's tomb. You have done James. Come here and do Thomas and go to Rome for the other one and you have done hat trick!!!

I'm not sure what it all means but in this country which is so steeped in religion, it did mean something.

Aquila took us for a "snack" after the walk and then it was back home to bed after trying to work out the blog technique.

Day 5 - 22/12/16 Chennai

Our last full day in Chennai before we launch ourselves upon he rest of the south. Having been to St Thomas' tomb twice we felt the need to visit some others of his holy sites. So Little Mount was the first stop to see his cave, his giant hand and footprints, tastefully circled in red paint, and various crosses and springs.

Then on to st Thomas' Mount where we think he was martyred and when you can get a fabulous panoramic view over the city - on a clear day which it really wasn't!

Our R700 auto ride left us at T Nagar to sample the market wares. At this point we saw our first accident. Evidently a motorcycle and an auto had collided and a crowd pleasing altercation took place complete with fisticuffs and a Indian expletives. So unlike our experience with an Indian truck driver in Arncliffe a few weeks back.

After all this fun we had some lunch and then Carol bought some material for salwar khameezs for Fiona and herself. We will get them made up when we return in January (will also check the spelling). We were introduced to mr Nalli the third generation owner of the Old Nalli fine cloth merchant's establishment.

After lots more walking we found another shop from which Carol darling acquired a block printed vegetable dyed top. Very tasteful.

At this point, we discovered that there were long queues at all ATMs in the locality. Ready cash is in short supply due to deliberate government policy to stamp out corruption and tax avoidance. Cash is in particularly short supply today and tomorrow.

Most things we can use a credit or debit card for but definitely not for local transport. As we move off to Mahabalipurum tomorrow, we unfortunately needed to conserve our cash for the fare and consequently we had to forego the pleasure of an auto ride back to the B&B. It was a 2.9km walk (excluding detours around fallen trees, parked motor bikes and piles of rubble) on tired feet. However the silver lining was that we found a queue less ATM with lots of money in it and were able to withdraw 5 crisp new R2000 notes.

It wasn't worth getting an auto from there so, using google maps on the phone, we navigated directly to Pantry d'Or and stopped for dinner before getting back to our temporary home.

It was a big day, quite hot and muggy. But we managed.

Day 6 - Chennai - Mahabilipurum

We were on our way at about 10:30 this morning after saying farewell to our new friend Deborah the yoga lady from LA and our lovely host Rucha.

Rucha had booked us an Uber taxi to take us to the Mah....... bus stand. The taxi ride was only R100 for a distance which would have cost more than double in an auto. And a/c comfort as well!

The bus trip was a real surprise. We were the only passengers and it cost us just R54 for a distance of over 50 km.
180_IMG_0614.jpg Us on the bus

Imagine our surprise when we had to pay R 100 for an auto ride from the bus station at Mah..... to our accommodation at the Butterball B&B. Admittedly the way he took us seemed impressively long and complicated, however we had to accept that we had been conned later that night when we discovered that Butterball is only 2 minutes walk from the bus stop and is literally just up the road in the same street! They say that there is one born every day - and thus we are defined!

Mah.... has lots of beautifully carved stone temples dating from 6 - 700 AD.

IMG_0629.jpgTo each according to his need if you know your hindu symbols - this is Siva's - lucky bugger!
IMG_0637.jpgCarol at the Shore Temple

They are wonderful to experience. We spent the afternoon walking the walk and ended up at the Shore Temple, after which we were honoured guests at an Indian Dance performance.

180_IMG_0639.jpgHonoured guests complete with floral Lai's.

IMG_0652.jpg This the real thing - not a poster!

Another good long day. I'll sleep well tonight.

Posted by Vicschu 06:55 Archived in India Comments (0)


Day 1 - 3

sunny 30 °C

Day 1 - 18/12/16 Caves Beach en route to Chennai

We drove down to Rockdale, dropped Ducati with the young Browns and after a tearful farewell from Dom, Fiona dropped us at the airport.

I received an email on the drive down to Sydney, from our accomodation in chennai saying that they had had to cancel our booking du to a plumbing issue. They offered us alternative accommodation at a lower rate around the corner but we were set on Footprint B &B so I wrote back and asked nicely if the couldn't get one of the other guests to go to the other premises. They said they would see what they could do.

Being late on a Sunday night nothing much was open. We tried to get a new lonely planet but all they had was a South India version for $38 which we thought was exorbitant. We should be able to get it cheaper duty free or in India.

The MH flight left on time and off we go on another crazy Indian Holiday.

Day 2 - 19/12/16 en route to and arriving at Chennai

The flight to KL was uneventful, if somewhat cramped. We arrived on time at about 3:30 am and after a walk around a deserted transit hub, unable to get a bed at the hotel, we found a couple of unoccupied, sparsely padded benches and settled down to " sleep" off the 6 hour wait for our onward flight. At least we were horizontal and we could stretch out. The multiple overhead LED lights glaring down at us were a bit disconcerting but it was better than nothing.

IMG_0586.jpg Carol enjoying the comforts of the airport hotel

Maybe we are getting a bit old for this! I guess time will tell in that regard. We did note, however that we were not quite as comfortable as we were on the cruise.

Once the airport started to get more active, it was impossible to sleep and we arose at about 7:00 and repaired to Starbucks for coffee and half a croissant.

After prowling around to find clean toilets, we freshened up and attempted to buy the LP book. However the price had risen to $49, so we decided to stick with what we already had.

We boarded our next MH flight at about 9:30am but it didn't take off until about 10:00.

After another uneventful flight (who really wants an eventful one?!!!) we landed at Chennai International airport at about 11:00 local time. We are 4.5 hours behind Sydney time.

The approach was over such typical Indian countryside. I noted a large quarry partly filled with water but apparently still being worked. As we got closer to town, there were those somewhat dilapidated streets and buildings but as always lots of vibrant colours and busy traffic. Yes we are back in grotty but wonderful India.

Coming out of the airport terminal (which we thought was pretty quiet) we were accosted by the usual taxi touts etc but we espied the metro station and decided that we would see whether that would get us anywhere near where we wanted to be.

We were advised that Little Mount was the closest station so we purchased some tokens (R80) and hopped aboard the train. It was the cleanest, coolest, emptiest train we have ever seen in India or anywhere for that matter. In fact there was only one other person on it. The reason soon became clear. It doesn't appear to go anywhere useful yet!

We alighted at Little Mount and some helpful ladies negotiated a fare of R200 in a tuk tuk and that's how we finally arrived at Footprint B & B.

Indian traffic hasn't changed it was an exciting, terrifying and funny ride. Like dodgem cars only the object is to get as close as possible without actually touching. You must also have one hand on the horn at all times and it is not necessary or advisable to use indicators. To do warns other drivers where you want to go and the, just try to get there before you.

This turned out to be really nice just as Agnes told us. Our host, Rucha welcomed us with a nice cup of tea and lots of advice on what to see, where to eat etc.

We had noted that everywhere we looked there were trees uprooted and electric and telephone wire down. There has been a cyclone come through a couple of days ago and the place was devastated. It will be some time before everything is OK.

We went for a walk in the afternoon, no mean feat what with the trees and wires down all over the place and motorbikes either parked or riding on "footpaths".

Coffee and cake at Chammiers Eco Cafe. This was after we spent some time admiring the exquisite clothing in the shop below.

And then after a visit to the supermarket for water, an exploratory walk home through the damage and traffic. We ate a nice pasta at Panry d'or, then home for shuteye.

Day 3 - 20/12/16 - Chennai

Had breakfast with Mike and Linda from Cape Town. We are doing the Peacock walking tour with them tomorrow.

Our day was spent walking up TTK to St Georges Cathedral then back to Narda Gana Sabha For lunch and wonderful indian music session.

IMG_0588.jpg A cheap and delicious lunch

IMG_0594.jpg Indian jam session

Then we asked a tuk tuk to take us to St Thomas Church. But he got it wrong and took us to a church on the southern side of the Adyar at Elliot Beach. When worked out what had happened we took another tuk tuk to the correct location. The bones of the doubting Thomas apostle are said to be buried here. Only Spain and Rome have similar claims.

A hairy tuk tuk ride got us back to our neighbourhood for supermarketing, dinner at Pantry D'Or and bed at 8:30. Very tiring day.

The going rate for tuk tuk seems to be R200.

Posted by Vicschu 07:03 Archived in India Tagged india pondicherry southern chennai Comments (1)

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