Some people on AnyPort know my good friend Mike. During last winter we got to talking about sunnier climes as the English winter seemed to have dragged on since the year before.
At first I was keen on visiting a tribal area in North East India called Megalhaya. I had seen pictures of 'living bridges' spanning small rivers. These bridges are made from entwined varieties of trees woven into a bridge and this greatly appealed to me. In addition, I have never visited tribal areas in India. On further investigation we discovered that Meghalaya has some of the rainiest weather in the sub-continent and Mike wasn't very keen after this. Mutually we decided on the coast of East India starting at Chennai, Tamil Nadu where Indian people are still deeply and staunchly conservative in their ways and, it being the end of March/start of April, we could rely on few tourists who would have already escaped the great heat. Heat doesn't worry me. I got plenty of it - up to 40.5degC...
From the beginning Mike and I decided to do our own 'Yatra' route of ancient Dravidian temples. We would focus on these and see as many as we could hope to remember.
We planned our route together. We sat side by side at a large table, each with our laptops, with a huge map of India between us, and any town vaguely on our route we Google Imaged to see if it looked interesting or held out hope of a temple. We didn't bother much about what sort of hotels were in town; we're not fussy, we stay anywhere, usually in homestays if we can.
more later... :-) lots more later! btw as I've been away so long I've forgotten all about ImagShack. I think the posting of pics on there is very different now. I had paid a yearly amount since I had exceeded my free allowance. Am not sure what to do about this. I've also forgotten passwords etc. I'll have to work it out.
Gosh, it's taken me a couple of hours to work out the new 'workings' of ImageShack..however I've 'upgraded' my account i.e. paid a fee, and I've managed to upload this picture of the guest house I stayed in at the wonderful beach at Mallampuram which is not so much a tourist beach but a working fishermans' beach...Here is the Sri Harul guest house. I stayed on the first floor and had a balcony overlooking the beach.
I have the greatest confidence in you, Spindrift. And you know I'm here to help you any way I can.
As a way to "get back in the game", click on Reply in any thread. There you will see that we have added instant access to four photo-hosting sites, one of which is ImageShack. If you click on ImageShack there (just below Subject in the Reply message box), you'll be taken to its site. There, in the uppermost right-hand corner, you can click on Login. Once at Login, there is a place to click that says "Forgot Password?"
As far as I know, the posting of pics here from ImageShack has not changed.
Your description of how you all planned the trip is most helpful for anyone contemplating a visit to any huge area. Kudos for being able to find options that were mutually agreeable.
Ahhh ~~ I see we were simul-posting, so my post above is not an answer to your post!
Great pic, Spindrift, & not at all too large. There is a thread about picture size, but really all you need to know is that the maximum size for images here is 800 wide and 700 high. All the photo hosting sites offer a forum/message board size of 800x600, to automatically resize pictures.
That's a great picture. Are the big rocks to deflect waves? Can't wait to hear all about what you all did while there.
Thanks Bixa... I'm now wondering whether I used to use Photobucket! I am thorougly confused. Is the above picture too large? What do you think? Would you prefer it to be smaller? I chose the Option 'for Forums'...
I was keen to get a photo up and so I posted the pic of the guest house but there's a story I should tell before I start on the holiday itself...
It's this and perhaps a salutary lesson for all.....
I flew to India with Jet Airlines (an Indian airline). From Heathrow Terminal 4 my bag was labelled to Chennai via transit in Mumbai. I am well used to passing through Mumbai and as usual I picked my bag off the carousel at Mumbai and wheeled it to the further security and check-in area for Domestic flights. Mike also collected his bag and together we checked them in again for Chennai (2 hours flight from Mumbai). We had to pass through two or even three more security points (why so many I ask myself) and for some of this time I had a porter fellow at my elbow trying to get money out of me to lift my case onto the security conveyor belts. But frankly I could lift my case myself as it was a lightweight one and I hadn't brought much luggage. I know that it weighed exactly 15.6kgs because coincidentally that's what Mike's weighed. I took no notice of the pushy porter trying to get money out of me...frankly everyone seems to act this way in India and I didnt take much notice of it, I just got on and handled my own bag. I lifted it onto the checkin scales and the JetAirways girl put a tag to Chennai on it. the porter was still at my elbow at this point. THIS WAS THE LAST TIME I SAW MY SUITCASE. Mike did the same but his case arrived on the carousel at Chennai. Lucky Mike. I was left in dire straits with only the clothes (warm ones) I stood in and a small rucksack on my back (very small)...
So we got to Chennai after twenty hours of travelling, perhaps more, it was night and about 35degC. We were exhausted. Now I had no bag, nothing. I had to stay at the airport for an hour or so making a report and a complaint to Jet Airways. It was about 10pm then, we were hungry and tired. Luckily I had ordered a taxi from Mallampuram, our first destination, and the poor driver waitied whilst we tried to sort things out (in vain). He then had to drive us 59kms south to Mallampuram.
When first panic descended on me at Chennai airport I had quickly to make a choice. Either I would pull myself together and keep smiling 'it doesnt matter' sort of thing, or I could go to pieces. Mostly for Mike's sake I kept cool and very quickly I became resigned and it didn't really matter so much.
I was wearing my passport/creditcards/money around my waist. I had my onward tickets in there as well. I also had my Sony camera in my little rucksack and luckily a small toothbrush (no paste). I only had basic items such as hairbrush, some foundation and 1 lipstick, no mascara, no facecreams, no suntan lotion. Well nothing else. I had my mobile phone in my jeans' pocket. We set off to the guest house.
This was the early morning scene from my balcony. As I mentioned, this is a fishermens' working beach. At any time the boats are liable to go out over the surf and out to sea whenever teams of fish are spotted. During the tsunami all boats and many dwellings were totally destroyed and four people died. Since then the wooden boats have been replaced by plastic ones (or so we were told). I know that many young men, unmarried ones I guess, sleep out on the beach all night and take to the surf on boards if the waves are big enough. The pounding of the waves on the shore is quite difficult to get used to if you've lived in quiet surroundings at home. By the way this sea is the Sea of Bengal.
Now I want to tell you about the Shore Temple that you can see in the distance.....
Last Edit: Apr 26, 2013 17:06:38 GMT by spindrift1
anashjain97 - yes indeed. I made so many reports, phone calls to Jet and complaints. Whilst I was in India no-one at Jet took the least notice of me. I am so disappointed in this airline. I have flown with them many times before. Things became so bad that each time I phoned (on my mobile via UK, expensive calls) I had to tell my story anew each time. No-one had a clue. This was very frustrating. After a week or so trying to trace my bag and having been alerted to just one bag that might have been mine (found by British Airways in Scotland!!!) but not mine....my mobile was cut off as I'd spent too much and as I hadnt brought my account details with me I couldn't get through by email or any other way. It's unbelievable. i then thoroughly gave up trying. I had given the Jet guys at Chennai my itinerary, they had told me to carry on with my journey and they would catch up with me if anything was found...but of course nothing was. It was at Alleppey that I finally made my Police report, that was funny in itself.
Yes that view is inspiring, just wonderful. I could gaze at it all day; it changes all day with the movement of the sun. Apparently there used to be (legend says) five of these temples on nearby beaches/shores. This is the only one left. Indeed after the tsunami and storms the ancient carvings around this temple were revealed for the first time in centuries, maybe millenia. This Shore Temple has been carved from one piece of living stone, as several are in the area. You only have to approach it to feel the 'draw' of it. (more later)
Last Edit: Apr 26, 2013 17:24:43 GMT by spindrift1
mich - I couldn't swim there at all because I had no swimsuit and in any case with the Tamils being so conservative it seems to be only proper to swim fully dressed (such as in a saree)...so although those people might be tourists in the water, I don't really know. I have been told, and I observed, that Tamil Nadu is one of the least spoilt places in India - in fact it isn't spoilt at all. Things there seem to be much as they always have been. Great respect is paid to women in the sense that women are not looked at (for the most part) or spoken to especially if their 'Master' (yes , Master) is present! Only the Master is acknowledged . For Master read Husband. Sometimes I had to pretend that Mike was my Husband. Truly sacred places such as Rameswaram do not give hotel rooms to those who are not married. I am not joking. If a woman wanted to swim then she would have to swim far away from the fishing boats (men) and anyway the currents seem to be dangerous. Though Mike did borrow a small surfboard and he enjoyed being in the water. I even tried to walk a little behind him (as good wives do), showing respect which, after all, is everything in this part of India.
Mallamapuram (population 12,000) is Tamil Nadu's only true travellers' enclave but it's much more than that. It's famous for its rock carvings, especially the Shore Temple and it was once the second capital and seaport of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. The village is listed as a World Heritage site and is a renowned centre for stone carvings.
The images carved into the rocks around Mamallapuram are like no other in Tamil Nadu. Much religious stonework in the state is alive with complex depictions of gods and goddesses. But the sculptures also show scenes of everyday life (as you will see), women milking buffaloes, young girls pimping (definitely saw these), pompous city dignitaries. Most of the temples and rock carvings were completed around 600 to 700AD.
Now I wish I had had the time and inclination (even in the Great Heat of nearly 40degC) to buy some carvings for my English garden....oh why, oh why not?
Komomol yes, I might as well tell about the shopping here and now and get it over with. There is not much to say!
Hmmm.....Mike kindly lent me a pair of his white cotton trousers (much too large) so I looked around for a couple of more. Mamallapuram isn't like Goa, no nice trendy cut off numbers, only rather horrid clothes, but I did buy one pair of white trs unfortunately gathered in at the ankle. Later on at Pondicherry I found a shop called FabIndia where I bought a pair of thin white cotton Indian churidars (I love churidars). They are really tight around the leg but they need long tops to cover their enormous waistlines. So then by chance I found a shop called Manvi. I had bought things in Manvi whilst I stayed in Kolva several years ago. I bought 2 long white hand-stitched musliny long tops. I found a pair of 'gladiator' black sandals and settled for those, wish I hadnt due to the heat, but I stuck with them and am still limping. Never mind. For my head I wouldn't wear the awful hats on sale so I tied my thin striped towel (from the guest house) around my head like a turban and like a working man does. Later on in FabIndia in Pondi I bought a lovely blue silk scarf that I wrapped around my head but really it was too hot for this. In the end my poor hair was bleached to buggery (sorry) and became like straw. As it is now. I had given up caring about my appearance by this stage. I had no make up as such so for the first time in my life I put my face in the sun, hence nice suntan. Mike lent me a pr of his boxer shorts until I found out where to buy some knicks. I bought soap, toothpaste, shampoo and some vaseline body lotion (there is nothing else) and that did for my face and everything. So that's all the shopping I did apart from buying several fine bronzes :-)
I am enthralled by the beach pictures, with the boats and the fishermen going about their business as they undoubtedly have for hundreds of years. That sense is made so much stronger with the view of the temple so near. Amazing to think how the horrible destruction of the tsunami also brought to light beauty from the distant past.
Did you feel as though it was easier to be traveling with a man, because of the conservatism where you were?
There is no doubt that it was easier travelling with a man in this part of India. The Indian family structure is such that it would be an unheard of that a woman would be divorced and travelling alone. In the temple towns I sometimes felt that we stuck out like a sore thumb and especially inside the temples. What, after all, do non-Hindus really understand about a religion and way of life that has been on-going for ten thousand years? I think that I understand a fair amount but probably I don't. Sanskrit words have so many meanings and interpretations and I cannot begin to know all of them or even some of them! Not that I am deep into the Hindu religion but of course, Buddhism came from Hinduism if you count the fact that the Buddha was a Hindu and although he lived in 500/600BC, yet there were thousands of years of Hinduism behind him and much of Hinduism is incorporated into Buddhism, as I regard it, and as I have been told. Indeed it is considered that the Buddha himself is an avatar of Vishnu. So for myself, I think I am well used to being inside temples and behaving in an appropriate manner but, being white, I felt I stuck out as being unusual. I came across so many strange and wonderful things. I see the Hindus as being a largely peaceful people, accommodating to all, kind to all. I love this. No-one ostracized me, I was always helped. as I say, only in one of the holiest places, Rameswaram, did I feel that I should not be there at all. I will explain the legends and stories of Rameswaram when I get to this place which is, in fact, the nearest that India can get to Sri Lanka and where, before the seas and oceans changed, there was a natural causeway beween the two countries.
Mich - I strongly feel there is a lot of material that I could put into a book. I hope to return. When I think about Japanese life being considered the opposite to life as we know it in the West, I also now include India.
Spindrift, this thread keeps getting deeper and more fascinating. Far beyond a mere travel thread, you're allowing us some insight into a distant and exotic way of life.
The women in the ocean make a gorgeous photo ~~ as beautiful as a fashion shot, but lovelier because of the naturalness.
Ohhh, I can see why you're gnashing your teeth over not having acquired a carving for your garden! You'll just have to go back. Super photos, as always from you. I particularly enjoy the bull and the motorcycle pic.
The Bull's name is 'Nandi' and he is the 'vehicle' for Lord Shiva. When I post pictures of the Tamil Nadu temples you will see how Nandi is revered. All of the great Hindu gods have their own particular 'vehicle' or 'carrier' so that they can move around at will.
Yes, the ladies in the sea are wonderful....
Do you think it's all right that I go into a certain amount of detail regarding HIndu ways and the things I saw? or should I just make it a casual photo thread? I myself think that People would like to know more.
I am having great difficulty uploading images to ImageShack which seems to change its formula nearly every time I try to use it.
Here is a picture of the Tank at Mamallapuram. It was situated on the way out of town. I will tell you more about the holy Tanks.
Tanks are built as reservoirs either alongside or near to temples. The water contained therein is deemed to come from the Ganges and bathing in tank water is said to bring about cures of diseases and perhaps other supplications. It is possible that the tank tradition dates back to the Vedas. Tanks are also used for ritual cleansing and during rites of consecration.
Last Edit: Apr 27, 2013 19:21:54 GMT by spindrift1
Actually I am hoping to write a book about my travels in Tamil Nadu; this will include information about Hindu temples and rites from a westerner's point of view (I've been asked to do this) and also include many comic episodes that happened in our daily life in India where there is lots of room for misunderstanding! And my pictures of course.
Last Edit: Apr 27, 2013 19:25:25 GMT by spindrift1