Published: December 21st 2010December 27th 2010
Mamallapuram aka Mamabalipuram
Day 3 - Monday - Chennai to Mamabailpuram
After a leisurely breakfast we jumped into what was really quite a luxurious bus (no air con but windows do the trick!) for a 1.5 hour drive to Mamabalipuram, one of the popular regions south of Chennai. It has quite a different feel and there are a lot more western tourists here - a beachside town with a lot of history, what with it's dead temples (only because of of one part of the temple being damaged it loses it's religious significance and is no longer worthy. Also means you don't have to take shoes off!)
After a short walk we hired some bicycles and went touring. Riding was fun although we has to first check our bells worked as this is he main way you seem to stay alive - if you make noise the game or chicken isn't so bad! We first went to see the 'Butter Ball', a large circular rock which is suspended on a rocky outcrop. The story goes when the British came they uses 7 elephants to try and move it with no luck. It is one of those classic photo opportunities, where you try to look like you are pushing it over or it is about to roll on top of you.... we are such tourists!!! No wonder the goats watch us wherever we go! (and cows, dogs, pigs etc which just casually walk the streets).
Next was some of the monuments carved out of the rock - the 5 Rathas, Shore temple - all amazing sights. Two of our group, Jade and Patrick (from Perth) have been travelling for a long time already and have decided not to join us, as they are 'templed out'. They are told to wait in a certain area, so we can meet them once we are finished. We all walk around, taking in ths sights and as we got back to the bikes we were surprised to hear from Charls that a massive crowd of Indians had formed nearby to us was around a snake charmer. We all started to wander over to check this out, so you can imagine our surprise when we saw Jade's hand emerge from the centre of the group - they had become celebrities in our absence!!!
All of the sights we saw were pretty incredible, seeing all these monuments hand carved out of granite by hand such a long time ago. We were all pretty happy to pay the exorbitant entry fee of 250 rupees ($6?) as this goes to the ongoing restoration and care for all these sights (previously one of the locations had been used 'for morning business' by the locals - tourists are a much better option).
We then enjoyed a late lunch at the Blue Elephant (calamari - yum! So much for me being a veg on this holiday) before heading off to a local orphanage - all boys up to the age of 10. One little boy particularly took favor to me (photos to come later). They call all the women Auntie, so after a game of 'karrom' (like pool but using circular discs and flicking them with your fingers - I was surprisingly good!) we played ball - me throwing and him catching - so cute!
And so on to our evening festivities, a local dance festival held in the main square outside the Arnjurna Temple. The first act was so bad it was funny and reminded me of a school concert, where no-one really knows what is going on and they keep looking at each other for guidance! We had some bad stilt costumes, followed by a very unattractive man balancing stuff on his head. But all of this was redeemed when the 'traditional' dancer came out. She was introduced as having been born of the '3rd sex' which we initially took to mean transexual or hermaphrodite but later learned she was a eunuch. Stunning performance and quite mesmerizing but in true Indian or Bollywood fashion went on for way too long - one song/dance can go for 25 minutes!!!
After we had all decided we'd had enough we exited our 'VIP' section and it was on to the Seawater restaurant for dinner (although most of us were still full from lunch) famous for it's seafood platters. So I broke my vegetarian rule (again) and ordered it - maybe I should've realised beforehand that a $5 seafood platter would be bad......let's just say I got my money's worth!!!!
So back to the vegetarian hotel, our 'luxury' room (aka it has a fan!), our solid but comfy twin beds for Holly and I..... Another amazing day!