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Published: February 9th 2006
In an unusual (?) bout of laziness, I decided to ask the hotel travel agent to purchase my train tickets from Chennai to Bangalore, and Bangalore to Hospet. This usually incurs a commission of about Rs 100 per ticket, which is more than 10% of the ticket cost even for a 10 hour journey in 2AC. However it does mean you don't have to pay the auto fares to/from the station reservation office, plus you save the time waiting around there, so taking that into consideration it starts to look like a more reasonable figure.
He then asked me how I was getting to Chennai, then enquired as to the cost of my ticket. When I told him $235, he shook his head and tutted, saying it was actually - surprise, surprise - $143. He then said that because my ticket was bought at the "foreigner" price on a US dollar credit card, I could cancel it entirely at any point, for a mere Rs 100 fee. He then volunteered to cancel it for me and then issue me a ticket at the lower price. I'd still have to return to the Indian Airlines office in Bhubaneswar to get the
Jagannath temple complex
The main temple is the tall structure at the back surrounded by scaffolding
refund on my card, but I'd save myself ~$90. Not a difficult decision to make. I can only assume that this fare is a web one that isn't available in an actual office.
After this admin, I went along to the main highlight in Puri - the Jagannath Temple. Jagannath is an incarnation of Vishnu, and the annual festival in which he and his siblings are paraded up and down the main street in enormous chariots is the origin of the anglicised word "juggernaut". Non-Hindus are not allowed into the temple complex, so the library opposite the main entrance has established a lucrative trade in letting tourists up onto a flat roof from where decent views can be had. I'm not sure how much research traffic the library gets, as the racket coming in from outside would disturb all but the deafest of scholars.
The librarian produced a ledger containing names, nationalities, and donations of previous visitors which, unlike at the Kalighat Temple in Calcutta, may actually have been genuine. Most of the donation amounts were around the Rs 100 mark, but I saw one for 50 so thought I'd match that - since donating to a library
Puri main street
Along which the chariots are hauled in the main Jagannath festival
comes a poor ten thousandth place behind all the beggars I've seen on the trip so far. This provoked a bout of prodding at the page by the librarian, as he pointed out all the Rs 100 and up donations. I pointed out the Rs 50 one, asked him to confirm that these were purely voluntary donations, and then was left alone.
The view from the library was no great shakes anyway and in terms of impressiveness, the Jagannath Temple wasn't a patch on the one I'd seen yesterday in Konarak. The scaffolding all over it probably didn't help. It was constructed back in the 12th century, so has an excuse for needing a facelift.
My cycle rickshaw back to the hotel was driven by a wizened old man who I was seriously concerned might snap as he strained to get us up a couple of inclines. I'd also made the mistake of choosing a covered rickshaw - these are great for keeping off the sun, as long you aren't 6 foot 3 and have to lean forward uncomfortably to avoid banging your head on the cover.
Since my insides were still not at all happy, I
had a relaxing evening in my room, ending with a final promenade along CT Road before bed.
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