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Published: January 14th 2010
we watched the sun rise above the haze at the Southern most tip of India.. not the nicest of places
Well I am now on a train from Kolkata to Varanasi. I would like to say on my own for the first time, and whilst that is true I don’t ever seem to be without a talking companion!! On this journey there is a very enthusiastic 19 year old girl called Kab who is chatting happily to me about how she loves London and Switzerland!! (her mum is also here and has already told her to take my email address for when she comes to England!!
Well I left you in Madurai and the beautiful Sri Meenakshi temple and from there Pierino, Flurina and I got a train to Pondicherry. What a place! Pondicherry is the ‘French town’ in India. It is the place where you can eat proper French pastries and where I saw the most amount of Westerners (a LOT of French obviously!) I enjoyed Pondicherry… actually I really liked it... but I think it was for the wrong reasons! I liked it because I could eat a croissant and it reminded me of Europe - which is nice for a day but not a reason to travel to India! Anyway, we found a nice big room with
There was nowhere to go and nothing to really do so we made the best of the situation and turned our prison hotel room into a card den with Pierino and Flurina!
two double beds and headed out for some pastries! I have never eaten so much for breakfast - a croissant, a delicious onion quiche and a chocolate éclair!! (I got a bit carried away but they were SO good!!) But since I was in the ‘French town’ I figured it would be rude not too!! We wandered around the city, with its French style architecture and stylishly French uniformed policemen (complete with red beret!) and ate western food for the first time in three weeks. I had a bit of a tantrum at the post office whilst trying to post aparcel of goodies home, when I queued for 40 minutes in the wrong queue (I had even checked it was the right queue! Argghh) I then went to where I was supposed to be and after 20 more minutes of no help and no idea what I needed to do to send my parcel, I had a strop and walked out!! Needless to say I went back the next day and got the job done! (met two lovely English couples and two French guys - so had quite a jolly time chatting away to them!) For the record in India
Saying goodbye to Charlie
Charlie finally went on his merry way leaving me.. but not on my own.. i was to spend the next 5 days with the lovely Swiss couple - yay
if you want to send a parcel you need to pack it into a box, wrap it in that plastic tape that can’t be tampered with and then wrap it in white cloth and SEW it up… yes - SEW it up!! That is why it took me two hours just to send a parcel. The guy doing the sewing should have worked in Saville Row, not Ponducherry post office - and It being India he felt no need to hurry and so each parcel took him at least 20 minutes to sew. But when you know what to expect, are chatting to people, and are in no hurry it is fine… when you have no idea what is happening, no one to talk to and need to be somewhere ,it is a nightmare!! … second time lucky for me!! I’m learning patience every day here!!
Now Pondicherry has a big ashram in it which I visited and was amazed at the intense ‘vibrations’ (I know that sounds hippie-ish but that is the best way to describe it) I sat quietly for some time and found it remarkably easy to feel a sense of peace and calm. I also
Sri Meenakshi Temple
A gorgeous temple in the 'city of temples'. Really beautiful to see from a rooftop over the road.
went to Auroville which is a place I had heard about last year when staying at Amma’s ashram. It is a spiritual community set up by Sri Aurobindo and a French lady in the 70’s. Their aim was to set up a community that has no religion or class system but is about equality and living together in peace and harmony. (I am sure there is more to it but I think that is the general idea) They also have the largest crystal in the world which they house in the ‘matrimandir’ (a huge golden golf ball looking structure!) It was a very peaceful beautiful place and whilst I only spent a few hours there I liked it. I also got eaten alive by ants or mosquitoes or some other viscious bug!
So after two nights in Pondicherry the three of us headed on a train and then my first bus ride to Mamallapurnam. (Pierno and Flurina changed their plans and decided to join me which was lovely.) The bus ride was remarkably ok and whilst they packed in the punters I had a seat beside a sweet Indian boy and we watched Shrek on my Ipod so that passed
This is the famous Matrimandir at Pondicherry. A very relaxed and spiritual place... my feet got biten to peices by god only knows what!
the short journey very nicely!
Mamallapurnam is a lovely beach town on the East coast in between Pondicherry and Chennai. I imagine it will be like Varkala or Goa in a few years time, but for now it is a lovely sleepy town which specializes in stone (or marble?) carving. We arrived fairly late at night and had a refreshing swim in the Bay of Bengal (cooler than the Arabian sea in Varkala but still lovely) and then ate some food. I went out to explore and managed to find a volleyball match to watch! (sport definitely seems to be a running theme in this trip - I saw a cricket match today !!) I also managed to spend an hour and a half and two chai’s chatting to an Indian man in his shop - it was a very random experience and one I won’t forget in a hurry; he seemed to have a very clear ‘vision’ (that sounds hippy-ish again doesn’t it!!) but we talked about many things and he really hit the nail on the head with many things he said about me!! I left his shop and our spiritual chat only to get lost
When we found this lovely french bread place I ate my own weight in pastries (just about!) a nice change from dhosa's for breakfast!
on the back streets of Mamallapurnam in the dark and was beginning to panic slightly, when suddenly a boy who I’d chatted to earlier and bought some trinkets from appeared and was able to show me the way back to my hotel - he appeared just at the right moment, and really reminded me how ‘looked after’ I am; my constant chatting/making friends to all and sundry paid off!!
It was time to say goodbye to Pierino and Flurina - they have been lovely travelling companions and I was sad to say goodbye, but now it is the next phase of my adventure! So I woke up the next day at 5.30am and headed to the bus stand to catch a bus to Chennai. I was anxious to get on the bus but after some time realized that no one knew where the driver was. I had an inkling he may be asleep on his bus, so I took it upon myself to wake him!! At which point he jumped up, looked at his watch and we were on our way within 5 minutes! (patience is good but sometimes action is needed!!) Again, this bus journey was only short
and was fine. Again I wasn’t really on my own; this time I was joined by a Korean guy who I chatted to about British music for most of the journey (admittedly this conversation merely involved me naming as many British bands as I could, and him telling me he loved them!!) So after being dumped on the side of the road I headed to the airport and boarded my amusingly named, ‘Spice Jet’ flight to Kolkata. Kolkata is great. I was expecting not to like it but I loved it and wish I was staying for a few more days. It is loud, smelly, dirty and full, as all Indian cities are, but Kolkata has something else. For starters it has this huge open space in the middle which is filled with people, rubbish, stalls and animals (!?) It has the Victoria Memorial which is beautiful (and where I was queuing amongst about 150 indians, being shoved every which way, until rather embarrassingly I was spotted by a guard and pulled out and moved to the front!), St Paul’s which is tranquil and serene with a lovely stain glass window by Burne-Jones and the Missionaries Charity set up by
Drying sari's on the beach..
Mother Theresa (which was closed when I got there so all I have is a photo of the door!!). And they are just a few of the sites I got a chance to see in my fleeting visit. I also ate the best dhosa on the street (with every mouthful I ate being watched by 5 men and a police man who were amazed that I was being so ‘daring’!) and managed to get asked out to dinner by two completely random strangers! (not sure what that was about, but I politely declined!) My hotel was lovely - not lovely as in deluxe, but lovely as in cheap and clean and with lovely staff and I would recommend it (The Hilson on Sudder st). So. Kolkata. A place with spirit and real character. I would definitely visit again.
So that brings you up to date! It is almost 11pm and I am sitting here typing away whilst the Indians around me sleep (yet again I seem to be the only westerner which means that yet again the mosquitoes will be searching me out - Indians don’t get bitten - for a snack!)
BLOODY HELL it is FREEZING here… sorry
The volley ball game
I found myself suddenly on the side lines of a volley ball game in Mamallapurnam!
for swearing but… wow. It is now the following morning and last night I kept waking up to put on more layers in order not to get hypothermia. I mean everyone had told me how cold it was up north but I thought they were exaggerating!! They were not. I started off the train journey with a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a jumper. I am now sitting in a pair of leggings and a pair of jeans, a short sleeved t shirt and a long sleeve t-shirt, TWO jumpers and my north face jacket. I also have a pashmina, a sarong and a silk sleeping bag liner over my legs. And I’m still a little cold… and my feet are freezing!… obviously this is not the weather for sitting in the door of the train and watching the world go by so I will have to make do with the window. Well clearly I will now have to wait till Thailand for some more sun! I may need to buy some sort of rug to wrap myself in! Overnight the train also seemed to pick up even more people and my ‘berth’ is now brimming with heavily wrapped
Sawing another lock!
I had to saw the other lock off after loosing the keys in Goa.. i have only got combination locks now!!
up men and women.
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