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Published: February 3rd 2012
After blast of from Colombo airport we have hardly been mid air for half an hour, when the pilot announced that we should prepare for landing (hence also a really sad and small lunch we got on the aeroplane: pack of nuts and a small pack of apple juice, not impressed, not at all 😊 Sorry Umar, no new photos for you.).So an hour later we touched ground in India, more exactly at the Tiruchirapali airport.
We were standing in line, to have our passports checked, when we noticed 2 rooms with glass doors and 2 beds in them: they were his and hers Entry refusal room.
It kinda sends shivers down your spine when you are still waiting in line and we started thinking, how horrible it would be, if we got locked up, as it looked like you were in a zoo of some sorts, everyone could take a peek and see what you are up to. Next to the rooms was of course also an Interrogation room. Welcome to India, eh?
When it was finally our turn, the man demanded arrival forms, which we didn't have. Funnily enough, everyone got one at
the Colombo airport, except for us. So we had to go back in line and this Indian woman filled out the forms for us. Back in line and we were finally heading towards baggage claim. We took our backpacks and were on our way out of the airport, when we were stopped and asked to produce yet another paper, so we can take our bags out. We had the paper, so we were finally out and met a huge and persistent crowd of tuk tuk drivers. According to our guide book, there were local buses going from the airport to town, so we went to the main road and waited. In the end, tired and a bit confused we took a tuk tuk driver to get us to “Trichy”.
We entered into a complete chaos, but it was not time to sit down yet, we had to find a place to stay first. So off we were: first place had rooms available, but when Jan and I went to check one, it only took one look and we almost ran out of the hostel. Next one: full, next one: full, next one: full...you get the picture from here
onwards. We walked to about 8 different hostels, all were full (apparently there was some big wedding in town for the weekend), one of them was only for business purposes (you know, “business”, when you rent the room for half an hour 😊), and then we found one. It was a bit more expensive, but it was clean, and they had room (Ashby hotel, 800rp per night)..
OK, to the next mission: finding food. There were loads of local restaurants, so we walked into one that was quite packed, we wanted to sit down, when we were told to move to another room, so we did, and we were told to move to another room, a compartment, which was completely separate from the rest of the place, it was closed up, but it did have AC. We felt so weird, we turned and left. And we went to the neighbour, where we were so nicely welcomed and there was no problem with where we could or could not sit. In that first restaurant, we discovered the joys of eating with your hands: your food is served on a banana leaf, and whatever you order is thrown on that leaf,
Portrait no 1.
People asked us to take their photos all the time. Unlike in Indonesia we didn't have to pose with them
and then the fun starts, you mix your rice with different curries, and stuff your face with the assistance of your right hand. AWESOME, I will never eat with a fork and a spoon any more 😊 (although I lied, I just ate muesli with a spoon this morning).
So, that was that for our first day in Trichy, I think all we did, was check out the bus station and the schedule for the buses for our next destination, and that was it. Oh, wait. Another thing we discovered in India: real coffee, Indian coffee, with loads and loads of REAL milk. Yum, yum.
The next day we had plenty of time, before we had to check out (in India hotels don't have a designated check out time, you rent your room for 24 hours). So we decided to at least do something in Trichy and we went to see the famous fort. Arriving to town centre with a local bus, fun, fun, fun, we stepped onto a street and were finally greeted by India. Jan was walking around saying: “I am loving it. I am taking it all in. It's crazy, but I love it!” And
it was chaotic, but it's the kind of chaos, that is, well, endearing. People wearing colourful clothes, so many different noises, people staring at you, but never impolitely, just out of pure curiosity. Walking the gazillion stairs to the top of the fort, there were so many locals, who just wanted Jan to take a picture of them, all smiling like little children.
After experiencing the phenomenal views of the city from the fort, we went back to the hostel, picked up our stuff and went to the bus station, hoping we wouldn't have to wait long for the bus. We got there, they hauled us up to a bus and literally 5 minutes after arriving to the bus station we were on our way to Madurai.
They told us the bus ride to Madurai should last about 4 hours, so I braced myself to spend the next 5 to 6 hours on the bus. But I was proven wrong, only 3,5 hours later we arrived to our second destination in India, Madurai. We chose a hostel from the guide book and were lucky for a change, they had room, the price was reasonable and it
was clean. Score!!! Oh, the name of the place is Sri Devi, and we wre paying around 450rp.
Madurai is one of the oldest cities in south Asia and is known for the vast and colourful temples of Sri Meenakshi – Sundareshwarar Temple. We were actually staying just round the corner, so we took a sneak peek the first day.
The next day, looking for a good local place to get breakfast, the hotel manager suggested we go to a place called Modern Restaurant, which became our main food supplier for the next 2 days. The place was nothing special, just one of the local restaurants, but the people there were so nice, and it was always packed with locals, so that it always a good sign. We completely gave up on having normal breakfast, so we are getting into the habit of starting our day with one of the local bread substitutes (dosa, poori, parota, chapati – all so very yummy) and some curry. We would stop again at the restaurant for the mid – day meal (meals are divided into 3 parts in India, specific food available for breakfast, ready meals for lunch, and then another
group of food for dinner). Mid – day meal is awesome and fun, as you get to be a bit messy again. You buy a coupon first, than sit your ass down and the procession of men bringing individual food items begins: you get your banana leaf first, then the rice man brings you rice, slam dunk, it's on your “plate”, the curry man brings 4 saucepans around, and puts a ladle of each of the sauces/curries on top of your banana leaf, then the padam man comes round, and you get one on top of your rice – unless you are Jan and are crazy about padams (tastes and looks like huge crisps) and you get 2, and another man brings you a different kind of sauce that you use to moisten your rice, and then last but not least, you get the sweets. And then you can dig in and make a huge mess and enjoy the food, which is of course eaten with your hands. 😊 You can tell I love the meals.
OK, enough of food. We went around the temples the next day, which were just amazing, so colourful, but the majority of the
Batteries to allow PCs to work during many, many power cuts
action was taking place around the four towers (that are placed in a vast rectangle in the middle of the city). You can always count on masses of people gathering around the temples, there are many shops there, families sitting down on the pavements, people chatting...you could just sit down and observe. Oh, and I got my first batch of expensive jewellery there: 5 bracelets, which are changing shape every day and cost around 30rp (about 40cents) and a “wedding ring” (cheap piece of …), for 10 rp – I need to seem to be married, as I will get less attention that way, apparently. 😊
After seeing the main sight we were already looking at how to get to our next destination and we went to get some info from the main train station, where we found out, it wasn't as easy as we though. You have to wait in a long line first, to not purchase a ticket, but to get on the waiting list. Then, after you purchase the fake ticket, you are asked to come back in the evening, so thy can confirm your ticket and establish whether you can travel or not. Lucky for
Coffee, coffee, coffee
Can be found at any corner..for 7rp,
us that we are tourists, as they have some special quotas for tourists and you usually get a bed or a seat on the train. But we saw people booking 1, 2, 3 months in advance. We had the fake ticket, but then Jan found a store that sells Canon cameras, specifically dSLRs. He was really sad when our camera broke and was so thrilled with the idea that he could purchase an SLR camera and use it for the remainder of the trip. So we decided to stay in Madurai for another night (as they were expecting a camera next day. They had one SLR only), which meant, it was back to the train station for me, trying to explain we were not travelling that evening.
And some more admin followed. They can't just change the date on the ticket, so they told me, I have to fill out a cancellation form, cancel the ticket, come back the next day, fill out the reservation form, and get the “fake” ticket again. I decided to try my luck, so I filled out both forms, made sure I went to a male clerk behind the counter and played on my
“damsel in distress” card. And it worked, we got the fake ticket on that same evening.
The next day was camera purchasing day. But things got a bit complicated: according to Jan's research the price was a bit high, we could not get any money from the ATM, and when we wanted to pay by card, they wanted to charge an extra 2%. Nothing went right, and Jan completely lost all will to even look at the camera. So we decided it would wait, and that our little Canon camera will have to do. I am happy with that, but Jan, the artist, is not to thrilled about the outcome. But the photos he is taking are still amazing, so I hope it will do for him.
We were pretty much just wondering around for the remainder of the day, waiting for the train (22.50 departure). When we got to the train station and located our carriage we were a bit surprised when we saw the sleeper. It was just so funny and weird, but after we climbed on the top level (you literally felt as if you were sleeping on a bunk bed in a submarine), it
was actually quite comfy and to be honest, I slept like a baby. We departed on time (shockingly) and 9 hours later, we were in Varkala.
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