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Published: March 2nd 2017
We are wandering around Southern India - our third visit to India - on a small group tour. Our arrival into Chennai brings back the reasons we like India so much - the colours, spicy curry aromas, mayhem, hot weather, friendly locals, street food stalls - as the India tourist poster states - Incredible India - we are certainly glad to be back.
Initially, a few days of rest recovering from jet-lag, visiting a FabIndia shop to purchase another couple of colourful shirts at very reasonable prices, trying out the Southern Indian curries and acclimatising to the hot and slightly humid weather prior to the tour commencing.
We travel to Mahabalipuram, stopping off at Kanchipuram to visit magnificent Hindu temples - alive with activity, colour and chanting. Our hotel is situated on the beach overlooking the Bay of Bengal. This small town is famous for the Shore Temple - an amazing sight of a highly carved and decorated tower. Nearby is the geological mystery of the Krishna's "Butter Ball" - a large rounded monolith of granite perched, apparently precariously, on a slight slope!!
We now have two long days of driving heading mainly south down the East Indian
Highway and then south west towards the point of India. There are also sections on smaller roads visiting points of interest namely Temples!! The standard of driving in India can only be described as organised chaos - motorbikes travelling in the wrong lanes heading directly for the front of the bus before veering into their own lane at the last second - public buses also behave in a similar manner and we witness several close calls - with horns and klaxons blaring and leaving rubber on the carriageway!!
There are also overloaded wagons, tractors with massive trailers overflowing with sugar cane, almost filling the whole single carriage and we have to divert via the verge! Thank goodness we have a careful and experienced driver who steers us through the surrounding mayhem!!
We stop in the old French colonial city of Pondicherry with narrow streets, charming white and grey buildings and the occasional patisserie!! Along the seafront promenade a 4 metre statue of Mahatma Gandhi stands proudly.
We overnight near Tanjore and next morning visit the incredible Hindu Shiva Temple of Brihadeeshwara with towering, highly decorated cream-coloured godpurams. A stunning sight in the morning sun.
is a highlight at a bustling roadside restaurant where we eat a delicious South Indian Thali - served on a banana leaf with piles of rice, popadom and nine small dishes of various curries & sauces washed down with a cooling fresh lime soda - and all for the princely sum of 367 Rupees - (£4.50 for both of us)
In Madurai, one of India's most ancient Tamil cities, we visit the extensive colourful Hindu Meenakshi Amman Temple with many tall decorated gopurams. We walked barefooted through this devout Temple enthralled by the colourful artistry, carved pillars and ceiling painting. A rickshaw ride through the bustling interesting market area of Madurai ended a fancinating day.
We have another long day of driving tomorrow leaving Tamil Nadu and entering into the Indian state of Kerala.
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