A noisy city

January 21st 2010
Published: January 21st 2010
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I was a little sad to leave Mysore, I felt like staying there a few more days. Such a relaxing place, for a big city it was very impressive. I had a wonderful time there, visiting yoga friends and spending some time in a simple but comfortable hotel. Even the train station was amazingly clean, I could have eaten my lunch in the ladies room, that's how clean it was. The proof: the woman in charge of cleaning the toilet even rinsed the 5 rupie coin I gave her! Now that is a woman who is well suited for her job!

The train ride was enjoyable. The scenery was probably one of the nicest I have seen in INdia, green rice fields with lots of banana trees, coconut trees, sugar cane, etc. I also had nice chatty neighbours in the train, they teased me a lot about the fact that I am not very fat, they even asked how much I weigh, said I was living off air and water and decided that they should feed me as much as possible during the journey. One guy gave me cookies, the other bananas, a woman gave me some spicy fatty "very
CAt in MaduraiCAt in MaduraiCAt in Madurai

from the rooftop of my hotel
special" treats, I also got chapati with jam, in other words I wasn't going to starve.

I arrived in MAdurai early in the morning, my hotel neighbour in Mysore (Pieter from Belgium) had decided to follow me to Madurai so I met him on the train platform once we arrived, and from there we started our search for a hotel room. Madurai apparently gets on a regular basis about 10,000 visitors in one day. Needless to say, there is A LOT of hotels in town! We tried one, then another, then another, then another, then one Indian man decided that we needed help to find a hotel and his friend too, and the next guy, so it was a pretty big quest we ended up on, and the choices seemed quite limited: full, expensive and dirty or dirty and expensive. There was also VERY expensive and probably clean but it was too much anyway so we didn't bother looking at the rooms. After 4 hours I was getting a bit tired and thirsty, we sat on the sidewalk and had some juice while our "hotel finding team" (by that time I think there was only 1 or 2 of them left) waited more or less patiently. I finally stayed with the bags while Pieter kept looking for a room, and finally managed to find a pretty OK hotel for a somewhat reasonable price. Ahhhh, relief! ONly problem, there was a shortcircuit in my room and I had to either sleep without the fan or with the fan and light on...

After a shower, some food and some unpacking, we went to explore the city a bit more. I can't say that Madurai is a very charismatic city. The horns seem louder, the touts pushier, and overall I find it a more stressful city. It is one of the oldest cities in INdia but they are trying to "modernize it", creating some kind of mixed chaos... Still, I met really nice people, and enjoyed (of course) the markets a lot. The old market is beautiful, but almost empty now, they moved the flower market quite far away from the old city. We took a rickshaw to go there and it was worth the trip, to see all the INdians buying flowers by the kilo, and smelling all these beautiful jasmines, roses, etc. Apparently we were not supposed to smell the flowers, the smell is for the Gods in the temple.

The temple is about 500 years old, the outside very colorful and the inside feels somewhat dark and ancient. Around the temple are a lot of shops and even a space were tailors are busily working, made me think of the book "A Fine Balance". But honestly, outside the temple and the markets, there is very little to see in Madurai. We walked a lot, in the small streets of the old city, to the river, to the palace, but for one of the rare times in INdia, I didn't fall in love with this place. Even the food seems more expensive and not as tasty around here... But some of the tourist restaurants are nice because they are on the rooftops of 6-7 floor hotels and breezy, so it's enjoyable (until the mosquitoes come out in full force when it gets dark!).

Tonight I leave at 2 AM, by train again, to Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India, were there is no land anymore until Antarctica! Ony for a day, only to see it, say "I have been there"! Then I will, of course, go north following the Keralan coast.

Additional photos below
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By the riverBy the river
By the river

Sarees drying

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