Today we got up at 7 so that we can leave early for the days sight seeing at the town of Mamallapuram. We have hired a car and driver and expect it to take around 2 hours to get there. After about an hour the driver asks if we want to stop for breakfast and we agree this is a good idea as we haven’t eaten since yesterday afternoon.
I’m slightly apprehensive when we’re told there isn’t a menu but we agree to try the south Indian breakfast. We have had tried it before but today there is no choice and idlis and dosa’s arrive on a banana leaf with their accompaniments. Idlis are salty steamed rice flour balls and dosa’s a kind of rolled up thin crispy pancake. The accompaniments are sauces made with mint, coconut and chilli of varying spiciness. I can’t eat this, early in the morning and like a complete philistine and to Simon’s disgust I pour sugar on mine and encourage the kids to do the same!
We eventually arrive at Kanchipuram Temple, this isn’t where we asked to go but still we’re pleased the fella has brought us here as there is a festival for one of the gods taking place and we see him being paraded through the street in a palanquin and fire offerings taking place.
There is an elephant at the temple entrance and we ask if the kids can have their photos taken with it, before he knows it Alister has been whipped up onto its back and is going for a ride. For someone scared of heights this is a little out of his comfort zone especially as there was nothing to hold onto except its skin which he said was hairy and tough!
The Brahmin of the temple shows us round and talks us through the history of the temple pillars. He points out “women with big boobies” to Ali on the sly and seems to like showing us the Kama Sutra pillars the best.
We stop for lunch at a beach shack, this beach was affected by the Asian tsunami in 2004 but everything appears to be back to normal. We have some seafood and then walk down to the waters edge. It is one of the most overcast days we have experienced since arriving in India and although it’s not cold I’m not surprised when it starts to rain.
Next we stop of at The Shore Temple this temple was built around 700 AD and represents the final phase of pallava art; it depicts images of the Hindu god Shiva. Sadly though, we found the corpse of a huge turtle more interesting and probably spent more time examining that.
Lastly we visit The 5 Rathas and Krisna’s “butterball” these are stone carvings and a large precariously balanced looking rock. The Ratha’s are temples and animal carvings and include a life size elephant carving. These both make good photo opportunities and we get some shots for the website.
We start back around 5.30, this is a little early, we think as Chennai is only 55km away and we are not due back until 8pm. So we’re not surprised when the driver suggests we stop off at a few shops on the way back. We have read about other travellers really experiencing a hard sell but as Simon is no push over and there is no one more stubborn than me, the carpet, wooden carving, jewellery, painting and ironwork merchants can’t persuade us to buy anything and we leave empty handed but having had a good look around.
Despite the lack of sales the driver seems happy enough as he has been given a small commission anyway in the form of a gift just for taking us there. When he suggests more shopping we insist he takes us back to the hotel citing the mosquito’s as the reason we need to get back and covered up.
7.45pm the internet provision is poorer here than anywhere else we have been; I’m not sure whether this is just in this area or in Chennai in general. Going out now to eat and to try and update website. Next time we do this will probably be from Singapore. We are leaving India tomorrow night at 11pm. How exciting is that ?