Relaxing in Mamalapuram

Trip Start Jan 06, 2006
Trip End Mar 28, 2006

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Four days ago i made the 2 hour bus ride from Pondicherry to Mamalapuram. As it was my first experience of Indian buses, i was a litte unsure of what to expect but all went well. My rucksack did prove a bone of contention with the ticket man though. I was eventually allowed to keep it on the seat next to me but as the bus picked up more people i didn't have the heart to say no to a very frail old lady! I ended up having it on my knees for the last hour of the journey. Next time, i will try and pick my seat more carefully. Anyway, it was a small price to pay considering the trip only cost less than 50p!
Mamalapuram is quite a small and very relaxed seaside town. It is famous for it's centuries old rock carvings and Shore Temple. Lining the roads are people carving statues out of granite. There's a sculpture college not far away too.
I spent the first day here doing the sites. The best time to go is in the morning and getting up early certainly paid off as the Shore Temple was deserted. It was also worth seeing all the locals getting up. The Indians seem to be abit obsessed with dust, so there is alot of sweeping the area outside of their houses and then sluicing down with water. Everything seems to be done in the street. For instance, there is the communal water tap with lots of water containers surrounding it, being filled for the morning's supply. The children having their hair brushed and plaited ready in their school uniforms. People cleaning their teeth, washing, eating breakfast, drinking chai... It's quite a busy time of day and there are no tourists!
After wandering around the temple, i went in search of the 5 Rathas to the sound of more stone carvers chipping away. The Rathas are 7th century, intricately carved Hindu shrines, based on Buddhist buildings. There is also a life sized stone carved elephant which is apparently one of the finest in India. The morning quiet was short lived though and the area was suddenly invaded by lots of school children! They seemed more interested in us foreigners than their ancient heritage! After clambering all over the shrines, they left as quickly as they had arrived only to be replaced by the next coach load. This time, the teachers wanted me to pose for photos with them!
On the way back, I stopped off to see the rock carvings. These were very skillfully done and quite an impressive sight as they had been carved into and very large rock face. By this time, it was starting to get hot so i headed back for my 'second breakfast'!
I can definately feel a difference in the heat since when i first arrived. I tend to have quite long lunches or spend that time in a air conditioned internet place because it's too hot. Having the beach is also good for cooling down and it is certainly breezier here than in Pondicherry because of it.
I've got a cold today, so feeling abit pathetic and sorry for myself! Hopefully it won't last too long. Going to Chennai tomorrow for the night before i head off to Cochin and Kerala. Not really looking forward to Chennai though. It is a massive city full of traffic and pollution...
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