Ancient city of Madurai

Trip Start Nov 15, 2004
Trip End Nov 10, 2005

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Tuesday, March 8, 2005

We headed south after Chennai to one of the oldest cities in Asia - Madurai, home of the impressive Sri Meenakshi Temple with its numerous gopuras (towers) rising above the city landscape. Madurai is deservably popular with tourists, both Indian and western. The dusty city is cleaner than other parts of India we have visited and there is a great vibe that spills from the temple on to the streets. The temple itself is a massive complex with near nonstop activity, being open from 5am to about 10pm (with of course a typically long asian lunch break). It is worth more than one visit.

Apart from visiting the temple, the Ghandi Museum, a 16th Century Palace and wandering the streets we have continued to try as many dishes as possible - the variety of food is amazing and we have had to resign ourselves to not being able to eat every dish produced in India!

To give you a little 'taste' of the cuisine I will attempt to describe some of the dishes... For breakfast you can indulge in moist rice patties dipped in sambar (a mildly spicy dhaal mix) or a paper thin dosai bread filled with a mild curry mix (many varieties to choose from of course) washed down with a sweet Lassi (no Australian made Lassi comes close), fresh juice or hot, milky and sweet coffee. In true Indian fashion you must pour your coffee from its small tin cup back and forth into the saucer to both cool it and froth it up!

Lunch is typically a thali - a number of dishes served on a banana leaf or tin tray. It typically includes two or three wet curries, a dry curry, curd, dhaal, chili chutney, rice, papadum or roti and a rice pudding for dessert. Men walk around with tins of the food and continually pile it onto your leaf until you are bursting. The best thus far has come from Madurai with 19 items including two desserts. The technique requires using the right hand only and mixing up the dishes with the rice into a sloppy mess in the middle of your leaf, then shovelling it in with your hand. This sets us back around 60 cents each, a backpacker's dream meal!

Anyway, after a few days of enjoying Madurai, it is off to the coastal state of Kerala where Michael intends breaking the vegetarian run with some overindulgence in seafood.
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