the next weekend, we were bound for Madurai - the temple-city of Tamil Nadu. left Ooty on Friday afternoon, and took the 3 hour bus journey to Coimbatore (our usual route.) then took the overnight train (!) from there that evening. leaving at about 10pm (+ surprisingly on time!) it arrived shortly after 4am! yup, i know, we’ve completely lost the plot! you dont need to tell me.
the train was surprisingly ok. the carriages are split up into rooms, with doors you can bolt from the inside for safety. most rooms have 4 berths, but the kind conductor gave us one with only 2; as he said it would be safer for us, since we were two girls alone. (relief, as was worried about who we would be sharing with - get some serious weirdos out here. boy do the Indian men know how to perve!) room had two berths (like padded beds - hard, but survivable!) one on top of the other, and, since i’m taller (and hence easier for me to climb up) volunteered to go on top.) was ok though. managed to kinda nap - disturbed, but some sleep. admittedly felt a bit dead when ‘morning’ came. made me laugh though, as at about midnight, train stopped in a station. conductor poked his head through the window to ask if we wanted any water, and then another bloke selling tea did the same! its very common to get people selling all sorts of things at stations. is great though - all adds to the atmosphere! but, when in a semi-dazed state, just seems highly amusing!
arrived in Madurai in the small hours in the morning. grabbed a coffee (trying to stay awake!) and settled down in the station, to wait until the sun rose shortly after 6. its incredible though - even at that time, the station was a hive of activity. people everywhere - those offering you every kind of transport imaginable at the entrance to the station; many sleeping on the floor, completely oblivious to the chaos around them; while others raced around, sacks+suitcases balanced on their heads and shoulders! (whatever happened to carrying things!?!) eventually we ventured out, and after finding somewhere for breakfast, wandered round checking out various hotels (well, we had time to kill.) most hotels have a 24 hour check-in, so didnt want to check-in too early, as would have to leave at the same time the following morning!
after checking in, we finally had a well-deserved shower, and changed into some fresh clothes. bliss! then headed out for our day in Madurai! caught an auto to the Shree Meenakshi Temple, where we left our shoes with some guys to look after, as obviously cant wear them inside the temple. but then had to walk on the road and round the temple (which is HUGE) with no shoes on! yuk! fortunately was wearing socks, but feet were still filthy by the end of it! (just watch where you step.)
before going in, we bought some fresh flowers that they sell everywhere, all threaded together. put some in our hair + bought lots to put in the temple. a local guy also offered to show us round at no cost, which proved to be fantastic, as he told us all about the temple and the traditions. at one point, we stopped, amazed, as we watched people throwing little lumps of butter at statues of Shiva and Meenakshi! our ‘friend’ soon explained that the two of them are having an arguement, and so people throw butter at them to cool them down! ;)
walked round for about 2 hours! it was really beautiful. there were intricate carvings everywhere, and lovely paintings on the ceilings. not sure if you’ve ever seen pictures of the temple - its very well-known. its actually made up from a series of towers, in huge grounds (about 7,i think.) the towers have amazing carvings, which have been brightly painted. really incredible! there are 2 towers with gold roofs, dedicated to Shiva and Meenakshi.
the guy also took us across to a shop, where they took us up on the roof to get a better look. was a spectacular view. all the guidebooks advise you not to do this, as you are obviously obliged to look in the shop afterwards. but to be honest, i think its well worth that bit of hassle.
after the temple, had some lunch in a nearby restaurant, before heading off to indulge in a girl’s favourite pass time. yup, you guessed it - SHOPPING! and, it was some SERIOUS retail therapy, i assure you! spent too much money, but had loadsa fun! (thats what its about after all!) next weekend will have to be a budget one!
our ‘friend’ later showed us to a fabric shop, and after much deliberation, chose fabrics and got them to make some stuff for us. tailoring is really cheap out here, and since the fabric is so good (+ fairly reasonable, depending on what you choose,) its quite a good idea to get stuff made, as its cool and comfy for the hot weather. and all fits really nicely!
then wandered down to this huge covered market, which apparantly has about 200 tailors! (obviously stopping in shops along the way!) there i got some trousers made, and actually watched him make them from scratch! really quick (must have been Speedy Gonzales in a past life!) and they turned out really nicely. later went to the palace to see the light-and-sound show. the lights were fantastic - the palace looked beautiful, as it was lit up in a variety of ever-changing colours. the story, though, was boring, + everyone soon lost interest! was a good chance to see the palace though, as we had missed the opening times during the day. were being bitten alive outside though, and spent more time itching than concentrating on the show! (so, if you intend to go, Odomos at the ready!) ;)
following that, caught a rickshaw (yup, a bicycle one) back to near our hotel. the guy took the roof down, so we were basically just sitting on this open seat! VERY ALARMING! (as we careered towards buses, and sped down the crowded streets.) but fun! had dinner in one of the hotel’s, which had a lovely roof-top restaurant, with views of the temple; before going back to our hotel for some well-deserved kip!
set off late morning on Sunday, following a buffet breakfast, and a bit more shopping. God, arent we awful! the journey back to Coimbatore from Madurai (this time by bus) was a bit of a nightmare. seemed to take ages (though was admittedly 5 hours!) time just dragged. was crowded and cramped, and boiling hot. were melting in the heat! but the thing that drove us nuts, was that they played Indian music at top volume for the duration of the trip! was giving me a headache by the end of it! finally reached Coimbatore, but soon had to set off for Ooty, as wanted to get back in decent time. left at 7pm, but about an hour into the journey the bloody bus broke down! and, you wanna know what the problem was… THE GEARSTICK CAME OFF! seriously! no joke! was absolutely hysterical! fortunately we were near a mechanics, and they managed to fix it after about half an hour. all these jokers were dancing around, trying to help and see what was going on. was so funny!
finally got home, and eventually clambered into bed after an eventful, but exhausting, day. back soon.
keep smiling! ;o)