Chennai, Pondicherry and Mamallapuram
04.05.2007 - 11.05.2007 43 °C
I spent a few nights in Chennai, India's forth largest city. I normally dislike Indian cities, to many touts and tut-tut driver endlessly beeping at you, but I found a way around this. My Mp3 player. I rocked around Chennai with my own personal soundtrack and found it really refreshing.
The town itself is much like any other Indian city, busy, polluted and noisy. The day I choose to walk around the temperature was the highest in India, 43 degrees! Everywhere you look there’s subliminal messages painted to the back of vehicles like, 'Beware of Aids', 'One family, one child' and my favorite, 'Speed thrills but speed kills'.
One of the 'highlights' as my guidebook described it was the bus terminal, the largest in Asia. It looks more like an airport than a bus station filled with thousands of people trying to find the right platform. I found mine pretty easily thanks to a barber shop cortet of men shouting out the name of my next destination, 'Pondi, Pondi, Pondi, Poooondiiii', for Pondicherry.
I instantly liked Pondi. It was a little piece of Mediterranean Europe in South India. All the roads signs where in French, English and the local dialogue, Tamil. The buildings were well maintained and a promenade lined the beach. There is a happy vibe along the seafront, with children and families playing on a huge statue of Gandhi and in the evening the police shut of the roads as everyone takes to the streets to either party on the beach or relax and drink chai in the park at Government Square
Pondicherry was also the place to experience Ashram life. An Ashram is essentially a small community headed by a Guru who is joined by disciples hoping to receive 'darshan' (a glimpse of God). I spent a few hours reading the moth-eaten books in the Ashram Library and skip the simple Ashram style food in exchange for Pizza Hut.
I headed north to spend 4 nights in Mamallapuram which is an awesome little place full of chilled out travelers, restaurants and friendly locals all incased by the surrounding temples. The first day I meet two Aussie girls and after dinner we heard rumors of a beach party. A little gathering of us sat on the beach with a few guitars, singing songs and drinking heavily. That’s was pretty much how a spent my nights in Mamallapuram.
The attraction in such a small town is its amazing rock carvings and temples. Myself and the Aussie spent a good few hours in the mid day sun checking them out before heading back to the pool and onto a bar.
On my last night in Mallallapuram the group introduced me to a 'Bang lassie', which is a sweet lassie with an 'added kick' (I'm not saying what, my mum is reading this). The evening turned strange after a few power cuts and a band started to play. A few locals even came out to dance and we all merrily (and drunkenly) clapped along, until a body was brought out onto the street and burned. The music continued and so did the locals dancing but is was strange to us westerns. We spent the rest of the night starring at the bottom of our Bang lassie’s.
I’ve had a change of heart and my next destination is the Andaman Islands, for some beaches, tropical rain forest and some surf.