Writing is like T20 batting. If you block, you might as well retire to the pavilion! -- Pete Langman
Expat in Germany

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ride Parallel to the Bay of Bengal

The best time to visit Tamil Nadu is now. Winter time. Especially those with dry skin can spend their expenses on moisturisers on a simple trip of three days to Chennai-Mahabalipuram-Puducherry. There will be not many hitches, at least I did not experience any when I went for the trip with my friends. The only criterion is that one should be patient, energetic and cool. A budget tour with lots of fun is surely possible.

Day 1: Chennai
One thing, don't ask about accommodation in Chennai. I do not know. I have got a friend there so accommodation problem never occurred to me. Okay, starting the day at around 8 AM, there are more than enough places to see in Chennai for one day. We went to the Mylapore tank and the 17th century temple adjacent to it. This Shiva temple was built long ago but was demolished by the Portugese 500 years ago. It is as old as Ptolemy times and finds mention in the great Greek's scriptures for his world map, probably. We then went to the Egmore museum and went back in time with all the excavated sculptures of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist gods and goddesses from different periods in and around Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka-Tamil Nadu. The tour of the entire museum comprising of these stone and bronze sculptures, coins, stamps and the biology section (some stuffed animals!) will not allow you to walk away from the museum so easily.
We had lunch from a nearby restaurant and went to the Marina beach.  Yes, we went at about four in the evening and it was not hot. San Thome Church was next. It is one of the three Basilicas to be built on the tomb of an apostle (is what is written there). His relics are here, apparently. A stone sculpture of the gilder he used to move a tree is here in the museum attached to the church.
We had enough for the day though there was a lot of time left.

The beautiful Marina beach..don't worry about the persons in the photo

Day 2: Pondicherry
Early in the morning (that's 10 for me). From the Koyembedu mossufil bus stand in Chennai, there are quite a lot of buses to Pondicherry and the travel time is about four hours. The ride is quite on the ECR route which runs parallel to the beach and over the many lagoons formed into the mainland. In Pondicherry, importantly, don't be bothered by the heat, if any, have lunch in Pondicherry and go to the "White town". With some persuasion, if you are young men, and with many assurances, accommodation at the Aurobindo Ashram guest house can be obtained. The lady there was a very nice person. We did not let you down momma!!
The "Life of Pi" bridge in Pondicherry
The beach road is exquisite. A fifteen minute trip to and in the Aurobindo Ashram was what we managed before we spent the whole evening roaming on the streets in the French section of Pondicherry. Well, I do not know if I might go to Mumbai, forget France. So we saw Paris in Pondicherry. We could have rented cycles to see more of the place but missed the timings. Beware!

Day 3: Mahabalipuram

The "Old" Mahabalipuram temple
Mahabalipuram is an old sea port for the Pallavas and Cholas. It enroute Chennai-Pondicherry. So while returning to Chennai, we stopped by for sometime. Seriously, half a day is not at all enough to see this place as is a paragraph not enough to describe it. I heard that one more town was excavated nearby after the 2004 Tsunami. We did not get the chance to visit that place. Forget that place, we did not completely see the town of Mahabalipuram. Even though I visited it earlier, I felt it new. Great job by the Archealogical Survey of India in protecting the UNESCO Heritage sites really well, especially with the strong currents and salty winds threatening the remaining structures which did not sink into the sea.
Also, it was here that I had banana bajji after one and a half year of wait!

Mahabalipuram relics, maintained well..Now!
The three days went on coolly and hastle-free. A week trip in and around Chennai in the Kancheepuram district might be ideal to properly see everything there. The public transport is quite good.