. OnHiatus.com > Journal 1 > Day Index > Journal Entry: February 22, 2001

Thursday, February 22, 2001
Chennai, India
India's Flag

Map
Chennai, India:
Latitude: 13° 3' 48" North
Longitude: 80° 15' 40" East
Altitude: 5 feet
From Seattle: 9733 miles
Lodging: Hotel - Harissons Hotel

Map
Today's Travel:
Country: India
Region: Tamil Nadu
Route: Excursion Bus: Chennai - Kanchipuram - Marmallapuram - Chennai
Start: Chennai, India
Stop 1. Kanchipuram
Stop 2. Marmallapuram
Stop 3. Madras Crocodile Bank
Stop 4. Golden Beach Amusement Park
End:Chennai, India
Linear:115 miles
Weather: Partial Sun / Sunny

Available Photos:

The mango tree, Ekambaresvara Temple Kanchipuram, India

Carved pillars, Ekambaresvara Temple Kanchipuram, India

Carved pillars, Ekambaresvara Temple Kanchipuram, India

Carved pillars, Ekambaresvara Temple Kanchipuram, India

Sacred pool, Ekambaresvara Temple Kanchipuram, India

Ganesh, Ekambaresvara Temple Kanchipuram, India

Fresco, Ekambaresvara Temple Kanchipuram, India

Ekambaresvara Temple Kanchipuram, India

Temple roofs, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple Kanchipuram, India

Temple elephant, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple Kanchipuram, India

Temple elephant, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple Kanchipuram, India

Elephant wash, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple Kanchipuram, India

Temple elephant, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple Kanchipuram, India

Temple elephant, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple Kanchipuram, India

Temple elephant, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple Kanchipuram, India

Elephant ear, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple Kanchipuram, India

Varadaraja Temple Kanchipuram, India

Varadaraja Temple Kanchipuram, India

Varadaraja Temple Kanchipuram, India

Varadaraja Temple Kanchipuram, India

Varadaraja Temple Kanchipuram, India

Friendly cart driver Somewhere between Kanchipuram and Marmallapuram, India

Women working in river Marmallapuram, India

Women working in river Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Five Rathas Marmallapuram, India

Elephant bas relief at Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Elephant bas relief at Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Other bas relief at Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Other bas relief at Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Monkey statues at Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Bhagiratha's Penance Marmallapuram, India

Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

The Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

The Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

The Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

The Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

The Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

The Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

The Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

The Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

Shore Temple Marmallapuram, India

Madras Crocodile Bank South of Chennai, India

Madras Crocodile Bank South of Chennai, India

All photo images © 1997-2000 Anthony Jones - Images may not be used without prior written approval.

Click on map to Zoom in...
Map
Trip Stats to Date:
Day: 1414
Linear Dist: 227997
Countries Visited: 74
Regions Visited: 280
More stats...
Hotels: 552
Friends / Family: 338
Camping: 130
Hostels: 262
Transit: 88
Other Lodging: 13
Beers: 4534
Hide...

Journal Entry:
Last night around eleven I got a call from reception confirming that I needed to be at train station to meet my bus at 6:15. I'd already arranged all this with the manager so I was a little annoyed, but I said yes. He then proceeded to tell me that there would be a car waiting at 5:30 and he would have a wakeup call for me at five! The manager had told me it would take no longer than fifteen minutes to get to the station and had told me to leave at six. Then this guy was saying it would take 45 minutes and he'd wake me up at five. I tried to discuss it with him, but his English wasn't good enough and after thirty minutes just agreed. So my wake up call came at five, and I was ready to go at 5:30. The first thing the driver tells me is that I'm late, he has been waiting since 4:30. Before I get in I ask to confirm the price and he said 150 rupees. Last night I had been told 35 or 40! The good thing about being so early is that if I hustle I'm pretty sure I can walk there in 45 minutes, and I'll certainly be able to find another rickshaw. Finally the driver agrees to 50 and I get in. Even with the ten minutes of haggling I still get to the station forty minutes early! So I sit and have chai and exercise my patience.

The bus is nice enough. There is an older English couple on board and the rest is Indian tourist. I thought I was signing up for a bus ride to Marmallapuram, then being left to my own for the day then a ride back in the evening. Nope. What I got was a full tour - even with meals included. I normally hate tours, and the guides English was Indian English and I could understand very little of it. However this was perfect. If I'd been on my own I would have seen one of the ruin sites in Marmallapuram as it was I got to see three of the temple complexes, plus three of the temples in Kanchipuram (one of India's seven holly cities). Plus breakfast and lunch! As I was able to escape the tour guide at each site I had a great time.

From Chennai it was a two hour ride to Kanchipuram. The bus is not air-conditioned, but I have a nice airplane style seat in behind the door which was let open so it was very comfortable with lots of leg room. In Kanchipuram our first stop was at the Ekambaresvara Temple. It's a large dark complex dating from the 16th century. The halls are dark with over five hundred carved pillars and has several hundred different lingams (phallic stones representing Siva) lining the wall, each with an oil lamp in front of it - very atmospheric! In the central courtyard there is a giant mango tree which they claim in more than 3,500 years old.

From Ekambaresvara it was a short drive to Vaikuntha Perumal Temple (8th century). This was the highlight of the day for me. Not because of the temple, which was rather ordinary, but because it was my first experience with temple elephants in India. As you walked through the entry gate there was an elephant, painted with intricate swirls, who held out his trunk. When you handed it a coin it blessed you! It would rub its trunk through your hair and touch each shoulder. I was blessed twice. In addition to the elephant on duty back behind the temple grounds there was a big two bay "car wash" where they were washing the paint off a second elephant. After we left the temple we went to a government tourist hotel (it was a government tourist bus) for breakfast. The breakfast looked a bit doubtful, but turned out to be delicious (and spicy!)

After breakfast we drove to Varadaraja a 16th century temple dedicated to Vishnu. This was the most impressive of the temples. The highlight was an open pavilion overlooking the temple's bathing pool. The roof was supported by nearly a hundred fantastically carved pillars. In fact every surface was covered in carvings. From each corner the remains of a stone chain originally carved from a single piece of stone can still be seen. There was also a large number of painted bare chested Brahman contributed to the atmosphere. Additionally everyone (the Brahman, the worshippers, the beggars, and shop keepers) was so friendly and curious - the attitude was not unlike what I encountered at the Kumbh Mela - and was quite welcome!

After leaving the temple we stopped at a sari factory where I expected the hard sell. The weaving was actually pretty interesting, and there was a hard sell - but it wasn't directed at the foreigners it was directed at the Indians! Almost everyone on the bus bought something - some buying saris costing several hundred dollars! From Kanchipuram to Marmallapuram was a fascinating two hour drive through the countryside and many small villages. There were hundreds of cows with painted horns. The horns were always painted bright secondary colors (red, yellow, green, and blue were the most common). Sometimes both horns were painted the same color, but most often each was a different color. Stripes were common as well, and at least once I saw multi colored dots. Many of the cows pulling carts also had elaborate brass sheathing on the tips of the horn - usually with bunches of bells attached. I loved them, they looked very cool. Unfortunately I only ever saw them in the villages and in the country and all my photo attempts failed.

In Marmallapuram our first stop was at the Five Rathas (7th century). These were small Hindu temples with the typically ornate roofs - the difference being that each is monolithic - carved out of a single stone. It was impressive, but the site was small and I was disappointed with the ten US Dollar entry fee (the other temples so far had been 5-10 Rs.) Also there were a lot of people selling junk here and it was hard to stop moving outside the gates (inside the gates there was no problem).

From the Rathas we drove to Bhagiratha's Penance (Decent of the Ganga). This is a series of 7th century temples carved into a giant rock right downtown. What really is impressive are the bas relief carvings. Especially a life sized elephant! I found this site more impressive than the Rathas, and it was the only time all day that I would have rather had more time to explore (there are more temples and carved rocks on the other side of the hill).

The last stop in Marmallapuram was the famous Shore Temple. It's a fairly well preserved temple complex near the beach. I enjoyed it, but the problem was there were a lot of people enjoying it with me - I could have done without the crowds. It really wasn't that bad, but at the other ruins we mostly had them to ourselves so I was spoiled.

Before leaving Marmallapuram we stopped at another tourist hotel for lunch - a delicious all you can eat thali (very spicy!). From there we drove about an hour back towards Chennai and then stopped at the Madras Crocodile Trust Bank - a reptile park. It wasn't something I would have chosen to do, but they had a good collection of crocodile and alligators from all over the world in nice enclosures. It was interesting. Just after leaving the crocodile farm I remarked to the English couple that things had gone really well. They agreed, then the engine compartment started spewing steam and hot water - the timing really was amazing. We stopped and I had resigned myself to a long delay, but a short drive back to town, a quick mechanic, and we were on our way in fifteen minutes! Our last stop was at the Golden Beach Amusement Park - this was something I could have skipped. We only spent an hour there and after wandering around the rides - only a few of which were running, and many looked as if they hadn't run in ten years - I got annoyed with the distorted bad disco being blared all over the park and went to the beach and read. It was interesting to note that even though there was no maintenance on anything in the park they were still building new attractions?!

A half hour drive north brought us back to Chennai. It was an amazing day - really just what I needed. The fact that it was a tourist tour was offset by the fact that the tourist were Indian. Everyone was very friendly and it was a thoroughly enjoyable day - if long, I got back to my hotel around 7:30 - 14 hours after leaving. I hit the internet cafe, then had a great masala diner at a recommended restaurant (Ueli, in the Andamans, had suggested it). I was exhausted but my neighbor had the TV on very loud so I went through the digital photos that I had taken today. There were 120+ of them, but I wound up weeding out about seventy-five percent. There were two really excellent ones of the temple elephant at Vaikuntha Perumal.


Related Sites:
XTide: Current tides and sunrise / sunset times for Chennai (Madras)
CNN: Current Weather in Chennai (Madras)
US State Department Consular Information Sheets: India
CIA - The World Factbook: India

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