We decided to go on a bit of a road trip (with a hired driver and Vig’s Uncle K) while we were in Chennai – just go down the coast a bit to Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry and see what they were like. The first stop, just outside Chennai (once you get past the traffic!) was Dakshin Chitra. It’s a pretty contrived but still entertaining “living museum” of arts and crafts and such.

bazaar at Dakshin Chitra

They have a bazaar, lots of demonstrations and hands-on stuff, and it was really quite fun. We got there pretty early so it was quiet and fairly cool as well. There were various traditionally furnished houses, displays on cookware and household items, and all kinds of stuff. And they had weaving!

weaving!

This guy was weaving sari fabric – super thin threads, all silk, with a fancy pattern woven in as well. Awesome!

And since yarn is necessary…

this was an exhibit

So are swifts!

I also tried my hand at grinding rice – necessary for such yummies as dosa.

198.365 - grinding rice the old-fashioned way!

(Wearing my new Indian-acquired duds.)

Then it was onwards to Mahabalipuram. Its main claim to fame is numerous (and I mean numerous) carved rock temples and shrines. After checking into the guest house (Siva Guest House – highly recommended, they’re really friendly and the rooms are super clean and appropriately basic) we headed out to see the sights.

Krishna’s Butterball – I think it one might be naturally occurring rather than carved, but I could be wrong! It’s not held down by anything except gravity, and it is on a slope. I wouldn’t sit in front of it!

krishna's butterball

The Shore Temple – pretty at sunset! We got there just in time to get in a look before it closed up for the evening.

Shore Temple

A bunch of the sights are all in a row, so you can walk from one end to the other pretty quickly and easily. We got dropped off at the butterball and walked to meet the driver, Xavier, at the lighthouse.

lighthouse and rocks

Lots and lots of carved rock. It is pretty interesting, but it started to get a little tedious after awhile. These are the Five Rathas – shrines that were buried until the British dug them up and put them on display.

Five Rathas

more rock carvings

At least there were some highly entertaining goats, climbing on a pretty sheer rock face! It was crazy, this was at least 20 feet off the ground.

crazy goats

Mahabalipuram is a tiny place, really just worth a day trip from Chennai, but we stayed overnight so we could drive on to Pondicherry the next day without having to double back. I found Mahabalipuram a little too touristy and kinda trashy – everything building’s either a souvenir shop or a guest house! The monuments were really not kept well, there was a lot of plastic trash everywhere and it was just disgraceful.

We had slightly higher hopes for Pondicherry (Puducherry), a former French colony a couple more hours south along the coast.

The signs and pretty buildings remain!

Rue Dumas

pondicherry

pondicherry

Unfortunately that was kind of it. Not a lot of French charm left, although maybe we just didn’t know where to find it! We walked around a little, just looking at the houses and things, poking in a few shops, being freakily followed by a stray dog (that was scary for a few minutes) and ended up at the beach – which is a rocky shore. It was pretty to look out though.

rock beach

Random food notes, since it’s been a theme of my trip: we ended up eating both dinner and breakfast at the hotel, and they had pretty good North and South Indian food. For breakfast, yummy rawa dosa, which is made with wheat flour in addition (I think?) to the usual rice and lentil flours. Mmm. I do miss eating dosai for breakfast these days!

rawa dosa

We stayed overnight in Pondicherry and headed back to Chennai in the morning, stopping to take a look at one of the big South Indian temples in town. Might be a little hard to see, but it’s all painted up. And it has to all be repainted every couple years!

colourful south indian temple

The next day we got up bright and early to head out to a wedding that one of Vig’s other uncles had invited us to – why turn down an offer like that?! I’d wanted to wear a sari but didn’t have enough time to get a blouse made so I just wore a skirt, top and scarf instead. It worked out well because I think I would’ve been a little uncomfortable in a sari! That’s a lot of fabric to manage.

indian wedding

What surprised me the most about the wedding was how much people weren’t paying attention – stuff with the bride and groom goes on for so long, it’s not like people are all that interested in actually watching every little detail of the rituals. People just socialized, walked around, read the newspaper (!) and went and ate in the dining hall whenever.

dining hall

There were long tables set up with banana leaf and pre-served with some of the cold stuff, then once you sit down the servers come along with pails of rice and rasam and curry and all sorts of stuff until you say stop – they cook it all fresh there at the hall and even change the menu throughout the day. We had dosa and idlis and things for breakfast when we got there, then rice and rasam and such for lunch a couple hours later!

After the wedding we got the auto to take us on a little bit of a shopping trip – I love the stainless steel store and bought quite a few tumblers and bowls. It was dirty work sorting out what I wanted though!

stainless steel store

Of course, all the copper and stainless steel dishware I bought meant that my luggage was a) fuller and b) wayyy heavier. We spent the rest of the day doing laundry and packing up for a flight the next day to Delhi – and cooler weather!

11 Responses to “Feb 12-15: road trip and wedding”

  1. GinkgoKnits

    What a wonderful trip — with the beautiful photos you are definitely making this reader very jealous!

    Nice clothing picks too — I would wear those items until they fell apart.

    Reply
  2. Carol

    It seems like an incredible trip. The stories about each place are so interesting and the photos show so much detail!

    Reply
  3. Carolyn

    Wow! I love all of your stories about this trip. Definitely worth the wait. I hope someday I can take a similar journey. I can’t wait to see the rest of it.

    And the pictures are wonderful! I love the crazy goats!

    Reply
  4. Jody

    I am loving all your travel photos and stories!

    I went to an Indian Voneelu for one of my coworker’s daughters and I was very surprised by how long it lasted and by how little people were paying attention! It was kind of funny – my non Indian coworkers and I were the only ones who showed up on time. It was assumed that nothing would get started at least for a few hours after the “official” start time. After that – people trickled in, ate – talked – roamed around and paid little attention to the ceremonies! It was all very beautiful though.

    I would love to travel to India one day!

    Reply
  5. Debrah (Ravelry: Newdknit)

    I am enjoying all your beautiful photo’s and great stories!

    I hope you don’t mind but I would like to share my story. I was in India for 4 months working in 2007 and had the chance to go to Pondicherry for a long weekend. Your photo’s and descriptions do not match mine and it doesn’t sound quiet right? Maybe I stayed central to town because it was very crowded, amazing leather sales and very crowded. The beach was extremely long, a beautiful (crowded) walk and had no stones/rocks. Monuments along the way ….. wish I could be there now!

    Outside town there is also this amazing community (missed it time wise unfortunately but had a lovely meal) called Auroville. Sourced from a tourist site…”The city is a unique venture. It strives to be a model city where people from all communities from around the world will forget their differences and live in harmony as part of the same community”

    Anyways I know you have had a great time and I can’t wait until your next post.

    Reply
  6. TracyKM

    I’m really enjoying your postings. I love geography, although my atlas(es), I’m trying to follow along. I found Madras, but not the next town you visited. I can find “Pondicherry (Puduchcheri)”. A few towns north and south of Madras, on the coast, have (PONDICHERRY) written after them. Were they all part of this French colony? Other towns have other names in brackets, but not capitalized like “Pondicherry”.

    Reply

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