Mamallipuram was wonderful! Lots to see, good food and nice accommodations, but after four days, we had pretty much seen and done everything, so time to move on. Sanford is still feeling quite ill but wants to leave as well.
Our next destination is Pondicherry, affectionately called Pondy, which is a typical hot, noisy, chaotic, south-Indian city, but is also known for their waterfront promenade above a rocky sea wall and for their French Quarter. This city was under French rule until 1954 and there are many people who speak French here and many nice French restaurants to try.
So after our breakfast, we pack up our gear and hike back the 2 km to the main road to catch a bus to Pondy. The distance is just under 100km and took two hours, the cost for the bus was $1.20 each.
Because we are not escaping the extreme heat, as Pondy will be just as hot, and because Sanford is feeling unwell, we decide on an air-conditioned room. Adding air-conditioning really increases the price of a room and here the cost is $30 per night.
I found Pondy all right but lacking in comparison to Mamallipuram. There wasn’t as much to see and although we had a room with air conditioning, it wasn’t all that effective.
In terms of sights, we did walk the sea front promenade, we walked through a central park, and we walked through the French Quarter. There were some buildings along the seafront and one had a cactus garden, in front of the garden was a sign “Do Not Urinate”, sad that a sign like that is needed, and sadder still was the strong oder of urine in the area. One big disappointment I had in terms of sights was an opportunity to get a head pat from the temple elephant at the Hindu Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple dedicated to Ganesh. Apparently anyone; tourists, pilgrims and the curious could have that done. Unfortunately the temple was undergoing extensive renovations and the elephant was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the chance to be head-patted by another elephant will occur elsewhere. I can only hope!
I took care of a few personal items here. A few days ago, on the train from Khanna to Chennai, I was sleeping in the top bunk and had to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. I put on my glasses and next thing I knew one of the lenses popped out and fell. Lucky for me, the fellow in the bunk below was sitting on the side of his bunk and on his cell phone, so my lens hit him in the head before falling the rest of the way to the floor. He immediately picked it up and handed it to me. Had that not happened, I would have had to wake up everyone in our berth to help me find the lens as I’m blind as a bat without my glasses. Sanford was able to fix them temporarily but in Pondy we found an eyeglass shop and they were able to give a more permanent fix. In the future I will start travelling with two pairs of glasses.
The other thing I got done is hair removal on my upper lip and chin. I get this done religiously at home at regular intervals and was beginning to look a little hairy. In the French Quarter there was a beauty salon for women only and I went there. I was the only customer in the place and I had three attendants watch over the one lady doing the waxing. I guess the waxing didn’t totally remove all the hair so they also did some threading hair removal. I had my eyes closed so can’t really comment how it was done. It is more painful though than the waxing, but in the end I was hair-free, so all was good. The cost for this was $2.60 (I pay $17 for this at home).
Another thing we did here was watch some free movies on YouTube. We haven’t had TV since we arrived and I was missing seeing something. We watched the “Corner Gas Movie”, the 1963 horror movie “Day of the Triffids”, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 film “Notorious” and the 1972 horror film “Frogs”. It’s amazing what you will watch when desparate.
The heat, even with air conditioning is stifling. Most days are 36 degrees. We spent three nights here and decided our next stop would be Kodaikanal, another hill station, similar to Shimla (but warmer), where the daytime temperatures would be around 24 and the night time around 12 degrees. To get there we would have to take a night bus. That was all fine and good but the big problem for us was that we had to give up our room at 12 noon and then spend the day in the heat until leaving for the bus station at 9:30 pm.
That day was physically exhausting and draining. We had usually been out in the morning, cool down in the room in the afternoon and out again in the evening. This day we stayed in the hotel room until checkout time and then spent 3 ½ hours wandering around the Waterfront Promenade and the French Quarter. We stopped in one of their best French restaurants for a nice lunch where we were able to cool down a bit from the overhead fans. I had my first salad in India here. I ordered a Greek Salad (yes that is right, a Greek Salad in a French restaurant, while in India) and it consisted of cucumber, tomato, green pepper, red onion, olives and feta cheese; it was wonderful. From there it was back to the hotel. The hotel kept our backpacks for us so we didn’t have to lug them around and they had some open air spaces they allowed us to sit during the day. I slept a bit in the later afternoon and then we wandered around a bit more. The heat was relentless. I have a new appreciation for those people who are homeless or work outside in that horrific heat all day. I don’t think I quite appreciated the ability to cool down in the afternoons previously.
I’m looking forward to the cooler weather ahead.