This day, April 3rd, turned out to be our worst day to date on our trip.
We started the day by boarding a bus which left Kodai at 9:20 AM and was to take us to Madurai. This became a four-hour unpleasant ride out of the mountains and into the plains. First thing that happened was the bus driver got into a minor accident with a car. I’m not sure how this was resolved; we just saw the bus conductor and the driver of the car shouting at each other for a few minutes and then the conductor got back on the bus and we just left. From there the ride down the mountain seemed a bit harrowing, and I was thinking back to the time we left Shimla when one of the bus passengers told us that mountain drivers were specially trained but not all bus drivers have that training, I’m thinking our bus driver did not have that training. I got very nauseous on this ride. But the worst of it was that Sanford had difficulty getting change for the bus fare, which led to an unpleasant argument with the bus conductor, and the whole bus crowd getting involved; it was eventually resolved but left a bad feeling with Sanford. And I’m not sure if the bus conductor might have done this on purpose or not, but he insisted we get out of the bus in Madurai at a place other than the bus station, leaving us stranded in a spot where we didn’t know where we were. We hired a tuk-tuk to get us to our hotel so it did end up okay. Sanford said later that he felt we were left off at the right place, but I’m still uncertain.
Madurai was HOT, HOT, HOT. It was 41 degrees of hot.
After a bit of a rest in the hotel, we took in the only major site in Madurai, the vast sprawling super-ornate Meenakshi Amman Temple. Sanford had been there in 1990 and thought it worth returning to. You can’t enter the temple unless your legs are completely covered so we both put on pants and walked the 1/2 km from our hotel to the temple through the very hot chaotic crowded streets.
Now it was my turn to be out of sorts. Surrounding the temple on all sides were many vendors and there was no end to the hassle and pressure to look at things or to buy things. Once we got to the temple, you had to check your shoes (you can’t wear shoes in the temple) and then go through a security check prior to entering. I had to open my purse and unbeknownst to me, you could not enter the temple if you had a camera. So I had to leave that area, go back into the shoe line and check my camera. When checking my camera the process was different than for the shoes and they wanted money from me for this but I was having difficulty understanding. I finally gave them a small denomination of Indian currency. They did not look very happy but accepted it anyways and I wondered if my camera would be there when I returned. Next someone else said because I was a foreigner I had to pay to enter the temple. They didn’t say anything when I was with Sanford. So I paid and got back into the security line and finally got through and met up with Sanford. I was not a happy camper. Once inside, the entrance hallway to the main central area of the temple was packed with yet more vendors!! I just wasn’t in the mood.
When I wasn’t feeling bitchy though I was totally awed by the temple itself. It was spectacular and the main central location of the hall was breathtaking. But here again my ire was raised as I saw many, many visitors snapping photos with their cell phones. What the heck?! Apparently mobile phones could be used for pictures but not regular cameras; where is the logic in that. Also adding to my frustration was I did have my cell phone with me but because we aren’t using them I didn’t have it charged, so I have no pictures.
This Hindu temple is the most beautiful site I saw in India, but I was miserable the whole time. The temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, the 3-breasted Goddess whose superfluous breast would melt away when she met her husband, which turned out to be the god Shiva. It is a vast complex with 4 main gopurams (soaring pyramidal gateway towers), each tower is a wonder in itself with its incredible array of colourful and detailed sculptures. The interior consists of pillared corridors and rooms, courtyards, a water tank, and numerous sculptures.
Also in the temple was a resident elephant, providing a pat on the head with its trunk. Of course, having missed the head-pat in Pondy, I couldn’t resist the opportunity presented before me. I was thrilled to have this done. I was hoping for the promise of good fortune, or at the very least, a change in my mood, to occur.
The head pat did help with my mood and shortly after that we left. We had supper and then spent a very hot night trying to sleep. We had rented a room with a fan but that may have been a mistake because even with windows open the room did not cool.
The next morning we got up early to walk to the station to catch the 7 AM train to
Chennai. It will be an 8-hour train ride. We had decided to take unreserved seats, at a cost of $3.30 each. On the platform our train showed up about 6:40. Assuming we could sit anywhere, as other people had been doing on previous train trips, we found empty seats on the first seat carriage we found, and settled in. After travelling some distance and getting our tickets checked by the conductor, we found that we could not sit anywhere, and had to go back to the last 3 cars into chaos class. Luckily we found seats and all was well.
Once in Chennai and settled into our air-conditioned room for $43 per night I finally started to cool down. April 5th was our last full day in India. I had it all planned. I was going to spend my time getting my blogging done and catch up with emails. Unfortunately this was not to be. Although they had Internet a few weeks ago when we stayed here, there were now some renovations under way and Internet was not available. Oh well, I will work on posts and hopefully in Sri Lanka I will have Internet.
We leave tomorrow at 9:40 AM for Sri Lanka.