Friday, 26 August 2011

Epson printer anyone?

Kept me entertained while waiting at Ernakulam train station at 5am..!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Jingle bells?

I'm using a communal PC in this hostel to update my blog.  In the small room where the PC resides they are playing some music, which was fine up until just now when someone seems to have put a christmas music cd in!  First there was jingle bells and now its silent night!

Its August..!

And remember kids..

Madurai, day 2

24th August 2011

Got up early, had a huge breakfast and headed to the Minakshi Sundareshvara temple complex.  Apart from the huge Minakshi temple, there are several surrounding temples, a shrine, museum and markets.  Kept me occupied for a while!




Later I went on foot to find the Thirumalai Nayaka palace.  Took me a while, I had two maps and neither was really that helpful (showing a road layout with road names on all the roads would be good!)  Its a pretty grand palace, the throne chamber is pretty cool.  There's a museum of various archaeological findings in what used to be the dance hall.



PhotobucketTried to find the Kadal Alagar temple, but I just got lost and when I asked directions I was getting varied answers like "its 30 km away" or "its just over there, <points>, its tall and golden"..  Tired and hungry, and with my refusal to spend money on a tuk tuk or rickshaw, I turned back and headed home.  ;P

It was so warm today, I was drinking the water that I had in my bag and it was actually hot! Not refreshing in any way but very necessary to keep my fluids topped up!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Vidal Monsoon.. for men

Ahh, my first proper monsooning.. It was like taking a warm shower fully clothed.

The rain started on my way home when I had about 1km to go. I sheltered under a tree and after a while it looked like it was starting to stop but suddenly got really heavy. I watched as a parade of tuk tuks that I'd declined went past. The shelter provided by the tree quickly expired and I was getting soaked so I busted out my trendiest fashion item and started to walk. The rain eased up and I strolled with an insane smile on my face as every car and bike that went past splashed me from head to foot with a cocktail of rain water, mud and faecies (various) - its not like they could help it though. Ace.


23rd August 2011

PhotobucketI probably got about 10 minutes sleep on the train before it got to Madurai at 6am, 30 minutes early.  I was all sweaty from a day in the heat, not being able to shower before catching the train and my dash to get on board, so couldn't get comfortable, and the guy on the bottom bunk was snoring - at least someone got some sleep.

When I got to the hostel I qweened out for a few hours and got some much needed rest.  I grabbed a map and saw there was a post office near by, so I decided to try and send my parcel again on my way to see what the city has to offer.

Parcel send fail parts 2 and 3

Having walked 1.5km to the post office I was informed that the clerks had gone to lunch.  They also had no useful things like boxes for sale.  Now obsessed by the need to dispatch my parcel I set off again on a mission to find A BOX.. hmmg.  Somehow I managed to find one very close by, in a small shop that just had random things for sale.  I thought the box was just waste but asked if I could take it and the guy sold it to me for 3 rupees.  Armed with my box I marched with a slightly insane grin on my face 1.5km back to my room where I had a small roll of gaffa tape in my rucksack (since you can fix anything with gaffa tape I deemed it absolutely necessary to travel with it).  I took the box and blue-peter'd it into the size and shape which I thought appropriate to enlarge my parcel.

Delighted with my hand crafted box, I stashed it in my bag and began the 1.5km walk back to the post office.  Blind to the awesomeness of my parcel, the post office clerk told me to "package it up properly".  I glanced at my pristine example of packaging, my mind flashed back through the box hunt, and 4.5 kilometers walk I had just done.. before I could say anything she told me to take it to some place up the road where they would "package it up properly" for me.  Needless to say I could not find the place she spoke of and reluctantly aborted the mission - for now!  -_-

PhotobucketMy parcel and I went to the Ghandi museum which was close by.  At least I can say I've learned something today!  It was pretty interesting reading about the history between the British and India.

PhotobucketAs if I hadn't done enough walking I headed towards the main city (walking a lot to save money, a tuk tuk ride for a couple of hundred rupees can feed me for a day) but I got a little bit lost and was feeling pretty tired so I turned back and planned to qween out early and reclaim some more lost sleep.  Got caught in a monsoon on the way.  :D

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Fail, fail, fail!

22nd August 2011

Had breakfast and packed, ready to move on to Madurai - the bus to the train station in Vallupuram would leave at 14:00.

Parcel send fail

I went to the post office to send a parcel back to England.  After waiting in a long queue the clerk said that the parcel was too small and would probably get lost so I should "make it a bigger parcel" - I appreciated her advice and looked to see if I could buy a box there but they do not sell them.

Parcel enlarge fail

It seems that a box is not an easy item to find (at least in Pondicherry).  If you don't want "handy crafts", other souvenirs, clothes, chai or food then god knows where you would go.  Having spent 2 hours looking, I admitted defeat and retreated to a cheap place to eat before catching the bus.

Luggage storage fail

Fail number 3 came about when I arrived at Vallipuram junction train station.  I had 7 hours to kill before my train arrived and I had heard that I could put my backpack in a locker at the station so I could "go free" and roam around Vallipuram to while away the time.  When I found the lockers the guard there told me that they were infested with rats and that if I put my rucksack in a locker it would be eaten.  I believed him because I had already seen 4 or 5 rats casually mingling on the platform on my way in, but to reassure me he opened a locker and scraped up a handful of rat droppings and a piece of someones bag (perhaps the only remaining morsel?)

It was around 38 degrees centigrade, I was lumbered with my rucksack and had 7 hours before my train arrived so I headed for the cyber cafe conveniently located on the opposite side of the road from the station.  It was only 20 rupees per hour!  I stayed 5 hours (until kick out time) and spent the time trying to line up a homestay and/or some voluntary work for when I get to Japan - I'm scared about how expensive it is there!

I grabbed some snacks and waited out the remaining 2 hours in the train station. When the train arrived it was the longest train I've ever seen and the sleeper carriage I had booked was the very last one at the opposite end of the platform, so I had to run down the platform as the train was only waiting a few minutes before departing.  I then proceeded to wake up several people in my carriage and get some scowls which made me feel warm and cosy inside.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Made me chuckle

  1. In Mamallapurum a tuk tuk driver asked if I wanted a lift somewhere - as I drove past on a moped!
  2. I was being pestered by a street seller to buy some post cards and I said "Il-lai" (no, in Tamil), impressed by my single word of Tamil he went on to tell me I should say "powi vitu" (go away!) - so I did, and then drove off on a moped. :)
  3. In Pondicherry, I said hello to a passer by who was staring at me, he stopped for a chat - during which he asked if I was a local!
  4. When asked "would you like some more chai sir?", I replied "no, I'm ok thanks", and the waiter poured me some more chai! (Ive seen this a few times when eating out and I think they hear "ok" and assume you want some).

Random pics





Common questions

There is a cultural difference between England and India where people in India tend to be married and have probably 2 or more children by the time they are my age.

When I get talking to any locals this normally pops into conversation;

Q:  "How old are you?"
A:  "32"

Q: "Are you traveling alone?"
A: "yes"

Q: "Where is your wife?"
A: "I am not married"

Q: "Really..  Where is your girlfriend?"
A: "I don't have one"

Q: "WTF?!"

General confusion ensues!  :D

Soaking up the atmosphere

21st August 2011

PhotobucketWent to the botanical gardens in the morning. It sounded cool in the guide book, and it was ok, but parts of it were not well maintained which ruined it a bit and there was lots of rubbish in one end like someone had fly tipped a load of food waste and metal tins and stuff. :(

Its Sunday so not much is open and I spent most of the day at the prominade, went swimming in the sea (its so warm!), had some ice cream and found a shaded area where I could practice kungfu for a while. I walked as far west along the prominade as possible which really tired me out!


This one is for you RichI!

Farewell 6 fingered man..

20th August 2011

PhotobucketGot up early, had my breakfast dosai and went to the beach for one last time.  At 11 am I waved goodbye to the 6 fingered man and boarded the bus to Pondicherry.  The journey was only about an hour and a half or so.

PhotobucketPondicherry is the former capital of the French territories in India.  Its a nice city, quite clean in parts actually and a lot of the streets still have French names.  There are also a lot of French tourists.  The city is not massive and you can get around by walking although I am pretty knackered after exploring all day!  Its laid out like a grid so its easy to find your way around.  You don't tend to get pestered by beggars and street sellers that much here, which is a welcome relief!

PhotobucketI went exploring and found a nice park, and then headed for the prominade, another nice place to sit and get the cool breeze from the sea - there's a huge statue of Mahatma Ghandi about half way along and a pier at the west end.  Pondicherry also has many temples.


I met an Italian guy called Luca on the prominade and we spent most of the afternoon trying to find the 4 moped hire places but 2 of them just didn't seem to exist and the other 2 wanted my passport as a deposit and I'm not willing to let go of it! meh, never mind.

Found a really cheap restaurant to eat at in the evening and the food was excellent.  Most of the food here is seafood or vegetarian, most places Ive seen don't have meat on the menu.

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Sunday, 21 August 2011


Some tings Ive learned;
  • In the 80's, Dio sang "don't talk to strangers".  If you ignore that, sometimes you meet some great people.
  • Watch where you put your feet.  You may trip, slip, fall down hole, or step in something you'd rather not.
  • When you need to cross a busy road, just walk out and stay cool, or you'll be there all day.  The green cross code doesn't work here.
  • Be aware; people, cars, bikes and cows will pull out on you even though they see you clearly.
  • French people are everywhere.
  • Bring good insect repellent!  I got eaten alive the other day after having no problems for almost 3 weeks!
I'm trying pretty much everything (even some fish - shock, horror) but here are some tings Ive tried which are proper good;
  • Dosai (for breakfast, yum)
  • Idly
  • Freshly squeezed Indian Orange (with no water or ice).  They're green but taste orangey.
  • Lassi (with no water or ice), I recommend lime flavour.  Its an awesome yoghurt based drink.
Meep meep..

Another day in paradise

19th August 2011

Got up early to go and see the rest of the temples in the village.  Bumped into an Indian guy called Dranvindan who said he had been living in the southwest of England for a while a few years ago and we got chatting and had breakfast in a small cafe, I had ginger cake, an omelete, fresh squeezed Indian orange juice and masala chai.. he paid which was cool! I thought he may want something but it was all good.

PhotobucketAs an quick tangent.. the guys I met in Khajuraho (Kaldef and Abbu) gave me a gift of a rudraksha seed (or shiva tree seed) for good luck and I'm wearing it around my neck - this catches peoples attention and I get random people talking to me and asking where I got it and this guy had started talking to me because of it. :)

PhotobucketDravindan showed me around the main temples where I saw Krishna's butter ball, Krishna Mandapa, Ganesha Ratha, Bhagiratha'a Penance, Panch Pendava, Cave temple, Olakkanatha Temple, Varaha cave temple, Trimath cave temple, Adivaraha cave temple, Mahishasuramardini cave temple and a lighthouse (built by the British).


PhotobucketAfterwards I had lunch, and then decided to rent a moped so I could get around this small village easilly.  The roads here are not so crazy so I thought what the hell.  It was fun cruising around beeping at everyone and trying not to get crushed by busses (might is right, remember?).  And the horn on the moped only really worked when you are going fast due to some sketchy electrics, so I just went flat out everywhere  :D


Saw loads of monkeys in the area, and these two were sitting grooming each other. It was funny to watch because they were loving it so much. :)

I took the ped to the last bit of Mamallapurum which was where the Panch Rathas are.  Mamallapurum is famous for stone carving, and each of these temples are carved from a single granite boulder!  Pretty impressive.



After cruising around for a while longer I returned the moped and then hit the beach to watch the sunset.  There was a festival going on there, with lots of music and lights but hardly any people! To be honest it was the least busy festival I've ever seen but it was cool  :)  I did some kungfu on the beach and then went to get some food in another shoreside restaurant.  I sat with a French lady (whose name I forget, sorry whoever you are!) and an Indian guy called Cannon and we had curry and shared a few beers (haven't had beer for a couple of weeks as saving money so this was really good!)

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Take me down to the paradise city..

18th August 2011

Decided to chill for the morning before moving on to Mamallapurum.  Chennai is such a busy place!

PhotobucketThe bus journey to Mamallapurum was short and when I got to my hostel I was greeted by a man with 6 fingers, which was novel.  I was happy to see that Mamallapurum is a very small and chilled out place in comparison to Varanasi and Chennai, and has an awesome beach.

Mamallapurum is famous for stone carving and all the temples here are pretty impressive, some are carved from a single granite boulder! Lots of people are selling stone carvings and I saw a cool "computer Ganesh" but despite the sellers best efforts I did not buy it.  :P

PhotobucketI went out and saw the shore temple and then hung out on the beach for the rest of the day.  It was about 38 degrees centigrade but when the sun set it started to cool along the shore with the sea breeze coming in.

I did some kungfu on the beach for an hour and played volley ball with some locals before retreating to the Santana restaurant roof top at the edge of the beach.  It was a great day!  :D



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Infinite train journey, part 2

17th August 2011

Awake at 6am to the sound of someone selling chai and coffee again. I packed and prayed for the train to be running on time - I just wanted to get off! Chatted to Arvind, my train neighbour, who was traveling with his family back to his home in Bangalore - his journey was 44 hours! Also got chatting to the guy from the bunk above me who was on a 24 hour train journey just for a meeting in Bangalore.

8 cups of chai, 1 7up, 4 litres of water, 2 massala omelets, 2 vegetable biryanis, a vegetarian curry and 2 packets of malted milks later.. I arrived in Chennai - on time!

I actually didn't plan this very well as Chennai is a big city and I only have two days to check it out. One of the main things here is St Georges fort which was unfortunately closed due to some VIP visiting so I just went to the beaches, saw a few monuments near the beaches and a couple of temples.

There was a camera crew on Elliots beach filming for a Bollywood movie.



Pretty crazy to see the mammoth train journey plotted on a map!

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