India 2008

No question. I needed an India fix.  This trip had a purpose.  To take a last 'journey' with a friend of many decades - closure of sorts and a voyage of appreciation for the decades of friendship, and a recognition of how different things would have been for me without the laughter and good times. It was a gratifying trip.  Making new friends and meeting old friends, trips to the old familiar and the new. Excellent food, great visuals, great camaraderie and warm weather.
This trip was to take me from Chennai, to Thanjavur, then to Madurai, in Tamil Nadu. From Madurai I booted it across the centre of India to Hampi, Karnataka, then on to Agonda, Goa.

Note that this blog has been rebuilt to go from the earliest to the most recent blogs, unlike normal blogs that have the most recent entries first. So the 'older posts' link at the bottom of the page actually links to the more recent entries.

Please click on the pics to enlarge.


Christmas day, 2007.
Heading back to India on the 6th of January, 2008.
Lots of stuff to move through till then.

On the way I beat.
It's a bit after midnight in the Singapore airport, and there's more activity (and tons of open shops with overpriced electronics, perfumes, etc) than you ever see in Vancouver.
A couple of long legs - Van-Seoul at about 11.5 hrs, Seoul-Singapore about 6 hours. Definitely a bit punch drunk from the mixed up sleep. A saving grace was having an empty seat next to me, and the new pair of Sennheiser noise reduction headphones - not perfect, but they knocked out quite a bit of airplane noise and rumbling.
Have to wait till 6:30 am to find out the gate for Chennai, so I'll hit the resting lounge for some shut-eye.

Made it!

10:30pm. 9 Jan., 2008

Finally made it! After 24 hours of flying, interspaced with 10 hours total stops in Seoul and Singapore, touched down in Chennai. The trip wasn't as brutal as some of the others, I think mainly due to (here comes the commercial) the Sennheiser 250 noise reduction headphones. They really wipe out the constant ear-and-head numbing rumble. Definitely advise long stretch flyers to get some kind.

Chennai's bigger than before, lots of construction, and even visible changes in some of the old haunts. The Broadlands lodge is a bit more run-down (hard to believe), but the folks are starting to do some white-washing & work on the place. It's full of German speakers, and lots of real long term travellers. The alternative to the Broadlands are hotels with 'rooms off the corridors', as opposed to 'rooms off a maze of balconies'. Plus the Broadlands has the large central open area (with a four story 'holy tree'), so even though on the barren & worn-out aspect (and with price for a 'single' up to 270 Rs (about Can$7.30), it's still the place I prefer.

There has been an arts festival - music and dance - going in the last month, and today was the last day for a performance at the Madras Dance School. It was quite a surprisingly nice auditorium -even cool for most of the two performances - with an even more surprisingly good Bose sound system! The performances were just wonderful - the first was a solo dance story (with a 6 piece band, with 3 traditional singers) about a courtesan in a court in Varanasi - again, just amazing. The performer is one of the top dancers in the country, and just so wonderful to watch (and listen). The second was a group of five performers from Orissa (with a 5 piece 'band'), doing the most amazing dances revolving around religious stories (ending with a stunning dance by two of them representing the male and female aspects of Shiva).

Anyway, it was quite warm today, and is a really pleasant somewhere-in-the-70's evening. Chennai is getting to be quite the big polluted city, but at least the Triplicane area isn't too bad. A bit noisy, though. However, the masala dosa I had for lunch was excellent (the old 'Maharajah Veg restaurant was bought out and expanded, but same kind of food).

I'll try to add some pics later.

Chennai, Tamil Nadu!

Some images from a day in Chennai - a view of a small part of the Broadlands lodge from my room; a traveller rebuilding his Royal Enfield at the hotel; my room; me; and pics from last night's dance; and a couple of odd pics.

Today was a good day - had an excellent sleep last night (from the Melatonin or sheer exhaustion?), a late wake up, and just lazed around washing clothes, chewing the fat with lovely travellers, and some great food. Just plan to hang around this evening, reading & listening to music & getting an early night crash. Pretty sure I'll head to Tanjore in the next couple of days, then on to Madurai.

And off to Chennai's Marina Beach.

Went to the beach today. Definitely a warm afternoon, but a nice walk along the small streets. The beach is quite huge - wide and long, with not a bad level of surf. Saw a woman doing henna patterns with cut-outs for the first time - people usually paint the patterns on by hand, but these looked really nice. A group of lovely (school?) girls were walking among the beach stalls, and a beautiful girl decided to get her hands done using the patterns. A couple of the photos here are of her and the work being done on her hand. The other pics are of stuff happening in the streets.

Some more signs of Chennai...

A bit more in Chennai and the Broadlands

Heading South.

Well, about time to leave Chennai. Tonight I'm taking an overnight sleeper to Trichy, then in the morning a bus to Tanjore. I'll just stay the day to check out the temple, then head south to Madurai.
It's been quite the hot day today. As hotels are '24 hour' hotels, you have to pay for an extra day if you go over your arrival time. So I checked out and have been trying to get some stuff done - namely, transfer SD cards to DVD as a backup to my portable hard drive. As my normal competent internet spot wasn't open (though it is now) I went to what looked like another decent place. My mistake. A few hours later I have DVDs, but I don't think that all the files were transferred over - the guys they hire for most of these places know just how to keep hitting 'refresh' to make things 'work'. And I complain about our systems guys? Anyway...complaincomplaincomplain. It was hot in the place, but I'm not there now. My regular place is also not exactly brilliant in speed terms, but the operator does seem to be competent. It's the same place that Greg and I used when we were here in 2000 - it was just opening up with a shared 56k phone line. Now they're 'high-speed', but the young Indian guys come in and just jump from video download to video download to games to chats, and it definitely slows things down.
Anyway, I spent some time on the Broadland rooftop, cooled down a bit and feel ready for some food and and then get over to the Central station for the 10:30 train.

Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

Interesting place for a day or two. However, a bit too much in the mosquito department. However, did encounter the only Diesel Royal Enfield I've ever seen!