Tamil Nadu


After the Holi Festival, we trained to Delhi and flew down to Chennai in the far South of India. The state of Tamil Nadu is an extreme off shoot from the rest of India; they honk and screech to a deafening degree, they refuse to speak the national language of Hindi and they express their religion with even more colour than Rajasthan (if that’s even possible). We spent five whirlwind days in the Tamil Nadu state and it’s all a blur to me. Up early, on a bus, next city, quick tour, back to sleep, up early, repeat. By the time we hit Madurai Kelsi and I were walking zombies.
Chennai was just another big city. Most backpackers skip the city all together, but the idea of flying across the country and figuring the bus system all on the same day seemed daunting. So we spent the night.
Despite it’s noisy city core, Marina beach, which lines the city in a 16km stretch of white sand, is a beautiful escape. It is where I fully rediscovered my love for street food. The beach is loaded with food vendors selling anything under the sun! Gobi pakoras, deep fried plantain chips, fresh fruit, popcorn made right there from fresh corn cobs. You could buy barbecued fish caught that day, rice dishes, noodles, chickpeas with chilli and fresh mango slices… I was in heaven. It makes me sad that Kelsi gets sick off of 95% of the food here in India, because I would eat street food for every meal if I could! We spent the afternoon trying the various vendor foods before wandering up the sand to George Town. However, when we found ourselves lost in the slums as the sun went down we decided to grab a Tuk Tuk home.
Our second day we moved along to Mamalapuram: a quaint little backpackers beach town with some unique rock temples and some great seafood. We were ripped off and lied to by five different people on five different occasions before noon that day. I wanted to rip someone’s throat out by the time we cruised up to the city hours later than scheduled and out three times the money. I’m not even going to go into details because it will just put me back into a rage.
But the laid back, friendly locals in Mamalapuram changed us back into positive people. Despite the whole town not having power for most of the day, we had a great time. Mamalapuram is the first place we realized how lax copyright laws are here in the country. We realized that most of the Lonely Planet recommended restaurants coincidentally have doubles. The popular “Moonraker’s” restaurant now has a rival location directly across the street. Or when looking for “Gecko’s”restaurant, you can also find “Little Gecko’s” right next door. It amazes me how there are not lawsuits.
We ended up eating at Gecko’s (the original) and had the best Keralan style coconut fish curry I’ve ever eaten. The staff were so friendly and the rooftop restaurant overlooked a small lake in the middle of town. Definitely my top choice for places to eat in town.
By the third morning we were off to Pondicherry. Pondicherry (or Pondi) is a beautiful, French colonial meets Tamil Nadu style city. The East part of the city has a wonderful boardwalk that fills up with people and food vendors as the evening approaches. We stayed at the end of the walk in a gorgeous ashram. Although it had rules and a 10:30 curfew, the Ashram is still the cheapest and most sought after location in Pondi. We had a third floor room overlooking the meditation garden and the ocean. Big palm trees lined the shore and we sat our on the balcony watching the daylight disappear. It was calm and relaxing (unlike anything else in India) and a wonderful way to relax for a couple hours after such a whirlwind trek through the state.
The relaxing was short lived, however, since we were up and back on the road to Trichy. By the time we hit Trichy, we had scoped out our bank accounts and realized we’d need to budget if we wanted to last our final month. We found the most dilapidated looking hotel in the area, figured out the local bus system to explore the city, and ate at a restaurant that had no menu and no English. The waiter just kept bringing us stuff, and in the end our meal cos us less than a dollar each. We had done well.
The temples we saw in Trichy were neat. They were colourful and detailed and we had to hike up 500 stairs just to get to one. Unfortunately, in Tamil Nadu there are few temples that foreigners can go into. So after all our hiking, we just had to take a photo from outside and then climb back down. Even worse, the views weren’t worth it…
Our final stop was Madurai. Five days, five cities, a good chunk of a state complete. We were exhausted. Finding a hotel in Madurai was a trying experience. When we realized that all the pricing in our guide book had more than DOUBLED since its publication (6 months ago) we were unimpressed. The hotel we stopped at was nice enough to point us in the direction of a cheaper place around the corner. When we walked outside to go find it a man came up to chat to us in the street.
“Hello! I am a tailor are you looking for some clothes?” He asked
“No, we’re just looking for our hotel now thanks, maybe later”
“Which hotel?” He inquired
Kelsi showed him the scrap of paper with the name on it.
“Ahh, yes, I know where it is, ill show you” he snatched the paper from Kelsi’s hand and put it in his short pocket. “Follow me”
When we’d walked down the street and around the corner we found the place.
“This is it!” I said, “let’s go in”
“Why would you want to stay here?” The man asked. “I know a much better place for the same price. It has Internet and power, come see it, it’s right here. Just looking! If you don’t like it, you can come right back” he smiled and pointed just down the street.
” I’m going to check on this place” I said. But he grabbed Kelsi by the arm and dragged her to see the other hotel. I ran in to check on prices in the recommended one and would catch up with them in a second.
“How much for a room for two people?” I asked.
“200” said the man behind the desk.
“And do you have one available for tonight?”
“Of course!”
“Ok, I’ll be right back, I just have to grab my friend.
I walked out on the street and saw Kelsi just down a ways. I yelle her name but she couldn’t hear me. So I ran off to get her. I was bombarded by guys all asking if I wanted a room for the night.
“No thanks, not now” I said as I ran past them to catch up. I met up with them as she was walking into the hotel.
“How much for a room?” We asked
“Come see first then you can see if you like it”
“No, we honestly don’t care what the room looks like, as long as it has a bed. How much?”
“Just look first”
“No, how much?”
“I’m sorry, that’s three times the price as the other one, I’m sure the rooms are nice but we can’t afford that”
We left to head back to the other hotel, the tailor followed us…
“You should stay here, very cheap! Good room!”
“No, I’m sorry, the other is only 200”
He laughed. “They won’t give you a room for 200. If they do, I will pay for it, if they don’t, you owe me 300 rupees”
“No, leave us alone”
We walked up the steps of the first hotel.
“No!” The man at the counter shouted to us. Another man came up and started waving his hands in a dismissing motion at us.
“No room for you, go!”
“What?” We said, startled. “But I JUST asked you, you said I could have a room for 200”
“Rooms full!” He said. We stared at the wall of keys behind him. Glared at him and stormed out angry.
The tailor laughed at us. “See! You owe me 300 rupees now! Come back to the other hotel.
“NO!” We both shouted.
We walked into the hotel next door where men had been beckoning for me to come get a room.
“Room full. Go away.” They said.
The next hotel was the same, and the one after that. Finally we entered one hotel and when they were about to say how much a room was they looked out the front window. The tailor was standing there shaking his head at them.
“Sorry, no room!”
We were exhausted and tired of carrying our packs and now we were furious.
We rushed outside and faced the tailor.
“STOP FOLLOWING US!! GO AWAY!” I shouted at him.
We stormed off one direction and he followed, then we doubled back the other way and he followed until we yelled at him again. Finally he slinked away into the crowds. The next hotel we walked into was only a slight improvement.
“How much for a room?” We asked
They stopped and turned to each other, then in Tamil, discussed how much they should charge us. When they kept discussing we spoke up.
“It’s simple, how much are the rooms here?”
They kept discussing so we stormed out of the building. “Never mind” we said. Then we saw two old guys beckoning us across the street at the Neethi Lodge.
“Room?” They beckoned us towards the place.
We walked in.
“How much?” We asked.
The old man sitting down behind reception gave us a big smile.
“475.” He said immediately. Finally a no bullshit answer. He seemed nice, the place looked clean and we were so furious we didn’t care anymore.
“We’ll take it”
The place had no power during the day, but the staff were so lovely it didn’t matter. Nonetheless, Madurai was not turning out to be a favourite destination of mine.
We spent the afternoon and evening checking out the one and only big temple in the city. After that it was dinner and off to bed. Our final morning of getting up early (we thought) to head to the airport and fly to Sri Lanka!





3 thoughts on “Tamil Nadu

    • Ahhh the joys of traveling! It was frustrating at the time, but you always get ups and downs when you’re on the road. If things went right all the time I suppose I wouldn’t have anything to write about šŸ˜‰


      • Ah that’s true – but it’s no doubt that one of the worst things about travelling in India is the creepy men. Was just reading your Holi experience. Boy! I’ve played Holi only once in my life and in spite of being in India for 7 years now, I’ve never played it again. šŸ˜› I understand it isn’t as bad in other parts of India though (but I haven’t played it since I was a kid, so I wouldn’t know :P)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s