Chennai - Madurai

I just got back from New York about a week ago from a conference, and now it was time again to get up early (4 a.m.!) and take a cab to the airport. I flew via Frankfurt to Chennai - strange, but I always have to travel west first, any time I come to Asia as I usually take Lufthansa, or sometimes, Air France. It is awkward on the way here, but really painful on the way home, when I can't wait to arrive and we fly over Hungary, I have to wait a couple hours and fly backwards...
On the airplane, it was far from boring. First of all, there was a baby crying the first 5 hours - I really admired her mum for her patience, although I only figured out it was a mum, not a dad, about the half-way, because she was such a masculine woman. As soon as that little girl stopped crying, another one started a couple rows in front of me. So even if I had some vague longing during Christmas for kids and family
while watching all those sweet movies, now I was back to reality that it is really not for me. There was also an elder man, bald on the top of his head but having long white hair at the bottom, with bare foot and watching Donald duck on the whole way in the personal video system. I suspect he was left in Goa in the 60s and still smoking joints there... Then two passengers got sick, the crew requested medical doctors, one of them had to be given some special oxygen equipment to stay alive. So we were not bored at all.

I arrived to Chennai after midnight and it was another hour to get our luggage. Then I took a cab to the hotel, which is quite nice. I joined an English group here from Explore. We are quite a mix crowed of 18 travelers. Roughly half men, half women, couples and singles, all sorts of ages and professions: lawyer, Thai chi teacher, nurse, quality controller, landscape architect, etc. One from Austria, one from the US, myself and the rest from the UK.
We will travel for 2 weeks down to the very southern tip of India on the east coast and back on the west coast, by train, bus, boat and tuktuk. It is strange that despite covering a huge distance in 2 weeks, we will only see a tiny part of the country, the very south and only 3 of the 27 UNESCO sights located in India.




From Chennai we took a train to Tiruchirapalliba, also called as Trichy. The train ride took 7 hours, but it was not boring at all as we watched the scenery and had a great conversation. The group is really varied and nice, we get along well. Trichy is famous for its rock temple (for which we had to climb 437 steps) and a large Hindu temple complex.

Tiruchirapalli - Rock Fort temple, river

Sri Ranganthaswamy temple:

Getting local:

Next day we saw a world heritage site, the Brahadeswara temple. As it is pilgrim season, the temple grounds were full with Indians. It is hard NOT to make a great photo - all you have to do is click here. The temples are magnificent and the Indian ladies with their graceful saris add just the right colors.

Thali lunch

On the way to Madurai, horse sculptures

To celebrate new year, there were two options for the group - a buffet dinner at the hotel and a gala dinner with live music. Four of us, who became good friends from the first day, decided to skip both. Although even the more expensive gala dinner was affordable (about 18 USD), it did not sound like fun, so we took a tuktuk and rode to town. We found a great vegetarian restaurant, where we tried nearly everything on the menu and still paid only less then two dollars a head. We then bought some beer and greeted 2009 by the swimming pool of the hotel.

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