After a cold shower with the Elephants we got ready to drive three hours to the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. In India, every commercial vehicle needs a permit. Our driver said that sometimes they need a bit of money to keep them “happy” (reminds me of my country, Peru). The ride went as smooth as a racing car over an open cast mine with one small incident. Sabrina wanted to go to a bathroom on the way. We stopped at a petrol station (such a bad idea). In a blink of an eye we got in our bus again. It was a “squat” toilet also known as Natural-Position toilet which consist essentially of a hole in the ground and bucket fulled with water to flush it. Sometimes there is a tap so you need to fill the water. Tip of the day: Do your business in your hotel room but if you really need to go urgently have disinfectant wet wipes and hand sanitizer travel size.
Finally we arrived at Madurai, one of the oldest cities in India and a metropolis that traded with ancient Rome. Here is the city in a misty afternoon from our hotel.
The next morning we visited the temple of Sri Meenakshi Aman. This ancient temple is a marvellous piece of architecture. It ranks among the greatest temples of India. The temple is massive and will need at least half a day to see the entire place properly. We only spent 2 hours as far as I can remember. Unfortunately no cameras were allowed in the temple so we left ours in the bus. Also you need to deal with lots of hawkers and children trying to sell you souvenirs. Actually you will experience this situation in every tourist site you visit. Our guide advised us not to make eye contact with them unless you are interested in buying something. Just say a firm NO and walk away. They will try to bargain dramatically but be consistent and they will give up. On top of that women need to cover their legs and their arms. No shoes no SOCKS EITHER!!!! (you need to give a tip to the shoe keeper, 10 rupees per pair will do it!) This was the strictest temple we have been so far! I was just about to ask my tour guide why we required to remove socks too when she yelled at a tourist who was lying on the floor in the patio inside the temple. She told him off saying that it was a lack of respect to be lying down. He said nothing and seemed confused. After that I didn’t ask anything! The picture below is from the web.
After visiting the temple, we went to a souvenir store known as “Emporiums”. They are everywhere in India right next to hotels and tourist attraction (it is quite common that your tour guide take you there). They sell ethnic handicrafts, jewelry, silk, cotton fabrics, clothes, tapestry, spices and many more. The sellers are very persistent. If you happen to be interested in buying something, NEGOTIATE before you overpay. Reduce the price by 50% of the original price. If they tell you no, just say you are not interested anymore and they might drop the price dramatically. If you buy silk I recommend you to take a lighter or match and ask them for a piece of cloth to burn it. If it smells like burning hair and produce a black, powdery ash it is real; otherwise it is synthetic! The more you buy, the happier your tour guide will be with you because they get commission from the Emporiums. If this is not the case they will expect a tip from you at the end of the tour. Piece of advice: if you need to go to a bathroom, this is a good place to go. Their toilets are reasonably clean
Later on that day we visited the Tirumala Nayak Palace – a gracious building in the Indo saracenic style that it in state of rot today. The main event is the entrance gate main hall and Natakasala (Dance hall), with their faded yellow plasterwork, lion and makara (crocodile-elephant creature). Inside the palace there is a rectangular courtyard known as Swargavilasa (Celestial Pavilion).
…and here is our guide checking on Sabrina and wondering why did I take her a picture???