Ready for India. Caught our breath a bit with two days at sea. It’s been almost non-stop since Ho Chi Minh. Although we are docked at Chennai, our tour is to Kanchipuram City about 2 hours away. Immigration is not too bad as they have several guys with laptops but we were checked twice more before leaving the port. Getting to the cruise terminal is treacherous as we have to walk over old trains tracks and other ruts made more complicated by the Viking red carpet. I think Viking was trying to smooth the way but it just masked all the ruts and potholes. One of the mahjong players, Chris fractured her ankle. She hopes to be back on the ship in Mumbi.
Leaving the port, our guide pointed out several of the colonial buildings from British and Dutch days. It is Sunday, so the traffic is light. Lots of scooters, Tuk Tuks and people walking. The women are wearing colorful clothes. A good portion of the men are wearing the traditional sarong (India uses another name, but I forgot it). The sarong goes to the ankle, but the men mostly wear it folded up in half so its knee length most of the time. In Kanchipuram a majority of the men wear the sarong. In Chennai, maybe 25%. Chennai is called the Detroit of India. We saw Ford, Nissan and Honda factories along with several automotive suppliers.
Interspersed were rice paddies and lots of cows and goats. As Mel said when we watched cows walk onto the roadway o“Its all fun and games until someone hits a cow that’s wearing makeup”. See photo
First stop is the Ekambaranathar (Shiva) Temple, at 25 acres is one of the largest in India, built in 800 AD. The gopuram tower reaches 187 feet. The temple was packed because it’s the annual Panguni Uthiram festival, celebrating marriage of the Gods. All the families were out wearing their Sunday best. Drums were banging, guns were firing and the Gods were being carried around on litters. Our guide was very excited to be there and have us be part of it all. The temple complex went on and on. Intricately carved granite pillars supported 20 foot ceiling. We went down several corridors dedicated to different deities. Very chaotic, dynamic and joyous, not like our solemn Easter services at all.
The second temple (technically a monument since no monks currently perform services there), Sri Kailashanathar was totally the opposite. Built of sandstone in 700 AD, it is set up for meditation and circumambulation (walking around in pilgrimage). The compound is a small city block size, all carved stone and only about 20 people there. As we were walking up to the temple wall, our guide spotted some friends who were just leaving. Pleasant surprise for both of them. We asked if we could take their picture and they, in turned asked if we would take a picture with them. Lots of smiles on both sides. Again had to take our shoes off to go into the temple, but this time we did not need to leave our shoes in a paid secure location. Heard a couple of people lost their shoes yesterday at another temple. Glad to keep our socks on because the stone was VERY hot. Had to keep moving your feet to not get burned. Beautiful carvings of Gods, mystical beasts and myths covered everything in the interior. It should be UNESCO but it has had too much restoration done. Exterior walls are lined with meditation niches that fit smaller people than me.
The silk factory in Kanchipuram city was next. The “factory” was down an alley which included 2 stables with 2 cows each and an open fire community kitchen. The basement held 5 looms which looked just as they would have been a 100 years ago, but still in use. The silk fabric style for this factory shimmered with the inclusion of gold threads. Mary couldn’t help herself and bought 6 scarfs to bring home.
Driving to lunch, traffic stopped as people had blocked the road to protest a new powerplant up north. Our guide told us to get off and walk to the hotel which ended up to be about 100 feet up the road. The protest was over by the time we left lunch. Lunch was great. 90% vegetarian with meat options of fried fish and grilled chicken. Only the dhal (lentil) was really spicy.
Bus ride back included a drive along the 6 mile long beach. Lots of people beating the heat on a Sunday afternoon.
Yes there was a herd of cows on the beach.