Well we arrived in India. Got here (Chennai) at about 1.00am very tired all strung out and very jet lagged. However the airline was superb, in fact I was able to stretch my legs and get a lot of sleep! "Amazing"
We have been here for only three days but have already become very familiar with something called skin tax (izzit coz I iz white?). Basically if you are not native you can get fleeced here very quickly. Typically you are told a price at least two and as much as five times the lowest price. So everything is haggled, now this can be real fun (20 sheckles you must be mad) Real Monty Python stuff.
Even when you are wise to this you know you are always paying too much because you never know the real bottom price. Still everything is madly cheap to start with so it's real cool and even though you pay too much its still way cheaper than home.
Here we will describe the towns and places we visit and you can see the appropriate photographs by following the links. You can also gawp at photographs of other travellers we have met here in India.
Chennai is the fourth largest city in India. As you can imagine, it is very busy,
very polluted and desperately smelly by the river! There are many new modern buildings,
usually situated right next to a slum area and the contrast is quite extraordinary, and
yet somehow almost sums up India in one fell swoop! (well, at least from what we have seen
so far) The people however are wonderful. They are all smiley, helpful and friendly and will
do almost anything for you. (Well, for a few rupees anyway) The poverty is very extreme
and very humbling.
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This is truly a place of wonder and stone carving skills that are incredible. When you realise the effort required and the patience it takes to produce the carvings, you can see it is quite astonishing. The statue in the photo below took 8 months, 12 hours a day, six days a week! (pretty incredible).
We have found the people to be extremely good salesmen and found ourselves buying things we did not need or really even want (Doh!) just because we were in awe of the skills used. But we have learned, "oh yes" and have vowed not to be such mugs anymore. (I have to confess I am convinced they are such good salesmen that they will somehow catch us again (and again ......etc, etc, etc), but for the moment we live in hope).
The other main attraction here are the temples which are quite astounding and date back over 2000 years in some cases, also the rock carvings are splendid. There is a circular rock called Krishna's Butterball!! which is massive and simply dwarfs a person. We plan to spend a few more days here and visit the town of a thousand temples.
Besides, the beach is excellent and the sun is beating on down even though it is the middle of the winter Ha! We strongly recommend this place to any visitors to India, but remember, you WILL be subject to Skin Tax!
We ended up spending around ten days in this small sea-side town, so there are lots of pics from here. There are many new pics added today (19/01/01). We met a really nice crowd of bods here, which was the main reason we stayed so long. Also we studied under our Guru, Swann, a really nice French chap from whom we learned much about both India and travelling generally.
Thanks Swann, we are indebted to you. Just don't try to cash it in!!!
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We visited this city on a day-trip from Mamallapuram, we took the local bus which took about two hours and made our bottoms jolly sore! However, it was worth the trouble as you can see from the photos below. The sandstone temple which features most in the pics is 1300 years old and is the oldest temple in Tamil Nadu (this state).
We didn't spend too long here so there's not much more to tell. We enjoyed the city, but
not so the bus ride!!!!
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Pondicherry was once a French colonial stronghold, because of this the architecture here is quite different to most other towns in India. Apart from this and a rather amusing street sign, we found it to be a little impersonal and not of much interest to us.
So we hired a couple of trusty old Enfields and set off to Auroville (not exactly
'Born to be Wild', but it'll have to do!)
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Auroville is attempting to be the community of the future. It aims to promote a sustainable way of life based on organic and other green methods. In some things it has been very successful, but there are problems in Auroville at the moment with a lack of leadership. This has caused many of the local Indian villagers to feel excluded from the dream and so continues to be controversial.
Thirty years ago Auroville was nothing but a desert. The early Aurovillians irrigated the land and it is now a lush green environment which currently sustains over 1500 people. Using their famed organic building methods and materials they have built some very unique structures. Unfortunately due to a certain 'organic haziness' we have not taken nearly enough photos, but hey, we had a good time.
Most of the pics here are of us playing on the beach, wearing skirts and poncing around on our bikes. We were blessed on a very auspicious day in the Hindu temple, and went home to celebrate! The bugs celebrated with us.
Our neighbour, Ralph, was an exceptionally nice Aurovillian chappy who made us very
welcome and showed us around. Thanks Ralph for your hospitality, your company and those
useful little metal pots you gave us!
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This is the fifth largest city in India. Unlike Chennai it is not too smelly, and had a really good time here. As you will see, our accomdations were not up to our usual standard but we thought it might be more 'authentic'. After all, Auroville is a place apart from India. Tony got a bad case of culture shock upon seeing our new dwellings, which he likened to a cell block. Roy was more at ease, and we'll leave it up to you to decide what that tells you about each of us!
Madurai has a magnificent temple complex and there are a number pics of this and also of other places we visited on a day trip from the main city. There is also some pornographic scenes from one of the temples we visited that day. Enjoy them lads (and lasses)!
Just as we thought we had managed to avoid being sold crap goods that we didn't want India struck again. Amongst other useless items Tony purchsed his 'Dr Livingstones' which you will see in terrifying close-up at the next town, Kannyakumarai.
Mahatma Temple was born here. You will be introduced in the movie below.
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We left Madurai on a night bus whose driver Arfur would be impressed by! We did however arrive safely. The same could not be said for our underwear!
Kannyakumarai is located at the southernmost tip of India. Here three oceans, the Indian Ocean, The Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal meet. This is a particularly holy place in Hindu mythology, for here Parvati served her penance while waiting for her intended, Lord Shiva.
We witnessed both the sunrise and sunset on the beach, which is considered a special blessing. It worked, for we were blissfully unaware of the tragic earthquake which occured at Bhuj in Gujarat. It is now believed that as many as 100,000 people may have died. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones.
We were constantly astounded by the unusual beauty of the girls. They seemed to be
drawn to our unusually pale complexions and naked legs. We spent a whole day ogling and
being ogled, flirting gently with the younger ladies who were extremely shy and giggly.
And good fun was had by all.
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Pressing on we managed a days travel whilst improving our tans, hopefully lowering our Skin Tax (Ha!)
We took a boat ride along 80km of beautiful meandering waters. We
passed by villages where the children waved and ran alongside the boat until they
could run no further. Naturally, we encouraged them mercilessly! Enjoy the photos.
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We arrived in Cochin at a particularly fortunate time (again), for the annual temple festival was in full swing. We were particularly fortunate to stay in the Hotel Aiswarya as the manager, K.K, took us under his wing and showed us around the temple and it's surroundings and generally made sure that we got the most out of the festival.
As you can see, there were hundreds of people at and around the temple during the 7 evenings of the festival. Unfortunately every evening we went there was a huge thunderstorm, apparently indicating the Lord Shiva's general displeasure!
Nevertheless, everybody managed to have a good time, and we all enjoyed the fireworks,
the drummers and the elephants. You can see a selectiom of what happened here.
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We arrived in Cochin feeling a little sorry for ourselves and were in need of a little bit of luxury and some good food in order to recharge out spirits. As always, we were very lucky; we stayed in the Hotel Aiswarya where the manager, KK, took us under his wing. He took us to the temple festival, told us where to find the best resaurants and did his very best to make sure we enjoyed our stah in the town. He succeeded. We heartily recommend his hotel to any travellers to the town.
The photos here are from the part of town known as Fort Cochin, which was by turns a Jewish, French and English run town. So here you'll find pictures of the local synagogue, church and local shops.
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Travellers to India may be aware that the is largely no nightlife in India. Bangalore is billed as 'East meets West' and held the promise (according to our guide book) of actually having some places to go out at night. Well, until eleven in the evening it's all true.
However, as the clock strikes eleven, in full cinderalla-mode, the place is suddenly deserted. It seems that all good Indians are at home before 11:00! To say we were disappointed would be an understatement, and we had to wait until we got to Bangkok before we managed a decent night out on the town. But that as they say is another story!
Despite the choking traffic fumes - quite the worst we've ever experienced - Bangalore is an interesting and sometimes beautiful city. We were there for about three days and enjoyed it very much. There are pictures here of the Indian Parliment and High Court buildings, also of the Indian 'Kew Gardens' and one of Roy with his chest out for your titillation!
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After Bangalore we decided to return briefly to Mamallapuram as we had had such a good time there. It was really nice to return there and say Hello (and then Goodbye) to all of the friends we had made there before we left India for Thailand.
We had a wonderful time in India, and came away with a real love of the Indian people; they are friendly, warm, helpful, gentle and very innocent. This despite living in real poverty, often in filthy conditions and with a totally corrupt government and police force. It's a shame because the Indian people deserve better.
It seems to us that those in power have, despite naming the high street in every city after him, learned very little or nothing from Gandhi. The rich and powerful contrive to stay that way, and the country spends more on modernising it's army with new tanks, planes, submarines and nuclear missiles than it spends on looking after the poor. That makes us extremely sad and to be honest pretty damned angry too, as they are all the same realy, they just can't see it yet.Oh for another Gahndi now.
In the light of the recent earthquake the corruption in the building industry is scandalous. Officials use sub-standard materials in order to pocket the difference. This cost the lives of many thousands of people. Worse, it's been an open secret for years. Maybe now somebody will stand up for what's decent and right and work for the good of the populace.
We did not spend very long in India, so it may be that we have got it awfully wrong and really need to understand India further before making sweeping statements but we felt very strongly about the caste system.
While we were in India we spent most of our time speaking to the lower castes (the "untouchables") with whom we felt more comfortable than anyone else. As a result it, seems to us that the cast system is grossly unfair; it seems to be a convenient method of control, forcing the poor to the bottom and keeping the rich at the top.
With education however WILL come "true enlightenment".Guy's SORT IT OUT ! We doubt that the present system will last for more than a few more generations. The question is, does India have the time to spare ? bearing in mind the speed of their technological progress ?. Here we think a little knowledge could prove to be dangerous.Only time will tell.
Whilst on the soap box it should also be said that having been a ruling influence here for so long we "the British" also need to remember the way we have behaved.It is nothing short of absolutely disgusting and nothing at all to be proud of.Remember, most of the wealth previously here found it's way to the UK.So in many ways we should also shoulder some blame for the lack of of care and attention given to the people during their past."You reap what you sow" and now the empire has had it's day.For all the other nations in the world that is probably a good thing.So the next time you hear the usual rubbish about immigrents etc etc. Remember "if you can't take it, don't dish it out".Our forefathers gave it so now it's time to take it, with the honour and bravery we are so famous for and stop whinging.
Be proud to be English by all means, but don't be ignorant about it eh!.It's more sincere that way.
We hope to return to India one day though not this year.In the meantime it's goodbye from him! and it's goodbye from me!