Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mamallapuram/Chennai

We were sad to leave Pondicherry, but our timeline didn't allow for much lingering, so the next morning we were off a couple hours north to Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram). In Mamallapuram we arrived to see a deserted backpacker town full of Hampi-esque rock carvings and some serious sea-food. We had two days to explore the rock carvings, in particular the Shore Temple (not surprising located on the shore and nice, yet clearly weathered by the elements) and the 5 Rathas, unfinished temples. We spent most of the time walking and scooting around the eerily quiet town. At 6 am when our fan turned off and the heat was unbearable, we went to the beach just in time to see all the fishermen coming in and taking the fish out of the nets. We also had some time to explore the area, and about 2 km south of town we stumbled upon the creatively named "Fishermen Community" of cement buildings that had been built with tsunami aid money; it was quite an upgrade to the fishermen that we had seen sleeping on the beach the night before.
On the second afternoon we took an AC bus to Chennai, and thank goodness for that; the city is huge, humid and polluted. We settled into the Salvation Army Guest House (and by settled in, I mean that we put our bags down and tried not to touch anything) and went to do some exploring till it was time to sleep. With some tapioca root chips and sugar cane juice in our system, we took a short suburban train south to Marina beach. It was the first week of summer vacation and the (huge) beach was bustling with people and vendors, though the rip tides prevented much swimming. We walked around till dark and then retired to our room, restless till the break of dawn.

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