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By this Author: katdill

Long Trip Home

March 8 & 9, 2016


View Sri Lanka, The Maldives and India on katdill's travel map.

I won't bore you with the details of our long trip home. Suffice it to say we went from Madurai, India, to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Shanghai, China, to Vancouver, BC, to Calgary to Saskatoon with waiting periods of between 8 and 3 hours at the airports in between flights. Don figures 42 hours of travel time. So we spent 2 "nights" on the plane and sleep was in very short supply.
Here's a couple of pictures I took in Shanghai airport. I'm facing one direction and then I turned and took a picture the other direction as well.
Facing one way

Facing one way

Turned around to face the other way

Turned around to face the other way


This airport is huge and laid out in straight line, quite different from other airports we've been in.
Kalindi was waiting for us when we finally arrived in Saskatoon. We spent the night at her house before driving home in the morning.

Posted by katdill 09:55 Comments (0)

Madurai, City of Temples and Textiles

March 7, 2016

sunny 36 °C
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This morning we took off early in a tuk tuk to get down to the big temple here, the Meenakshi Amman Temple. They say this temple has been around in one form or other since the city was started, which was the 6th century BC. The current version has been here since the 1600's, with many different rulers contributing to different parts of the temple. It covers 45 acres, so there is lots of space. There are four big towers above the gates. They are so fantastically decorated, it is hard to believe. One guide told me the south tower had 4500 sculptures on it and that it was the largest tower. It was interesting to wander inside, see the Hall of 1000 Pillars (all carved differently) and listen to the devotional music being performed live. There are sections of the temple which non-Hindus cannot visit, but there is still lots to see. We had to check our shoes, backpacks, and cameras before going thru a security checkpoint to enter the temple. So we have no pictures of the inside. We did see a sacred cow, covered with blankets and flowers, inside the temple. And an elephant was blessing people with his trunk, whenever they paid his handler the fee. Poor elephant looked bored to death.
East Tower of the temple

East Tower of the temple

Women preparing rice for devotees attending a Shiva festival

Women preparing rice for devotees attending a Shiva festival


After we had wandered our way thru the temple, we collected our belongings and started walking the streets. We went to a fabric store for one last visit and I bought 2 cotton saris, which are made locally. We had to take our shoes off to go into the fabric store, so I said it was like a temple for fabric. So much fabric and so many wonderful colours. It is a strain on the decision making capability to be presented with such choices. I had about 3 or 4 men helping me find just the right one. They also had a mens wear section of the store, but Don couldn't find what he wanted.
My helpers and I trying to find the perfect piece

My helpers and I trying to find the perfect piece


We made our way over to the Thirumalai Nayak Palace, another building from the 17th century. Apparently it was much larger originally, which is hard to imagine because it is huge now! It has some lovely ceiling friezes and painting.
Size of the palace

Size of the palace

One of the dome ceilings

One of the dome ceilings


We managed to walk all the way back to our hotel, although it was very hot in the sun and sometimes there just wasn't any shade to be found. We saw this fellow pull up in his bicycle cart and went over to ask what was in the bundles. Fabric!! I guess the little narrow building he took it into is a clothing factory or something.
Fabric delivery

Fabric delivery


We also passed this fellow mass producing banana leaf plates, which are used on top of metal plates at many restaurants. He prepared a stack of leaves by removing the central rib, and then put a metal plate on top so he could cut them the right size.
Banana leaf plate production

Banana leaf plate production


We stopped for lunch as we got close to the hotel and then crashed for awhile to cool off and let the sun get lower in the sky. We did some more walking around the neighbourhood in the late afternoon. We tried to visit a vegetable market, but there was hardly anything there - too late in the day I guess. We did pass the Royal Enfield dealer, which was advertising 11 new colours! We have seen the occasional original old motorcycles around, so they do last a long time.
Royal Enfield new colour

Royal Enfield new colour


We enjoyed our supper at Phil's Bistro so much last night, that we went back there again tonight, for our last supper in India. India is a very complex place, pretty challenging in many ways, but very interesting and rewarding as well. We have often felt like celebrities here, people we don't know and will never see again, talk to us and take pictures with us. We are continually asked what country are we from? Even if we don't quite understand the question, Canada is a pretty safe reply. Don says India is like 12 countries in one and we have only visited two of them on this trip. So tomorrow we leave and start our long trip home.

Posted by katdill 07:45 Archived in India Comments (0)

Our Last Bus Ride in India

March 6, 2016

sunny 34 °C
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We caught a bus early this morning to Madurai, our last stop in India. It is so difficult to convey what these bus rides are like. There is no where to put our luggage except stacked on the engine cover at the front of the bus. We sit in a seat for two which is really too small for people the size we are, so we feel cramped and as the bus goes around hairpin turns we have to hang on tight or risk falling off the slippery seat. We always see interesting sights as we go along the roads.
Today our bus met another bus at a narrow part of the mountain road and then our bus driver had an argument with the other driver about who should back up. I guess our's lost because we backed up. Of course, we don't understand what they actually said, but that's what the body language said.
Bus drivers arguing

Bus drivers arguing


After 1 1/2 hours or so of driving down out of the mountains, with the steep grades and hairpin turns, we made it to the flat land. Very soon we stopped at a little bus stand out in the country for a 15 minute break. There I noticed a herd of goats being moved down the side of the road. And although it was very warm (30 or so) since we were out of the mountains, one of the women from the bus was wearing a down jacket! It's amazing what you get used to!
Down jacket at 30

Down jacket at 30

Goat herd

Goat herd

Ox cart on the highway

Ox cart on the highway


Very soon after we got going again, we pulled into the bus station in Dindigul. I thought "Why didn't we have our break here?" Well, that bus station was an absolute madhouse. Our bus pulled in, let passengers off, and then tried to turn around to go out again. This bus station only has one entrance/exit so all the buses are competing to get in and out. Here's a short video to try and demonstrate some of the madness.

Once we got into Madurai, which is one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the world, we got off the bus and into a tuk tuk to go to our hotel. Tuk tuk rides are another thing hard to convey. Riding along in a small vehicle which weaves in and out of traffic between large trucks and buses, beeping horns, etc. So I made another small video to try to show you the ride plus some of the street scene.

After we checked into our hotel, the SPK, we went out to find some lunch. We ended up several blocks away at a place called Rice and Grills, which would horrify any Canadian food inspector, but made good food. Standards are so different here, we have to just relax and enjoy what we can. We visited a grocery store on our way back and picked up a couple of things, but the best thing was seeing a whole cooler just for chocolate bars. It's so hot here that chocolate just melts to a gooey mess if not refrigerated.
Chocolate refrigerator

Chocolate refrigerator


We rested for awhile and then we out to walk in the park beside the lake, which is across the street from the hotel. There are quite a few birds on the marshy lake, but the fence between the park and the lake seems to be designed to keep anyone from seeing what's on the lake from the park. Strange - there may be a good reason, but I couldn't think of one.
After our walk we went to Phil's Bistro for supper. This is an Italian American restaurant with no Indian food at all. We were the first people in the place, but soon other Indians came in. Don said, "This is like us going to an Indian restaurant at home." I had a great pasta supper, without any nightshades and Don had a good fish meal. Then back to the hotel for the night.

Posted by katdill 07:14 Archived in India Comments (0)

A Big Hike to Dolphin Nose

March 5, 2016

sunny 23 °C
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We set out after breakfast to hike to Dolphin Nose, a rock formation with fantastic views of the valleys. First, we took a taxi up to La Saleth Church, which was the highest point on the route. So it was mostly downhill from there. The hike is about 8 or 8.5 km round trip and I wanted to make it a bit easier by taking a taxi to the high point, so I didn't have to climb up and then go down. So we hiked about 6.5 km round trip. A lot of the hike is through old forest with some big old trees, down a very narrow road, with of course, lots of switchback corners.
The church with mass going on and people doing the stations of the cross

The church with mass going on and people doing the stations of the cross

The narrow road down

The narrow road down


We arrived in the village of Vattakanal where the steep part of the path goes down to the Dolphin Nose. By the time we got down there, my legs were shaking from the effort of stepping down the path. Dolphin Nose doesn't look like a dolphin nose to me - just a big rectangular rock which sticks out over the valley. There is another rock close by, called Echo Rock, which many of the visitors stood on and tried the echo out.
View near Echo Rock

View near Echo Rock


It was very cloudy in the valleys when we arrived, and we sat and read and watched other visitors (and rested!) for awhile hoping for the clouds to lift. When it seemed it was lifting a bit, we went over to the Dolphin Nose and there had to wait in line in order to take a picture on the rock. There are professional photographers who work there, using the rock as the stage for their photo shoots. Finally, we got the chance to take a couple of quick shots of Don on the rock. When he put his arms out, there were cheers from the people hiking (or trekking, as they call it here) down the path.
Don on Dolphin Nose

Don on Dolphin Nose

Part of the steep path up to the village - how do you like my elephant pants?

Part of the steep path up to the village - how do you like my elephant pants?


Then it was time to slog back up the path. Slow and sure is the only way I can do it, but I made it. When we made the village again, we stopped for lunch. We ate at Altaf's Cafe, an Italian-Israeli restaurant. This cafe was full of young travelers. We were definitely the oldest people in the place. Don had his first Yemeni meal there and found it an interesting experience. I got to eat falafel and enjoyed it very much, although french fries in the pita seemed a bit strange to me.
Sign in the restaurant

Sign in the restaurant


We then walked up the rest of the way and when we got to the church again, we knew it was all downhill from there to the hotel. It really was a very nice hike and I'm glad I managed it. We came down by the lake and when we got back to the hotel, we got some natural ice cream and enjoyed it sitting down in our room resting.
Later we went out to pick up Don's new shorts from the tailor. He did a wonderful job and I'm sure these shorts will last a long time. Then we went back to the Astoria Veg Restaurant to eat supper. It was not too busy when we arrived but it rapidly turned into a mad house. There was no inclination to relax and linger over your meal, with people standing around the restaurant waiting for a table. And the noise level was intense as well.
So back to the hotel for the night and to pack up to leave in the morning.

Posted by katdill 07:07 Archived in India Comments (0)

Adventures aren't Always Successful

March 4, 2016

sunny 24 °C
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We decided to walk Coaker's Walk, which is very close to the Richwin Hotel. This is a walk carved out of the edge of the mountain, paved and fenced, with wonderful views of the valley. It is only a five minute walk if you just walk it, but of course, it took us longer than that, due to picture taking and just plain gawking at the view.
Coaker's Walk

Coaker's Walk

One of the gorgeous views showing the many levels of ridges

One of the gorgeous views showing the many levels of ridges


We went back to the hotel to check out and got a taxi to the new hotel, Hilltop Towers. Once we were settled in, we decided to visit Koruna Farms, the organic farm we had heard about. We walked over to the bus station and got on a bus. We had been told any bus would drop us off at the farm. The conductor told us to get off when we were in a little town, quite a long way down the mountain. We didn't even know the name of the town but after asking around we got some help. A store keeper arranged with a young man with a vehicle to give us a ride to the farm. They seemed to know where it was and that was some 5 km back up the mountain! So we got in with him and back up we went. He turned off on a road quite close to town and followed it along the ridge. This road deteriorated as we went and he stopped several times to ask for directions. After 3 or 4 km and the road getting worse and worse, we said enough. We had no idea how we would get back if we did find the farm and the road was almost impassable. So he turned around and brought us back to the town. We had to pay him too much, but he did try to help us find it. The information man at the tourist office has sure got his info wrong!
We checked out the Forestry Office and found out no walking in the forest is allowed now, due to fire season. So on we went to find some lunch. We had a delicious lunch at a little place with a very personable owner. His English was good and he was very chatty and understood my diet problem and accommodated me very well. I think we'll be back there again.
Back to the hotel for a rest and then off again to visit Bryant Park flower garden. On the way there, we passed the International School's sports grounds where they were holding a sports day. We watched several events and enjoyed the intensity of some of the athletes. Then on to the flower garden, which actually had very few flowers. It is too early in the spring for many blooms. They have the bedding plants out, but they are not very developed. There were lots of school groups in the park, which makes for some interesting interactions.
Sports Day

Sports Day

Some of the youngest kids in the park

Some of the youngest kids in the park


As we returned to our hotel, Don was ahead of me a bit (because it was uphill), trying to see what was happening at the sports day. He passed a cow on the sidewalk and she turned her head and butted him in the hip. I didn't see this and I passed the same cow and had the same thing happen to me. So we can have matching bruises. This is the first time we have had any problem with any of the many cows we have seen along the way. Later on we just went to one of the restaurants connected to the hotel for supper. We didn't have to walk up or down a hill to eat for a change.

Posted by katdill 18:27 Archived in India Comments (0)

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