Highlights of Mamallapuram

About 60km south of Chennai, the World Heritage village of Mamallapuram (pop 12,000) was more laid back and more touristy but definitely worth a stop.
I ended up taking an auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) to here from Chennai, Rs680/$17 to avoid the (scary, unknown) hassle of taking a long distance bus (plus avoiding a ride out to the Chennai bus station in the first place, as it is inconveniently located 7km east of “downtown”).
The weather was good, mostly sunny with some clouds. It looked and felt like it would rain one late afternoon, but it didn’t come.

Highlights include (the first 3 are from the 6th & 7th Century) :
– fantastic rock carvings and mandapas (little temples) carved out of the rock, esp. Arjuna’s Pennance which is a 30x12m carving in a rock cliff face!

Arjuna's Pennance (30x12m)

– the interesting Five Rathas chariot-like rock temples
– the annual famous month-long Dance Festival (I caught 2 performances on this last weekend of the festival) see http://jantrabandt.blip.tvfor a video

Dance festival

– the nice Shore Temple in a scenic location by the shore (duh!)
– going for a “swim” at the beach (just once, not really a beach/swim town as there are dangerous rips and the locals that do go into the water a little are either the fishermen or are wearing full clothes.
– watching a wild baby monkey play in a tree-top 3m away from me as I stood on a rock cliff in a park; see http://jantrabandt.blip.tv for a video

I stayed in a small mosquito-“infested” hotel (to be fair, there was a good mosquito net over the bed, and a ceiling fan) in my Rs350/$9 room, in the tourist ghetto near the beach. The food was similar to Indian dishes served in restos in North America, i.e. different from (and more expensive than) what I ate in Chennai. Though the restos were generally on a rooftop with some breeze, or right on the beach – one of the food highlights here is fresh fish and prawns…

And since Republic Day happened on Jan 26 (India’s equivalent to Canada Day or Independance Day), I got to see how Indian tourists from other (and presumably wealthier) parts of the country behave.

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