A Travellerspoint blog

Market & Temples Tour

15:30 / 3.30pm
Meeting Point
- Regal Cinema
Reality Tours Guide = Nano

This is what Reality Tours said …

Explore the bustling markets of South Mumbai and learn about the city’s rich history.

Mumbai's wide streets and narrow lanes are alive with activity. In front of colonial buildings, alongside temples, and everywhere in between, vendors shout from carts selling everything from colourful birds and flowers to traditional Indian clothes and food. We'll guide you through the chaos and introduce you to Mumbai's must-see markets such as Crawford Market and Mangaldas Market as well as some lesser known ones such as Flower Alley. Along the way we’ll also visit some of the oldest lanes in Mumbai and their most famous temples.

http://realitytoursandtravel.com/market-tour.php

Crawford Market ~ Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market

Crawford Market, Marathi: महात्मा ज्योतिबा फुले मंडई (officially Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai Marathi: क्रॉफर्ड मार्केट) is one of South Mumbai's most famous markets. It was named after Arthur Crawford, the first Municipal Commissioner of the city. The Market was later named after Mahatma Jotirao Phule after a long struggle by the President of Mahatma Phule Smarak Samiti, Mukundraoji Bhujbal Patil. The market is situated opposite the Mumbai Police headquarters, just north of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station and west of the J.J. flyover at a busy intersection.

The market houses a wholesale fruit, vegetable and poultry market. One end of the market is a pet store. Different varieties of dogs, cats, and birds can be found in this area. Also, endangered species are illegally sold there.

Most of the sellers inside the market sell imported items such as foods, cosmetics, household and gift items. It was the main wholesale market for fruits in Mumbai until March 1996, when the wholesale traders were relocated to Navi Mumbai (New Bombay).

In 1882, the building was the first in India to be lit up by electricity.

The market was designed by British architect William Emerson. The edifice is a blend of Norman and Flemish architectural styles. The friezes on the outside entrance depicting Indian farmers, and the stone fountains inside, were designed by Lockwood Kipling, father of novelist Rudyard Kipling. The market covers an area of 22,471sq m / 2,41,877sq ft, of which 5,515sq m / 59,363sq ft is occupied by the building itself. The structure was built using coarse buff coloured Kurla stone, with redstone from Bassein. It has a 15m high skylight awning designed to allow the sunlight brighten up the marketplace.

One can buy a variety of things in and around Crawford market. Some of them are: Ready-to-stitch clothes, dress material, Chinese toys, party products, artificial jewelry, travel bags, fruits and vegetables, shoes, belts and cake making and decorating equipment and toiletries. Also varieties of electrical light fittings and carpentry fittings are available. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Jyotiba_Phule_Mandai

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Nano

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Here are some more images from Dr “Google”:

https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=Crawford+Market+~+Mahatma+Jyotiba+Phule+Market&rlz=1C1GGRV_enNZ751NZ751&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi1zb2GsNfZAhVGvrwKHYlqBpwQ_AUICygC&biw=1536&bih=734

Posted by bruceontour 23:10 Archived in India Comments (0)

10 million meals delivered annually - Dabbawala Lunch Box

Having heard, seen on TV and read about the dabbawala lunch box delivery system, this was of interest to me to see just a small part of it in action ….

Lunch box

  • 4,500 dabbawala now work in Mumbai.
  • 10 million meals delivered a year with a .001% error rate.
  • 20 boxes can be delivered at once on the bicycles.
  • Cost a person 800 rupees / NZ$16.90 / US$12.40 a month for delivery only.
  • Or 2,400 rupees / NZ$50.60 / US$37.20 to include a lunch.
  • The dabbawala earns 8,000 – 9,000 rupees / NZ$170 – 190 / US$120 – 140 a month.

How does it all work? Best leaving it to Mr Wikipedia and the Independent newspaper article…

The dabbawalas (also spelled dabbawallas or dabbawallahs, called tiffin wallahs in older sources) constitute a lunchbox delivery and return system that delivers hot lunches from homes and restaurants to people at work in India, especially in Mumbai. The lunchboxes are picked up in the late morning, delivered predominantly using bicycles and railway trains, and returned empty in the afternoon. They are also used by meal suppliers in Mumbai, who pay them to ferry lunchboxes with ready-cooked meals from central kitchens to customers and back. The 2013 Bollywood film The Lunchbox is based on the dabbawala service.

In 1890 Bombay, Mahadeo Havaji Bachche started a lunch delivery service with about a hundred men. In 1930, he informally attempted to unionize the dabbawallas. Later, a charitable trust was registered in 1956 under the name of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. The commercial arm of this trust was registered in 1968 as Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier's Association.

When literally translated, the word "dabbawala" means "one who carries a box". "Dabba" means a box (usually a cylindrical tin or aluminium container) from Persian: دَبّه‎, while "wala" is an agentive suffix, denoting a doer or holder of the preceding word. The closest meaning of the dabbawala in English would be the "tiffin box delivery man".

Lunch boxes are marked in several ways:
1. Abbreviations for collection points
2. Colour code for starting station
3. Number for destination station
4. Markings for handling dabbawala at destination, building and floor.

A colour-coding system identifies the destination and recipient. Each dabbawala is required to contribute a minimum capital in kind, in the form of two bicycles, a wooden crate for the tiffins, white cotton kurta-pyjamas, and the white Gandhi cap( topi). Each month there is a division of the earnings of each unit. Fines are imposed for alcohol, tobacco, being out of uniform, and absenteeism.

A collecting dabbawala, usually on bicycle, collects dabbas either from a worker's home or from the dabba makers. As many of the carriers are of limited literacy (the average literacy of Dabbawallahs is that of 8th grade), the dabbas (boxes) have some sort of distinguishing mark on them, such as a colour or group of symbols.

The dabbawala then takes them to a sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort the lunch boxes into groups. The grouped boxes are put in the coaches of trains, with markings to identify the destination of the box (usually there is a designated car for the boxes). The markings include the railway station to unload the boxes and the destination building delivery address. Some modern infrastructure improvements such as the Navi Mumbai Metro are not used in the supply chain, as cabins do not have the capacity for hundreds of tiffins.

At each station, boxes are handed over to a local dabbawala, who delivers them. The empty boxes are collected after lunch or the next day and sent back to the respective houses. The dabbawalas also allow for delivery requests through SMS.

Most tiffin-wallahs are related to each other, belong to the Varkari sect of Maharashtra, and come from the same small village near Pune. Tiffin distribution is suspended for five days each March as the tiffin-wallahs go home for the annual village festival.

Each dabbawala, regardless of role, is paid around 8,000 rupees per month (about US$131 in 2014). Between 175,000 and 200,000 lunch boxes are moved each day by 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas. Tiffin-wallahs are self-employed. The union initiation fee is 30,000 rupees, which guarantees a 5,000-rupee monthly income and a job for life. The 150 rupee a month fee provides for delivery six days a week.

It is frequently claimed that dabbawalas make less than one mistake in every six million deliveries; however, this is only an estimation. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dabbawala

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/dabbawalas-food-delivery-system-mumbai-india-lunchbox-work-lunch-tiffin-dabbas-a7859701.html

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Brazilian Artist Eduardo Kobra Mural Art On The Churchgate Railway Station Building

Brazilian Artist Eduardo Kobra Mural Art On The Churchgate Railway Station Building

What is life as a dabbawala like? Perhaps this article will provide some insight:

https://www.ft.com/content/f3b3cbca-362c-11e5-b05b-b01debd57852

Will it survive?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/mumbais-famed-lunchbox-delivery-guys-threatened-by-the-internet/2016/03/04/0a2c0900-d5c2-11e5-a65b-587e721fb231_story.html

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2016/03/07/mumbais-lunchbox-delivery-guys-struggle-with-competition-from-apps.html

I hope so.

Here are some more images from Dr “Google”:

https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=Lunch+box+mumbai&rlz=1C1GGRV_enNZ751NZ751&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQgNuwldHZAhVJqJQKHbfsDK0Q_AUICigB&biw=1523&bih=710

Dabbawallah Lunch

Lunch for me at the neighbouring park was a delivered tiffin meal: bread, poppadum, rice curry and vegetables.

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Now 12.30 pm / 12:30 so it was time to head back the short distance towards the hotel in Colaba.

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Stopped for a refreshing freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.

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With time before my next tour, a wander around the local neighbourhood.

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Walked by Garden Hotel where I was going to stay simply to see where it was.

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To head back to my hotel had to walk through the Colaba Causeway Market. Progress was slow with the stalls on the narrow foot path leaving little room for shoppers but hey, that’s a market and adds to the experience.…

I had read about Leopold's Cafe and Cafe Mondegar, two well-known Mumbai hangouts.

https://www.tripsavvy.com/popular-mumbai-hangouts-1539829

Looked into Cafe Mondegar which is opposite my hotel and to my surprise saw Andrea and Marina sitting having their lunch. So I joined them for a drink. Talk about a small world.

Plus pick up some “liquid” to chill down for the hotel room fridge from the large supermarket just 50 metres from the hotel that I found quite by chance before heading off around the corner to the Regal Cinema for the meeting point of my next tour.

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Posted by bruceontour 14:29 Archived in India Comments (0)

Where can I find a car horn? Chor Bazaar ~ Thieves Market

'Chor Bazaar, located near Bhendi Bazaar in South Mumbainear place in kamathipura', is one of the largest flea markets in India. The area is one of the tourist attractions of Mumbai. The word chor means thief in Marathi and Hindi. The market is thought to have originally been called Shor Bazaar, meaning noisy market. The current name is said to have come from a British mispronunciation of its original name of Shor Bazaar, "noisy market". Eventually however, stolen goods started finding their way into the market, resulting in it living up to its new name. According to popular legend, if you lose anything in Mumbai you can buy it back from the "Chor Bazaar".

In spite of this reputation, Chor Bazaar is said to sell mostly second-hand goods rather than stolen goods. The market is now famous for antique and vintage items. A store called Mini Market offers old Bollywood posters for sale. Others offer authentic Victorian furniture, replacement parts for automobiles, etc. Although bargains are sometimes staggering, haggling is considered mandatory. This is basically an "organized" flea market, where one has to rummage through junk to find what one wants.

A popular story about the origin of the name of the market is that a violin and some other belongings of Queen Victoria went missing while being unloaded from her ship while on a visit to Bombay, and were later found for sale in the "thieves' market". Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chor_Bazaar

https://www.tripsavvy.com/mumbai-chor-bazaar-1539688

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Which car horn do I want?

Which car horn do I want?

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Here are some more images from Dr “Google”:

https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=chor+bazaar+thieves+market+mumbai&rlz=1C1GGRV_enNZ751NZ751&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi77OeCmdLZAhXEpZQKHRvrC1MQ_AUICigB&biw=1536&bih=734

It was as expected crowded, bustling and went on for block after block.

Goods are moved through the streets on the long 2 wheel trolleys with often several guys manoeuvring the long load trying not to hit anyone or vehicles at that.

Back into a taxi and next stop opposite the Churchgate Railway Station.

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Posted by bruceontour 14:15 Archived in India Tagged market Comments (0)

Where are my pants? - Dhobi Ghat - Open air laundry

Seen pictures before but standing on the overbridge with other foreigners / tourists taking their photos, looked down upon rows and rows of clothes all sorted in colours hanging out drying and wondered what was life was really like down there. (I will find out tomorrow.)

Some facts:

  • Male migrant males only work here.
  • They are the washing caste which is the 2nd lowest.
  • They generally stay for 10 months then home.
  • Work 10 hour days.
  • Earn 350 - 400 rupees / NZ$7.40 - $8.50 / US$5.40 – $6.10 rupees a day.
  • Clothes are spin dried then out in the sun to finish off.

Dhobi Ghat (Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat) is a well known open air laundromat (lavoir) in Mumbai, India. The washers, known as dhobis, work in the open to clean clothes and linens from Mumbai's hotels and hospitals.

There are rows of open-air concrete wash pens, each fitted with its own flogging stone. Called the world's largest outdoor laundry, Dhobi Ghat is a very popular attraction among foreign tourists.

The word Dhobi Ghat is used all over India to refer to any place where many washers are present.

It is located next to Mahalaxmi railway station on the Western Railway's Saat Rasta roundabout. It can be easily seen from flyover bridge of Mahalaxmi station.

The Dhobi Kalyan & Audhyogik Vikas Cooperative Society, the apex body that represents washermen, estimates the annual turnover of the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat at around Rs 100 crore (₹100 crore (1 billion Indian rupees). A crore or koti denotes ten million and is equal to 100 lakh in the Indian numbering system.)

For 18 to 20 hours each day, over 7,000 people flog, scrub, dye and bleach clothes on concrete wash pens, dry them on ropes, neatly press them and transport the garments to different parts of the city. Over one lakh (100,000) clothes are washed each day. Some of the wealthier dhobis have given up on manual cleaning and have now installed large mechanical washing and drying machines. The dhobis collect clothes from all corners of the city, from Colaba to Virar. Their biggest clients are neighbourhood laundries, garment dealers, wedding decorators and caterers, and mid-sized hotels and clubs.

Home to the dhobis and their families (around 200 families), the Dhobi Ghat has seen this occupation passed down from one generation to the next. Also known as the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, it can be viewed easily from the Mahalaxmi Railway station. The best time to visit Dhobi Ghat is early morning and early afternoon. While the dhobis are in action in the morning to take care of the washing load, the early afternoons are an ideal time to see the clothes dry. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhobi_Ghat

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Here are some more images from Dr “Google”:

https://www.google.co.nz/search?tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1523&bih=710&ei=VCObWva8MMan8QX6ma3YCg&q=Open+air+laundry+mumbai&oq=Open+air+laundry+mumbai&gs_l=img.12..0.167.1143.0.3466.6.5.0.1.1.0.199.199.0j1.1.0....0...1ac.1.64.img..4.2.201....0.2lMLl8xzriw

Into a taxi heading to the Thieves Market.

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Posted by bruceontour 10:54 Archived in India Tagged open_air_laundry Comments (0)

Spinning tops - Wholesale Flower Market

Then further along the road passing the kids with their spinning tops it was into the Wholesale Flower Market.

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A complex built for the wholesale dealers with row upon row stands filled with baskets and baskets of flowers awaiting the buyers.

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Back onto the train and off at Mahalaxmi station.

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Posted by bruceontour 23:19 Archived in India Tagged flower_market Comments (0)

Marbles - Dadar Flower Market

Flowers are used everywhere in temples for all kinds of worship, on vehicles, at home as well in one’s hair.

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https://lbb.in/mumbai/flower-market-dadar/

Vada Pav

Did I want to stop for a bite to eat of typical Mumbai street food? Of course.

Vada Pav which is chic pea, mustard seed, cumin and garlic topped with green chilli sauce and tamarind.

Vada Pav, alternatively spelt Vada Pao, Wada Pav, or Wada Pao, is a vegetarian fast food dish native to the Indian state of Maharashtra. The dish consists of a deep fried potato dumpling placed inside a bread bun (pav) sliced almost in half through the middle. It is generally accompanied with one or more chutneys and a green chilli pepper. It originated as cheap street food in Mumbai, but is now served in food stalls and restaurants across India. It is also called Bombay Burger in keeping with its origins and its resemblance in physical form to a burger. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vada_pav

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Medu Vada

Most South Indians consider breakfast incomplete without Medu Vada. Whether they have idli, dosa, pongal or upma, they like to add a crispy, tasty and protein-rich urad dal vada to the platter. In fact, when you have breakfast in a South Indian restaurant, even in the remote villages, you will be fascinated to see the waiter reel out the list of breakfast combos, almost all of them featuring vada! Serving them fresh with sambhar and coconut chutney however is doubly delightful.

https://www.tarladalal.com/Medu-Vada-(-South-Indian-Recipe)-32683r

Medu vada (pronounced [meːd̪ʊ vəɽaː]; literally "soft vada") is an Indian fritter made from Vigna mungo (black lentil or urad dal). It is usually made in doughnut-shape, with a crispy exterior and soft interior. A popular food item in the South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines, it is generally eaten as a breakfast or a snack.

The dish is usually served with sambar (lentil and vegetable stew) and coconut chutney. Along with idli, it is often eaten as a breakfast. It is also eaten as a lunch starter or a snack.

The medu vada is sometimes also served with yogurt, as a chaat snack (see dahi vada). Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medu_vada

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While eating the local kids were playing marbles on the footpath / sidewalk.

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How's that

How's that

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Posted by bruceontour 11:11 Archived in India Tagged flower_market Comments (0)

Friday 9am - Empty Mumbai train carriages

My 13 days G Adventures “Northest India & Darjeeling by Rail” Kolkata to Delhi tour wasn’t due to start for a few days. Between the 2 G Adventures tours I had 4 days free and decided to see Mumbai and Kolkata by myself. I have always said I may never get back to a city / place so how to make the most of this opportunity? How can I pack as much in not knowing the layout of the city? Use one local company and let them show me the sights, especially how the locals live. So after researching decided for Mumbai on using Reality Tours for two full on days with effectively 6 back to back tours. By then on my last day there can fill in the gaps by myself before heading to Kolkata for 1 day.

Local Transport Tour

08:30 / 8.30am
Meeting Point
- Regal Cinema
Reality Tours guide – Chetan

This is what Reality Tours said …

Learn about the realities of working class life as you discover Mumbai through its local transport.

Ride the famous suburban train, hop on a classic red bus, cruise around town in a typical black and yellow taxi and look on as millions of Mumbai's working class head out in the morning. We will discover Mumbai beyond the typical tourist sites; we will see a number of different markets and the world famous Dabbawallahs (the workers of India’s intricate lunch delivery system). This view of the Maximum City will give you an idea of the struggles and challenges felt by the working class, as well as their unconquerable spirit.

At the end of the tour we’ll have a special tiffin (lunchbox) lunch delivered to us by a dabbawallah service and we’ll have a picnic at the nearby park.

http://realitytoursandtravel.com/local-transport.php

Local Bus

First up was catching a local bus the short distance to CSMT Station (1874). It was the first railway station in Asia.

Bus

  • 400 buses covering 4,000 routes but one need to know the local language to read the destinations on the bus.
  • Few of the 124 double decker buses are left.

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Railway

  • 130 km with 158 stations.
  • 7 million people use train daily. Mumbai has 20 million people.
  • 3 people die daily through train accidents like falling out of the carriage or off the roof. I didn’t see anyone travel on the roof.

Taxis

  • 55,000 taxis in Mumbai.
  • Mainly black and yellow but Cool Car and Uber are muscling in.
  • Yellow licence plate - can carry tourist.
  • Black and white licence plate - for private use only.
  • Taxi driver wearing a white shirt - owner operator.
  • Taxi driver wearing a brown shirt - is an employee and has to pay the owner 500 rupees / NZ$10.60 / US$7.70 a day plus petrol. Rest is his to keep.

CSMT Station

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) formerly known as Victoria Terminus is a historic railway station and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India which serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. The station has been designed by Frederick William Stevens according to the concept of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and meant to be a similar revival of Indian Goth (classical era) architecture. The station was built in 1887 in the Bori Bunder area of Mumbai to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

It is one of the busiest railway stations in India, serving as a terminal for both long-distance trains and commuter trains. The station's name was changed from Victoria Terminus (with code BB) to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in March 1996 in honour of Emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji, founder of the Maratha Empire. In 2017, the station was again renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chhatrapati_Shivaji_Terminus_railway_station

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City government offices opposite the station

City government offices opposite the station

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Ladies only carriages

Ladies only carriages

To my surprise the station was not busy at all. In fact look at the empty carriages.

Where is everybody? It’s not the weekend but a Friday workday at 9am / 09:00.

(How wrong I was going to be. We were heading out of the station which is at the end of the line whereas the mass were heading into the station.)

Chetan

Chetan

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Where is everyone?

Where is everyone?

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Chetan

Chetan

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Getting off at the busy Dadar railway station and the first stop was the local flower market under the flyover.

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Posted by bruceontour 02:16 Archived in India Tagged railway_station indian_train Comments (0)

Mexican standoff with the taxi

Day 14 Kerala Backwaters > Fort Kochi > Mumbai

Did I appreciate the 5am / 05:00 wakeup call by the local cockerill? You can answer this.

Then as the sun rose listening to the birds, motors of the passing house boats, dogs occasionally barking, across the canal the house builders with their concrete mixer and next door the sound of breakfast being prepared broke the silence.

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Breakfast of apam, banana fritters and vegetable stew before at 9am / 09:00 heading down the water to Appelley.

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The hour sitting on the top deck seeing the boat traffic passing quickly went by but my memory will be the sound of the ladies at the riverside washing their clothes with them swinging the clothes high above their heads and down it came "wack" onto the stone blocks.

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There was in fact another person completely under water who surfaced just after we went by

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Travelled back to Fort Kochi with another Café Coffee Day chai for 20 rupees/ NZ$0.40 / US$0.30 and toilet stop part way through the hour long journey.

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Some high ranking Catholic official

Some high ranking Catholic official

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It was 12.30pm / 12:30 where this part of my India odyssey ended upon arrival at Fort Castle Hotel. But it wasn’t over just yet for the day!

The heat and humidity hit me again as I left the comfort of the air con bus.

Andrea and Marina had during the trip talked up Ginger House that we enjoyed on the first day. As we had time, wanted to show Rosie the place for lunch. After a few hassles with getting a tuk tuk at the right price, eventually made it there.

As Prem was to join us, Majnu proprietor whom we didn't know at first, asked us to wait in the air conditioned restaurant for an outside table for us five to become free. He then introduced himself and briefly told us his story as a guide and then a brief history of the Ginger House hotel and restaurant. It was karma in that he didn't seek what he now has but how it came into his possession.

Ginger mutton, ginger ice cream and couple of ginger lime soda coming to 2,000 rupee / NZ$42.10 / US$31.00 will be how I remember this first part of my odyssey through India.

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Tuk tuk back to the hotel but both drivers wanted us to stop at a shop for a few minutes, not buy anything as in the first case he will get a container of petrol (100 rupees/ NZ$2.10 / US$1.60) for his efforts.

We were supposed to leave the hotel at 4pm / 16:00 in order for me to board the 7pm / 19:00 Spice jet flight to Mumbai.

The hotel staff wanted 2,500 rupees/ NZ$52.70 / US$38.80 for a pre-booked taxi. It was a Mexican standoff with Prem trying to get another taxi.

Yes, I was anxious as in my mind I had to be at the airport 2 hours before flight to check in plus we had at least an hour travel in busy commute traffic.

Eventually paid 1,300 rupees / NZ$27.40 / US$20.20 shared 4 ways and we left at 4.15pm / 16:15. Yes, with the road construction the going was at times very slow. The taxi driver tried to reassure us all that for check in domestic flights all you need is 60 minutes and international flights 3 hours. He was right.

Dropped Rosie off at her airport hotel, Andrea and Marina at terminal 3 as they were also heading to Mumbai and I got off at terminal 2 at 5.45pm / 17:45.

Made it through by 6.15pm / 18:15 with boarding pass in hand so could finally relax.

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The Spice jet 737 7.00pm / 19:00 flight didn't leave till 7.25pm / 19:25 for the nearly 2 hour flight.

I think I heard "As you are a corporate customer you are entitled to a complementary meal". I had previously heard "If you have prepaid for a meal or wish to purchase refreshments...." so was somewhat pleasantly surprised at the meal service.

Despite the delay by Mumbai air traffic control where we were told to circle out at sea landed at 9.35pm / 21:35.

It's only 31 C outside when we landed.

At the pre-paid taxi rank it was 653 rupees / NZ$13.90 / US$10.00 which included for 70 rupees / NZ$1.50 / US$1.10 the air con option, but in hindsight wasn’t necessary.

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Welcome to Mumbai ... took less than an hour (10.15 / 20:15 – 11.00 / 23:00) to reach SunCity Apollo Hotel.

“I have a reservation” … and my paper work at the front desk was all ready for me. With the late minute ownership change of Garden Hotel and Treebo Hotels wanting me to move to their inner city hotel, but I wanted to be staying in Colaba. Many thanks Eve for your unrelenting efforts back in New Zealand over many days, coping with the time zone differences to sort this one out.

Glad of SunCity Apollo Hotel’s central Colaba location. Plus my room was far enough away from the next door night club that the noise didn’t really bother me.

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Posted by bruceontour 01:47 Archived in India Tagged boats kerela Comments (0)

Row Row your boat gently down the stream

Day 13 Periyār Sanctuary > Alleppey > Kerala Backwaters

No morning music as like the wake up call as back in Madurai so that was certainly a real blessing in disguise.

Another bags out by 7am / 07:00 before a hotel breakfast 175 rupee / NZ$3.70 / US$2.70 and leaving at 8am for the guided spice plantation visit in the nearby Cardamom Hills. Similar to the one that I saw in Zanzibar and Sri Lanka. Learnt a bit more about spice of this region.
- 75% world’s cardamom grown in this district. 40 days till harvest.
- Clove harvested annually. Red Clove better quality, black / brown second and most available.
- 100 different varieties of bananas of which 50 are in Kerala.
- Pepper – the same plant produces green (Dec), Black Feb and March and white April / May
- Turmeric used in all (many) recipes. An antiseptic, anti cancer. Mix honey and water.

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Huge lemon

Huge lemon

Cardamom

Cardamom

Pipe cleaner

Pipe cleaner

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Bolivia Flower

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Clove

Clove

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Pepper

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Cocoa

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Cocoa

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Bleeding heart

Bleeding heart

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Passionfruit

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Candy flower

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Pineapple

Pineapple

Orchid

Orchid

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Rajesh - our driver and Augustan his trusty side kick

Rajesh - our driver and Augustan his trusty side kick

A chai stop for 20 rupees/ NZ$0.40 / US$0.30 part way along the journey at Mariya Family Restaurant broke the 4 hour trip and was a welcome break and leg stretch .

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Then onwards and downwards along the twisting hilly roads passing tea and rubber plantations towards the Kerala backwaters.

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Tea plantation

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Rubber trees

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Called another Venice of the east I can easily see how this area deserves this title.

A transfer by small dugout across to the island where the group was shared between 3 houses for our overnight homestay.

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Typical Kerela lunch, dinner and breakfast is to be provided and lunch was no exception featuring the small local fish. A short siesta with chai at 3.45pm before leaving at 4pm for the walk.

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Explored the island with Thomas, a local person who as we walked along the island path under the palm trees, weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, learnt plus observed more about the lifestyles of the locals.
- The former spice boats were converted into house boats 25 years ago.
- 90% are Indian or domestic tourist who comes all year round.
- 10% are foreign tourists who mainly come December to February being their winter.
- 3 – 5 crew and travels the 20 kms.
- A single room cost 10,000 to 12,000 rupees rupees/ NZ$210 - 250 / US$155 - 190 a night.
- 21C has been the LOWEST recorded temperature at night.
- Two seasons here – 6 months summer and 6 months monsoon.
- Best months Dec to May with just 3 mm rainfall.
- Many islands are 1.5 metre BELOW sea level meaning they need to be pumped out.
- 1,000 sq km has been man made.
- Rice and coconut main crops grown.
- Backwaters means “Back of the Seas”.

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Local tody is sold here

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Prem

Prem

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Ducks

Ducks

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IMG_7473.JPGDenise

Denise

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Thomas

Thomas

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cashew nuts

cashew nuts

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Local ferry

Local ferry

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School children were going home, the house boats passing, local ferry for the school children and another one for the locals crossing canals — it was a great opportunity to see the people go about their normal way of life in this unique peaceful location.

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Prem

Prem

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After a hard day's work fishing, these 3 guys could well be enjoying a local alcoholic tody on board their dugout.

After a hard day's work fishing, these 3 guys could well be enjoying a local alcoholic tody on board their dugout.

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Pump to lift the water from the rice paddy fields up to the backwater

Pump to lift the water from the rice paddy fields up to the backwater

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It certainly reminded me of last year's experience on Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, the peacefulness broken by the sounds of the bird life and the motor of the engine of the passing Kerela house boats.

Just before sunset, stopped for a while to enjoy the golden sunset as it slowly descended on the winding backwaters over the rice paddy fields.

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Kingfisher

Kingfisher

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By now the sun had well and truly set as we boarded 2 dug outs and slowly made your way back to our home stay. "Row Row your boat gently down the stream" was suggested that we sing in reply to a couple of songs sung by the Indian crew but we declined. It was really peaceful being propelled by human effort. Both dugouts rafted together and at the rear the 2 guys used their single oar moving us along the canal with singing and preaching coming from a canal side church ended this part of the evening.

Sophia, Marina, Nina, Prem, Theresa, Henry

Sophia, Marina, Nina, Prem, Theresa, Henry

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Fruit bat

Fruit bat

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Dinner with afterwards a local toddy being an alcoholic drink made from coconut and then it was bed time under the cooling fan. A gap in the mesh meant mossies could enter and sure enough they did. I couldn't hear them but they were around despite the disturbed air circulation created by the ceiling fan.

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Posted by bruceontour 12:31 Archived in India Tagged sunset spices tea_plantation rubber_tree Comments (0)

If you want to eat, then you have to cook

"Mixing, Mixing, Mixing! Yaa-aah!”

Day 12 Madurai > Periyār Sanctuary

Another 5.30am / 05:30 wakeup call with the festival music blasting outside woke all of us. This apparently goes on for a whole month!

Neither the less bags out by 7am / 07:00, breakfast then away at 8am / 08:00 for the drive to Kumily, Thekkady, adjacent to Periyar National Park. This area is said to be the spice capital of India.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periyar_National_Park

https://www.travelogyindia.com/wildlife-tours/national-park/periyar-national-park.html

https://www.tripsavvy.com/periyar-national-park-travel-guide-1539877

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On route lunch at Theni.

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I'm sure that you can come up with your own caption re Live Cakes

I'm sure that you can come up with your own caption re Live Cakes

Then continuing uphill to Thekkady and Michael's Inn.

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Periyar Lake

With a few afternoon options available, most of us went on the 90 mins boat ride on Periyar Lake for 1,100 rupees / NZ$23.20 / US$17.00. It was a great way to get to know the region and besides the bird life saw spotted deer, otters, Indian bison which are larger than the American ones and several elephants. We had great views from the top deck. The signage about what one cannot do on board the boat quickly brought out more “don'ts”.

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Otters

Otters

Otters

Otters

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Indian Bison

Indian Bison

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

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Elephant

Elephant

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Banana Chips

Back after 3pm / 15:00 and free time. A walk back to the main street for not only a 20 rupee coffee / NZ$0.40 / US$.30 at Better Bakers Coffee Club but the area is famous for their banana chips. Seeing how they were made being chopped up and then deep fried in the huge what I would call wok was interesting.

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Sorry about the wrong orientation

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Plus another shop keeper's son who wanted their photo sent back to them. He was a real salesman as I didn't want to buy a kilo bag of banana chips but they had under the counter smaller plain pack bags for sale.

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Bar-B-Que Thekkady Cooking Class

Topping, Tailing, Chopping, Slicing, Peeling, Mixing, Stirring, Pounding, Tasting

If we wanted dinner tonight then we will have to prepare and cook it. OK, that was the deal and what a hilarious fun night it turned out to be with Sheril infectious personality and his super catchphrases "Mixing, Mixing, Mixing! Yaa-aah!”. He would make an excellent TV host. His wife ably assisted him though I suspect she did most of the work behind the scene.

Beans Thoran, Dhal Thadukka, Okra Roasting, Pineapple Curry, Fish Curry, Paratha, Alu Masala and BBQ Masala Chicken.

The Bar-B-Que Thekkady cooking class was 550 rupee / NZ$11.60 / US$8.50.

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Rose, Andrea, Marina

Rose, Andrea, Marina

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Coconut

Coconut

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The Pros ... Shredding coconut

The Pros ... Shredding coconut

The Hack ... Trying to shred coconut

The Hack ... Trying to shred coconut

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One

One

CK praying Andrea puts in the correct portion

CK praying Andrea puts in the correct portion

Carol

Carol

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Okra

Okra

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One

One

Two

Two

Ten coconut oil

Ten coconut oil

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Fish curry

Fish curry

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Below ~ deep frying papadam

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Rose

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Love Andrea's facial expressions

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Marina

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Theresa

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Masala french fries

Masala french fries

Making Kerela paratha

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Rose keenly recording each step

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Our dinner

Posted by bruceontour 02:02 Archived in India Tagged elephant Comments (0)

Smiles & waves - where I took a photo every 21 seconds

Sitting back and relaxed during this 2 hour eco-friendly tour, being pulled along by a bicyclist on a cycle rickshaw saw the city sights at a slower pace and from street level.

How do I judge if I have Iiked a day? Often by the number of photos that I take. Well in these two hours took 343 or one every 21 seconds. No, I am not a Japanese tourist. Click ... click ...click

Again I will let the photos do the talking as to what I saw and experienced.

Felt like hundreds of not only children but also adults who were waving and smiling to us as we pass through several suburbs.

Tekla

Tekla

Prem

Prem

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Kolam

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No doubt will be my photobook cover photo.

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Had a stop and stretch for not only us but mofor the guys peddling and saw some weaving.

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Tekla

Tekla

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Tekla and Kinjal

Tekla and Kinjal

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Tekla and Kinjal

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Nina and Sophie

Nina and Sophie

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These 2 hours were certainly a highlight of the trip for me. Unfortunately this form of transportation is becoming less and less with fewer guys prepared to take on this sort of lifestyle. Yes, it is not only for us tourists but also for locals who will want to go short distances.

Dinner back at the hotel's Dakshin a multi-cuisine restaurant with the Lasooni Paneer Tikka = paneer and spinach cooked in a saffron based gravy clay pot rupees with the vegetable pulao 150 rupees / NZ$3.20 / US$2.30. I had expected the meal to come out in the clay pot but alas not so. It was cooked in a clay pot! All up with the Lime soda 50 rupees / NZ$1.00 / US$0.80 came to 368 rupees / NZ$7.80 / US$5.70.

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ce79bf10-1ba1-11e8-9d6d-4d3a31d62a6f.JPGlaundry for my pants

laundry for my pants

Posted by bruceontour 12:47 Archived in India Tagged cycle_rickshaw maduri Comments (0)

Meenakshi Temple

Day 11 Meenakshi Temple Madurai

Off to Meenakshi Temple.

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Visited the gorgeous Meenakshi Temple which is considered to be the finest in South Indian religious architecture. This enormous temple complex is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvati, or Meenakshi. Even before passing through the massive stone walls of the temple, the nine striking gopurams (monumental gateways covered with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters all painted in vivid colours) loom high above.

Wikipedia has an excellent breakdown about the temple.

I will let my i phone pictures do the talking as no camera were allowed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meenakshi_Temple

http://www.maduraimeenakshi.org/

http://www.culturalindia.net/indian-temples/meenakshi-temple.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/asia/india/meenakshi-amman-hindu-temple/

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Prem and local guide Nagendra

Prem and local guide Nagendra

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Denise

Denise

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Stand here

Stand here

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Look there

Look there

This is what you see

This is what you see

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Denise and Sophia

Denise and Sophia

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I just loved the ceilings and floors.

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Talk about being crushed

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The Thousand Pillar Hall contains 985 (instead of 1000) carved pillars.

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Love how this person in pink could have been easily part of the murals.

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Some of the 985 carved pillars.

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Sugar cane

Sugar cane

While writing this blog after the trip … Wow ... we are lucky to be one of the last public to be able to take our own photos inside Meenakshi Temple as now even mobile phones with its cameras are banned. Plenty on Google images anyway but that is not the point.

https://www.tripsavvy.com/how-to-visit-madurai-meenakshi-temple-1539720

After visiting the temple complex, visited a handicraft shop to capture the temple view from their roof top. I kind of suspected as we came down the different floors looking at the different craft items on display that it was a sales trap for the unwary ... “Do you want to buy …”

No, I didn’t want to buy a silk carpet nor a wooden carving but happy to take some photos as my memory.

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Just before reaching the bus, saw a street side tattoo artist at work. Yes, he was wearing gloves but …

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Then back on the bus and off for lunch ...

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Hotel Supreme’s Gurya Vegetarian Restaurant for a plate of Hakaua vegetarian noodles 110 rupees / NZ$2.30 / US$1.70 plus being hot the beer 210 rupees / NZ$4.40 / US$3.25. All up 326 rupees / NZ$6.90 / US$5.00.

http://www.hotelsupreme.in/

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Posted by bruceontour 02:52 Archived in India Tagged temple maduri Comments (0)

Sweating it out for the next 16 hours

Or how does one spend New Year's Eve?

Day 10 Puducherry > Madurai

Hot Breads for breakfast and I knew exactly what I wanted - the omelette breakfast combo for 120 rupees / NZ$2.50 / US$1.85. That plus some lunch food came to 419 rupees / NZ$8.90 / US$6.50.

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The hour breakfast stop was enough. Leaving Pondy and its French influence, time to hit the road westward for the inland trip to Madurai, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

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Cattle Market

Along the way stopped for a very short 15 minutes at the village market near rural Madapattu where to me the cattle being auctioned was the feature. Loved to have spent longer here but then was it because it is a market or was it to better understand the cattle auctioning process?

One had to be careful where one placed ones foot as on re-boarding the bus several had &*#! in their soles. How the locals chucked at the efforts in removing the sh*t. With so much cattle around, what do you expect? I was lucky.

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Me next?

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Onwards towards Hotel Kannappa for a lunch break. Egg biriyani 145 rupees / NZ$3.00 / US$2.20 plus masala tea 30 rupees / NZ$0.60 / US$0.50.

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Passing more fields harvested with rice, villages with their open air butcher shops, vegetables and fish markets we made it to Madurai.

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Gandhi Museum

Stop at the Gandhi Museum and while we’re had nearly an hour here. Sad to say it wasn’t of interest to me.

Gandhi Memorial Museum, established in 1959, is a memorial museum for Gandhi located in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India. Known asGandhi Museum, it is now one of the five Gandhi Sanghralayas (Gandhi Museums) in the country. It includes a part of the blood-stained garment worn by Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandhi_Memorial_Museum,_Madurai

http://gandhimuseum.org/site/gandian-institute/national/gandhi-museum-madhurai/

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/madurai/attractions/gandhi-memorial-museum/a/poi-sig/1155208/356498

http://www.mkgandhi.org/gandhiyatra/madurai.htm

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I suspect that I was coming down with something as after we had checked into our hotel Star Residency and I had got some water and Sprite for the mini fridge, it was into bed sweating it out for the next 16 hours. (A couple of Panadol seem to fix this the next morning.)

Some much for seeing in New Year. The 6th roof top celebrations music and midnight fireworks could easily be heard on our 5th floor.

Posted by bruceontour 23:46 Archived in India Tagged market gandhi Comments (0)

Pondy / Pondicherry / Puducherry

Was I in France or India?

Pondicherry / Puducherry was formerly the largest French Colony in India and an important trading town. There is still a strong French influence in the city's layout with wide boulevards and French-style houses, street signs in French, policemen with their round French style hats but the city is still undoubtedly Indian.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puducherry

http://www.pondytourism.in/about-us.php

The union territory of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry; generally known as ‘Pondy’) was under French rule until 1954. Some people here still speak French (and English with French accents). Hotels, restaurants and ‘lifestyle’ shops sell a seductive vision of the French-subcontinental aesthetic, enhanced by Gallic creative types and Indian artists and designers. The internationally famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its offshoot just north of town, Auroville, draw large numbers of spiritually minded visitors. Thus Pondy’s vibe: less faded colonial-era ville, more bohemian-chic, New Age–meets–Old World hang-out on the international travel trail.

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/tamil-nadu/puducherry-pondicherry

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Someone important.

Hot Breads Pomegranate juice 60 rupees / NZ$1.25 / US$0.90 and along with their vegetarian pasta combo pasta, garlic toast, nuggets, mini pastry and small soft drink 180 rupees / NZ$3.80 / US$2.80 became my lunch. With those nasty local and state GST taxes came to 252 rupees/ NZ$5.30 / US$3.90.

http://www.hotbreads.in/

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Checked in Abirami Residency for a short break before off again ...

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From our hotel

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Sri Aurobindo Ghose

Learnt a bit about Sri Aurobindo Ghose at the ashram. No photos. Silence as we walked around the meditative courtyard and sat for 10 minutes with other devotees in their dark Crimson long robes watching people file pass the tomb.

Then through the library where some brought books.

Founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo and a French-born woman, ‘the Mother’, this famous spiritual community has about 2000 members in its many departments. Aurobindo's teachings focus on 'integral yoga' that sees devotees work in the world, rather than retreat from it. Visits to the main, grey-walled ashram building are cursory: you see the flower-festooned samadhi of Aurobindo and the Mother, then the bookshop.

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/puducherry-pondicherry/attractions/sri-aurobindo-ashram/a/poi-sig/1151786/356493

http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/

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Street hawker outside Sri Aurobindo Ghose

Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple

Next block was the Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple. Again no photos inside. With the guy on the drum and another on a horn, music filled the temple.

Learnt a little bit about Krishna.

Manakula Vinayagar Temple (Tamil: மணக்குள விநாயகர் கோவில்) is a Hindu temple in the Union Territory of Puducherry, India.

Dedicated to the god Ganesa, it is a popular pilgrimage site and tourist destination in Puducherry. The temple is of considerable antiquity and predates French occupation of the territory. During the tenure of Dupleix, there were attempts to destroy the temple, but it was spared owing to strong protests from the Hindu population and the threat of British and Maratha invasion of the territory. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manakula_Vinayagar_Temple

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/puducherry-pondicherry/attractions/sri-manakula-vinayagar-temple/a/poi-sig/478960/356493

http://www.pondytourism.in/iconics-innerpage.php?id=24&district=Puducherry&category=198

http://www.manakulavinayagartemple.com/

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A walk down towards the waterfront.

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Traffic police & Police

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By now it was nearly dark and with an hour spare before dinner Andrea & I walked along the promenade as far as the closed off pier. Wonder how the people got onto the pier when the gate was closed?

The promenade was crowded with locals enjoying the cool sea breeze. Preparations were underway for New Year's celebrations.

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Pondy is a seaside town, but that doesn’t make it a beach destination; the city’s sand is a thin strip of dirty brown that slurps into a seawall of jagged rocks. But Goubert Ave (Beach Rd) is a killer stroll, especially at dawn and dusk when half the town takes a romantic wander. In a stroke of genius, authorities have banned traffic here from 6pm to 7.30am.

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/puducherry-pondicherry/attractions/seafront/a/poi-sig/1357629/356493

The police band turned up and gave a performance. Actually I think that it was a photo shoot as some young female police officers had to before shown how to hold the instruments before getting their photo taken.

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Being by the sea it was another snapper fish with prawn pepper sauce and mash potato dinner at Satsanga – a French & Italian Restaurant. With it being busy season, the service wasn’t exactly the best. 750 rupees / NZ$15.80 / US$11.60 all up including the Kingfisher beer 220 rupees / NZ$4.60 / US$3.40.

http://pondicherryinfo.in/main/locations/satsanga-guest-house-restaurant-in-pondicherry/

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A half hour walk back to Abirami Residency. In fact it was quicker to take one’s life into ones hands and walk along the street as oppose the footpath.

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Posted by bruceontour 01:17 Archived in India Comments (0)

5 Rathas

Day 9 Māmallapuram > Puducherry

Will the morning light and atmosphere be as good as yesterday? No it wasn't. But neither the less made the most of what was happening around me. So up at 7am / 07:00 and spent 30 minutes revisiting the sights and sounds that was happening in the immediate streets.

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After yesterday hearty breakfast at Nameste Restaurant decided on a repeat muesli and American Breakfast for 280 rupees / NZ$5.90 / US$4.30. Not disappointed at all and thoroughly recommended.

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Again the roads were jam packed with buses and people as the rest of the group went to the Shore Temple I took time out in the comfort of the bus as it drove around looking for a park having been there yesterday.

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Why is there a scarecrow? To signify a building is incomplete. When the halfway through the process, they have the feeling of incomplete so hang a scarecrow in the front of the building construction to change the attention of the people who are passing the construction while looking at the construction. By hanging this kind of ‘dummy’, they expect that people won’t look at the construction or the building when their attention goes for the ‘dummy’.

If they are unable to build a scarecrow, at least they draw a scribble or a skeleton man and sometimes scribble snakes.

5 Rathas

Pancha Rathas (also known as Five Rathas or Pandava Rathas) is a monument complex at Mahabalipuram, is an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture.

Dating from the late 7th century, it is attributed to the reign of King Mahendravarman I and his son Narasimhavarman I (630–680 AD; also called Mamalla, or "great warrior") of the Pallava Kingdom. An innovation of Narasimhavarman, the structures are without any precedent in Indian architecture. The complex is under the auspices of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site inscribed by UNESCO as Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram.

Each of the five monuments in the Pancha Rathas complex resembles a chariot (ratha), and each is carved over a single, long stone or monolith, of granite which slopes in north-south direction with a slight incline. Though sometimes mistakenly referred to as temples, the structures were never consecrated because they were never completed following the death of Narasimhavarman I. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancha_Rathas

http://www.culturalindia.net/monuments/mahabalipuram-rathas.html

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/mamallapuram-mahabalipuram/attractions/five-rathas/a/poi-sig/478892/356492

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Continued passing rice paddy fields, salt flats, crabs and prawn farms towards Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry).

We passed a possession of a Hindu goddess.

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Then stopped at a road side rural village Hindu temple.

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Posted by bruceontour 23:07 Archived in India Comments (0)

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