A Travellerspoint blog

East Coast Commercial Hub

Chennai formally known as Madras was India's commercial hub during the British Empire. Our City tour include many colonial buildings including Fort St. George and St Mary's church.

Fort St. George (formally known as White Town) was the fortified foothold of the East India Company in Madras. There was high security getting through the gates and many army and police personnel were milling around. We subsequently found out that it now serves as Military defence establishment with a parade ground in the centre and Tamil Nadu's government Secretariat and the Legislative Assembly.

St. Mary's Church was built within the Fort and was a peaceful retreat from the bustle outside. It was a relief to escape the heat outside and we sat down on the pews to listen to the Organ playing. There were many works of art and military plaques on the walls and our guide suggested one very impressive painting above the alter was an original St Raphael. It certainly looked in the same style. The 1680 St Mary's church is the oldest surviving Anglican church in the east.

Chennai beach is the second longest in the world, although we didn't stop looked very impressive. Bathing in the sea is not permitted and police regularly patrol warning the bathers due to the very strong under currents. We were also told that the beach in not one of the cleanest.

After driving through the city and street market we arrived at the hotel for a relaxing afternoon.

Next day we walked to the nearest shopping mall, but many stalls/shops were empty. I bought a "leather" belt for next to nothing, then returned to the hotel to sample the delights of the pool.

A farewell dinner in the restaurant finished off our very well organised tour and we had the opportunity to thank our guide "Barri" T.M. Parimalam from Incredible India for his attentive and entertaining time with us.

Large Family Room - Taj Hotel Chennai

Large Family Room - Taj Hotel Chennai


Large Family Room - Taj Hotel Chennai

Large Family Room - Taj Hotel Chennai


Bathroom - Taj Hotel Chennai

Bathroom - Taj Hotel Chennai

Posted by cmbirdy48 16:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Large Temple Town - Tamil Nadu

During one of our stops en-route to Madurai we were treated to a local "ear Piercing" ceremony procession. Attracted by the very loud fireworks, the colourful costumes and offerings carried by the women, we managed to get some good pictures. Although a live goat was part of the procession we were assured it was not going to be an offering. The accompanying musician were particularly lively.

Our hotel on top of a small hill was a nice retreat from the bustle of the town below. The gardens and pool area had small chipmunks and many peacocks roaming between the guests.

Said to be one of the oldest cities in India Madurai is the capital of the Tamil Nadu province. Our excursions the next day took us to the Thirumala Nayak Mahal Palace built in the 17th century by the Nayaks king with the help of Italian architects. Over the years and the destructive wars the deteriorated palace was converted to storehouses and granaries during the East Indian Company. The King Thirumalai Nayak's grandson demolished and removed most of the valuables to build his own palace at Tiruchirapalli. Lord Napier the Governor of Madras partially restored the palace and the work continues today.

We visited the palace in the evening for a Son et Lumiere show tells the story of Silappathikaram - one of the five important epic tales from the Tamil literature. This show was very disappointing compared to other Son et Lumiere show we have seen and we thought could be missed.

The Meenakshi Amman Temple dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi, is situated in the heart of the city consists of a number of ornate gateway towers (gopurams). The four main towers are situated on the points or the compass, the most famous southern gateway is over 170ft tall. Each tower is covered in thousands of stone figures of animals, god and demons.

We explored the Old City labyrinth of bazaars, and narrow bustling street markets dodging the rickshaws and roaming livestock. Opportunity to buy trinkets, souvenirs or silks. <br style="line-height: 15.8599996566772px;">Had some time to sample the very warm pool and relax before our journey to Chennai.<br style="line-height: 15.8599996566772px;"><br style="line-height: 15.8599996566772px;">Sunday night - noisy partying in town - sound travelled at night - our room overlooking pool was quiet though.<br style="line-height: 15.8599996566772px;"><br style="line-height: 15.8599996566772px;"><br style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: 17.9200000762939px;">

Wash Day

Wash Day


Washing Waterfall

Washing Waterfall


Ear Piercing Ceremony

Ear Piercing Ceremony


Ear Piecing

Ear Piecing


Indian Village kids

Indian Village kids


Indian Village

Indian Village


Indian Village - Old Woman

Indian Village - Old Woman


Indian Village - Younger Woman

Indian Village - Younger Woman


Baby on Motorbike

Baby on Motorbike


Hotel Room

Hotel Room


With a View

With a View


Bathroom

Bathroom


Street Market

Street Market


Street Market

Street Market


Street Market

Street Market


Palace

Palace


Palace

Palace


Palace detail

Palace detail


Palace detail

Palace detail


Palace detail

Palace detail


Peacocks in Garden

Peacocks in Garden


Madurai City Scape

Madurai City Scape


Ear Piercing Ceremony

Ear Piercing Ceremony


Ear Piercing Ceremony Offerings

Ear Piercing Ceremony Offerings


Countryside

Countryside


Village life

Village life


Village Life

Village Life


Old Resident

Old Resident


Baby on Motorbike

Baby on Motorbike


Hotel at Madurai

Hotel at Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai


Madurai

Madurai

Posted by cmbirdy48 16:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Spice Country

An early start led us to Alleppey where we joined a traditional houseboat to wander through the intricate maze of Kerala backwaters. The endless beautiful countryside of rice fields and coconut trees viewed from a different angle was very peaceful and relaxing. We cruised across Lake Vembanad which was like a millpond passing traditional boat loaded up with dredged soils for cultivation. We stopped at the lake side resort at Kumarakom for lunch. Beautifully laid out grounds with small canals and bridges between lush tropical gardens. After a superb buffet lunch we relaxed in the gardens overlooking the calm lake for a while before our transport arrived to take us onward. We could have stayed there for quite a few days if time permitted.

Climbing again into the Western Ghats through Tea and Rubber plantations and Teak forests with pepper vines weaving through them, we reach our next hotel for two nights, at Thekkady.

Situated next to the protected elephant and tiger reserve of Periyar National Park, we were introduced to the Tiger Conservation work with a film in the hotel lounge. Followed by a traditional dance by two young girls.

A 5:30 start for a boat ride through the Lake Periyar with the intention of seeing some of the protected elephants and tigers in their native habitat. There are so well protected we saw nothing except water buffalo, kingfishers, cormorants, otters and warthogs etc. but it was a very peaceful boat trip watching the sun rise.

After breakfast back at the hotel we visited the tea plantation and processing factory in the hills. Unfortunately the factory had its annual two week maintenance so we walked through a deserted factory with our guide showing us the processes.

Next was the spice gardens which I found fascinating. Seeing how Cardamons, Turmeric, Cloves, Nutmeg and Mace, Cinnamon, Black, white, red and green Pepper vines, and Curry leaves tree are grown in the almost tropical gardens. We were invited to the obligatory shop to purchase spices and some local coffee beans. We managed to spend almost &pound;30.00, could have been a lot more as I was like a kid in a sweet shop.

After the hectic shopping we returned to the hotel for pool therapy. A collection of T-shirts were purchase later in the day while walking through the town.

Alleppey - Kerala Backwater

Alleppey - Kerala Backwater


Alleppey - Kerala Backwater

Alleppey - Kerala Backwater


Alleppey - Kerala Backwater

Alleppey - Kerala Backwater


Alleppey - Kerala Backwater

Alleppey - Kerala Backwater


Pit Stop - Kerala Backwater

Pit Stop - Kerala Backwater


Pit Stop - Kerala Backwater

Pit Stop - Kerala Backwater


Kerala Barge

Kerala Barge


Washing

Washing


Kerala Backwater

Kerala Backwater


Kerala Lake

Kerala Lake


Lakeside Lunch stop

Lakeside Lunch stop


Lakeside Resort

Lakeside Resort


Lakeside Resort

Lakeside Resort


Tea Plantations

Tea Plantations


Elephant Court - Thekkady

Elephant Court - Thekkady


Elephant Court - Thekkady

Elephant Court - Thekkady


Traditional Dance Troop

Traditional Dance Troop


Intricate Banana leaf "Engraving"

Intricate Banana leaf "Engraving"


Lake Periyar National Park

Lake Periyar National Park


Lake Periyar National Park

Lake Periyar National Park


Lake Periyar National Park - Water Buffalo

Lake Periyar National Park - Water Buffalo


Lake Periyar National Park - Monkeys

Lake Periyar National Park - Monkeys


View from Our Room

View from Our Room


Traditional Dance troupe

Traditional Dance troupe


Traditional Dance troupe

Traditional Dance troupe


Lake Periyar

Lake Periyar


Lake Periyar Nature Reserve

Lake Periyar Nature Reserve


Lake Periyar Nature Reserve

Lake Periyar Nature Reserve


Pepper Vine

Pepper Vine


Pepper

Pepper


Cardamon Flower (Orchid)

Cardamon Flower (Orchid)


Cardamon Plant

Cardamon Plant


Cloves

Cloves


Chocolate

Chocolate


Nutmeg &#38; Mace

Nutmeg &#38; Mace


Nutmeg Tree

Nutmeg Tree


Cloves?

Cloves?


Cinamon

Cinamon


Curry Leaves Tree

Curry Leaves Tree

Posted by cmbirdy48 16:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Cochin (Kochi) Kerala

An early start from Ooty for a 10 hour journey to Cochin. Down a very windy road through tea plantations and teak forests providing a scenic view of the Nilgiri mountains. After 2-3 hours we reached the low lands and the vegetation changed to rice fields and coconut/banana plantations.

Our lunch stop was at an authentic Kerala vegetarian restaurant. The variety of spicy veggy food was served on a banana leaf, and we were expected to use our hands to pick up and eat as the locals do, most of us opted to use the forks on offer, all washed down with a large beer.

Our tour driver was wonderful throughout the trip but negotiating the "dual carriageway" into Cochin was exceptional. The road was being upgraded to dual carriageway with solid central barriers but the locals did not observe the road rules. Cars trucks and Tuctucs used any side of the road and often we came across oncoming vehicles. The local drivers took it in their stride and just slowed down and allowed them to pass. In England if it was allowed there would be "road rage" every time. We eventually reach Cochin and the beautiful Vivanta by Taj Hotel.

Next day our tour guide advised us that our first stop would be the "Laundry" so bring our many dirty clothes. The Dhobi Khana, a traditional Kochi laundry is one of the few remaining in India. A row of small cubicles line a courtyard with lungi clad men slapping cotton over concrete wash tubs. Next door the washing lines dry the clothes in the sunshine. The men and women in the ironing shed folds and presses the clothes, if necessary the use of heavy steam irons are used. Handing over our clothes, a count and prices agreed, we entrusted our t-shirts to the "system". We collected at the end of the day with a very small bill (compared to Hotel charges) and all clothes neatly pressed.

Originating over 300 years the Dhobi Khana are a dying industry as work is very strenuous and returns are small. Most of the workers are older and few youngsters are joining.

Fort Kochi was a Portuguese colonial town since 1503, and was the centre of the Indian spice trade. The many buildings have the Portuguese influence in the Mattancherry district. The Dutch Palace, originally built by the Portuguese but rebuild by the Dutch houses traditional Hindi murals and palaquins (hand carried carriages used for the Rajs). Nearby the Paradesi (foreigner) Synagogue allows barefooted visitors to wander around the only functioning synagogue in Kochi, although the Jewish community has drastically diminished. We passed one of the oldest Jewish ladies, sitting outside her house in Jew Street, who has lived in India all her life. St Francis Church was the original resting place of Vasco da Gama, and his tomb can still be found inside. His remains have since been returned to Portugal. Nearby his apparent residence can still be seen. Wandering around the area we found the Chinese Fishing nets. The wooden frames, stone counterweights and pulleys raise and lower the nets into the water. These days they are not very successful in catching quantities of fish but probably get more from the photo opportunities from the tourists "helping" them raise and lower the nets.

Evening found us at the Kathakali Theatre, arriving early to observe the artists being made-up for the show. The show is based on the hand and facial expressions, each meaningful movement creates a story. A pre-show demonstration of some movements showed how they express Hate, Joy, Surprise, Sympathy etc. Two traditional drum musicians accompanied the artists telling the story. The weird show was lost on me but I was impressed by the dedication of the artists.

Our last day in Cochin we ventured out on the local ferry into Cochin town. The main street, Mahatma Ghandi Street, was like a building site as down the centre they were building the new Metro system above the road. It was very hot outside so we "discovered" a shopping mall with A/C and recovered from the heat for about 1 hour. It could have been a western mall with designer shops and designer prices, however there were a few stalls with Indian souvenirs. Catching the ferry back to the hotel the officials wrongly directed us to the ticket office. The ferry was going in about 1 hour. Seeing a smaller queue and our destination on the board we rushed across just in time to buy the tickets, ferry was going in 5 minutes. Why did the official not advise us correctly? Arrived back at hotel 15 minutes later.

Hotel Chef demonstrated how to cook Kerala Fish Curry in the afternoon, taking notes and a few pictures to reproduce back home.

Rest of the day we lazed by the infinity pool for the afternoon.

Veggy Lunch

Veggy Lunch


Lunch Shack

Lunch Shack


Cochin Taj Hotel room No.1

Cochin Taj Hotel room No.1


Cochin Taj Hotel room No.1

Cochin Taj Hotel room No.1


View from our Room No 1

View from our Room No 1


Dhoby Khana Laundry

Dhoby Khana Laundry


Dhoby Khana Laundry

Dhoby Khana Laundry


Dhoby Khana Laundry

Dhoby Khana Laundry


Wshing Lines

Wshing Lines


Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets


Local Catch

Local Catch


Vasco De Gama Tomb

Vasco De Gama Tomb


Vasco De Gama House

Vasco De Gama House


Bird

Bird


Bird

Bird


Cochin Museum

Cochin Museum


Cochin Shopping street

Cochin Shopping street


Ferry

Ferry


Room 2 view

Room 2 view


Preparing his Make-up

Preparing his Make-up


How do I look?

How do I look?


Street side Entrepreneurs

Street side Entrepreneurs


Street side Entrepreneurs

Street side Entrepreneurs


Cochin

Cochin


Cochin

Cochin


Cochin

Cochin


Cochin Sunset

Cochin Sunset


Washday

Washday


Washday

Washday


Kerala Fish Curry

Kerala Fish Curry


Kerala Fish Curry

Kerala Fish Curry


Kerala Fish Curry

Kerala Fish Curry


Sunset

Sunset


Taj Hotel Kerala

Taj Hotel Kerala


Taj Hotel Kerala

Taj Hotel Kerala


Taj Hotel Kerala

Taj Hotel Kerala


Taj Hotel Kerala

Taj Hotel Kerala


Taj Hotel Kerala

Taj Hotel Kerala


Taj Hotel Kerala

Taj Hotel Kerala


Taj Hotel Kerala

Taj Hotel Kerala


Taj Hotel Buffet

Taj Hotel Buffet


Taj Hotel Buffet

Taj Hotel Buffet

Posted by cmbirdy48 16:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Peaceful hilltop retreat - cooler

Interesting drive through winding roads into the hills, traffic coming from all directions and overtaking maneuvers on blind bends seems to be the norm.

Stopped at a local cattle market where a common sight is of men shaking hands under a towel. The interesting "handshake" under a towel determines the sale price of the animals. Apparently the handshake is enhanced by the pressure of thumbs and fingers under the cover on the vendors hand and in return either is accepted by another thumb pressure or an indication to increase the price until negotiations are closed. This secret bartering ensures observers interested in the sale does not know what the agreed or rejected price is. Sometimes "brokers" called maatu tharagars negotiate on behalf of the sellers to determine best prices, in return for commissions on the sale. Afterwards the buyers and sellers go to the makeshift restaurant for Dosas and curry.

Next door a temple offered to shave heads of devotees as a cleansing ceremony, a sunscreen "ointment" is applied to the bald head, afterwards they appear to bathe in the nearby river. The bathers also seem to make it a family day out and bring their washing along. However this is part of the cleansing ceremony and all clothes are discarded and later to be gathered up, laundered and recycled and eventually sold at the local markets.

Still travelling through Kerala to Ooty we passed plantations of banana, rice, coffee, coconuts, and papaya. As we climb into the mountains, tea plantations under teak forests canopy and pepper vines. The 8 hour 136 miles journey was broken by a picnic in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve with a promise of spotting tigers and elephants. We saw Spotted Deer, wild elephants and troops of monkeys who helped us with our packed lunch.

Ooty greeted us with an evening light rain shower when we were treated to a botanical tour of the Taj Savoy Hotel gardens. We settled in our colonial, rustic but comfortable room overlooking the gardens then enjoyed a local buffet supper.

After breakfast an early start to the "2nd highest point in Southern India" the Doddabetta Hill. A very rough access road (that's saying something in India) we took a photo opportunity of the point where the Eastern and Western Ghats merge. We were the only westerners on the hill and found the Indian visitors very keen to take photos of us, which we found quite flattering.

The Botanical Gardens was a little clean oasis in the centre of Ooty. It was Valentines Day and was very busy however we were destined for the little tribal village at the top of the gardens where the Toda tribe maintain their identity. There was a rural temple and a cluster of modern Indian rural shacks. We had to walk around the village in bare feet dodging the cow pats. We enjoyed the exercise climbing the hill but otherwise not worth going out of your way.

A fresh water lake close to Ooty was developed by the British during their rule, for boating and recreation. Paddle boats are available to hire and there are many stalls on the banks selling souvenir "tat" all selling the same stuff. A small old funfair for the children looked a little tired. Our tour could skip this site as it was disappointing.

One of the highlights of our (my) visit to Ooty was a cooking demonstration at the Savoy Hotel. I showed an interest in "getting involved" and was assigned Sous Chef, with my own Chef Hat. Although some ingredients were prepared in advance, the chicken curry took only 30-40 Minutes,even with my involvement (hindrance). Basically it was chicken madras with lots of coconut and spices but surprisingly only a pinch of each spice for almost 3 pounds of chicken. To accompany the Chicken, Chef made some Kuzhi Paniyaram - Chettinad Special, which is rice based batter cooked in a special Kuzhi Pan. Small batter balls were fried for a few minutes. Our fellow travelers each had samples and managed to finish the curry and Paiyarams. Chef printed out the recipes for us all. (tried the Kuhzi back home. without the Kuzhi pan, frying the batter as scotch pancakes but they didn't turn out very well - too oily, but I'll try a a different method next time)

The Ooty to Coonoor "Toy Train" meanders through the green hills of Coonoor on narrow a gauge track. The British opened the track in 1908 and is one of the oldest mountain railways in India. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The train was full, an incident in our carriage delayed the departure time. A larger old Indian woman had bought two tickets for herself and demanded two seats to accommodate her size, however one of the seats had been sold again. After quite a bit of shouting and involving the station master a solution was agreed and we squeezed up to allow the old woman her 2 seats.

Old working steam trains continue from Coonoor.

Cattle Market

Cattle Market


Cattle Market

Cattle Market


Cattle Market

Cattle Market


Cattle Market Restaurant

Cattle Market Restaurant


Cattle Market Ropes

Cattle Market Ropes


Shaving Parlor

Shaving Parlor


Reluctant Customer

Reluctant Customer


Washing Ceremony in River

Washing Ceremony in River


Shaven and Daubed

Shaven and Daubed


Idol

Idol


Wild Life

Wild Life


Flower

Flower


Opportunist

Opportunist


Scavenger

Scavenger


Tiger Reserve

Tiger Reserve


Border

Border


Border

Border


Wild Indian Elephant

Wild Indian Elephant


Wild Indian Elephant

Wild Indian Elephant


Wild Indian Elephant

Wild Indian Elephant


Tea Harvesting

Tea Harvesting


Tea Harvesting

Tea Harvesting


Savoy Hotel - Ooty

Savoy Hotel - Ooty


Savoy Hotel - Our Room

Savoy Hotel - Our Room


Savoy Hotel - Our Room

Savoy Hotel - Our Room


Savoy Hotel - Our Room

Savoy Hotel - Our Room


Doddabette - Highest Peak in Southern India

Doddabette - Highest Peak in Southern India


Doddabette

Doddabette


Doddabette

Doddabette


Doddabette

Doddabette


Smoking Heath Warning

Smoking Heath Warning


Park

Park


Ancient Temple

Ancient Temple


Ancient Temple

Ancient Temple


Goats in High Street

Goats in High Street


Curry Demo Ingredients

Curry Demo Ingredients


Curry Demo

Curry Demo


Curry Demo

Curry Demo


Curry Demo

Curry Demo


Finished Dosas?

Finished Dosas?


Special Local Dance

Special Local Dance


Geko

Geko


Audience Participation

Audience Participation


Curry Ingredients

Curry Ingredients


Chicken Madras Curry

Chicken Madras Curry


Main Curry Chef

Main Curry Chef


Tamil Nadu Dance performance

Tamil Nadu Dance performance


Tamil Nadu Dance performance

Tamil Nadu Dance performance


Dosa and chutneys for Breakfast

Dosa and chutneys for Breakfast


Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor

Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor


Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor

Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor


Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor

Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor


Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor

Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor


Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor

Ooty "Toy Train" to Coonoor


Steam Train at Coonoor

Steam Train at Coonoor


Taj Savoy Hotel

Taj Savoy Hotel


Taj Savoy Hotel

Taj Savoy Hotel


Ooty Charing Cross

Ooty Charing Cross

Posted by cmbirdy48 16:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

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