Mamallapuram (Mahaballapuram)(April 9  - April 13, 2002)

New Zealand

Hospet/ Hampi
Deep Griha


We had a great train ride from Guntakal to Chennai. The kids played with some kids from Mumbai on the train car - Mark lost three close games of chess to a 16 year old boy, and really enjoyed sharing all the interesting snacks that his family brought. The girls shared snacks with a different family with younger kids, and played cards. 

We stayed one night in Chennai at the convenient but pricey and slightly run down Central Tower Hotel. We needed the time to organize our return train ticket to Pune. The train tickets to Pune that we bought a few days ago were still 'wait listed', and we hoped that we could get Tourist Quota tickets from the Tourist Reservation desk in Chennai in order to guarantee our spot. We also hoped to find an ATM. ATM's, our main source of cash, are proving to be difficult to find in India compared to other countries. 

Traveling in India is hard work. Actually, it is not traveling that is difficult, it is the organizing. Aside from getting train tickets (which can take a good part of the day), we had difficulty yesterday getting a car from Hospet to Guntakal, and we had the same problem today trying to go to Mamallapuram from Chennai. For any car ride over one hour's duration, we prefer a larger than normal vehicle for the five of us and our tower of baggage. The extra room is appreciated by all. However, larger vehicles are hard to find because they are not plainly marked as taxis. A couple of times, we've had no choice but to ask someone for directions to one. The problem is that they don't tell you where to find one, they take you to their friend. If his friend doesn't have one, then they both take you to a third person, and so on. It felt more like a roving street party as we picked up one more person into our entourage. Of course, they all expect a cut whenever a miracle happens and we find an acceptable vehicle. We never do get to speak to the owner of the vehicle - the first person we met does the negotiating. The quoted price, of course, is outrageous with all the extras added, and we end up walking away. Then the party slowly breaks up. It really is annoying and we have not figured out a polite way of getting people to point the way rather than taking us. However, in both cases where we were successful, we walked far enough to leave the street party behind and then waited. Eventually, someone came up and said, "I heard you want to go to 'X' in a Sumo taxi. I have one". It is a strange country.

5 Ratha's

Pallava carvings

Sarah's B-day

Mamallapuram (also called Mahaballapuram) is very much like Ao Nang in Thailand, Ubud in Bali, or Dali or Yangshuo in China. The entire town is dedicated to tourism. It seems every building is a shop, restaurant, or hotel/ guesthouse. The key attraction is the many Pallava rock carvings in the area - all completed from 600 to 700 A.D. This ornate building in the Five Rathas was carved from a single rock. Similarly this 12 metre by 30 metre granite rock face is carved in its entirety.

While here, we also celebrated Sarah's birthday. It is birthday season for us - many of Sarah and my family's birthdays occur over the next month.

In a revival of old skills, the town was filled with stone masons, and we could see and hear them chipping away at small granite statues. However, we are one of the few tourists here at the moment. The temperature is in the high 30's during the day and it will get hotter over the next few weeks. Many of the shop keepers that we spoke to said they were closing for a few months starting next week - with the heat, the tourists stop coming between now and July.

True to form, we had small problems leaving. Firstly the hotel staff couldn't work the credit card authorization machine so we had to come up with the cash, which left us with no money. Secondly the larger taxi we had arranged did not show up - instead a friend of the driver showed up in a small car saying that the other driver was sick and he would take us. The car was too small, so we ended up having to pay more to get a taxi similar to what we had arranged.  

To offset the early morning troubles, the train tickets for our return journey were now confirmed, so we had great A/C sleepers for the 24 hour trip back to Deep Griha in Pune.