A two-part post…A unique church in Chennai…Photos from Ideal Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram…

St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica in Chennai, India.

Today’s post will be our last from tours in Chennai. In the second part of this post, we share photos of the Ideal Beach Resort located in Mahabalipuram. Yesterday’s time in this village will be posted tomorrow when once again, we’ll be on the move to our following location, the French colony of Pondicherry.

Visiting this church was of particular interest to Tom, whose patron Saint is St. Thomas, aka “Doubting Thomas.” Humm, that’s so true.

From this site: “San Thome Church, also known as St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Thomas, is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Santhome, in Chennai (Madras), India. It was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers over the tomb of Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. ,

In 1893, it was rebuilt as a church with the status of a cathedral by the British. The British version still stands today. It was designed in Neo-Gothic style, favored by British architects in the late 19th century. This church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus. The other two are St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain.

Image result for tomb of St. Thomas Chennai India
No photos were allowed inside the church. This is a photo of the crypt of St. Thomas found online.
According to legend, Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, arrived at Muziris in present-day Kerala state in India from the Roman province of Judea in A.D. 52 and preached between A.D. 52 and A.D 72, when he was martyred on St. Thomas Mount.
It is claimed that St Thomas’ apostolic ministry in India took place precisely at Cranganore along the Malabar coast from 52 A.D to 68 A.D. His journey through Kerala is said to have resulted in numerous conversions. After spending ten years on the Malabar coast. He is said to have traveled Eastwards across the Deccan Plateau, arriving in Mylapore in 68 A.D. 
The cave, at the little mount, is claimed to be his favorite preaching spot. A 2000-year-old never drying, a miraculous stream of water on a rock face are said to be examples of the apostle’s divine exploits. A church atop St. Thomas mount was built by the Portuguese in 1547 to mark the spot. On this St. Thomas Mount, the apostle was said to be killed by a lance that pierced through his back.
It was tricky getting good photos of the exterior with the traffic and crowds on the street.
His mortal remains were believed to be buried in the present-day Santhomes Cathedral Basilica location. Sometime in the 10th century A.D, a group of Nestorian Christians from Persia founded the Christian village of San Thomes and proceeded to build a church over the burial site of St. Thomas. This structure fell to ruins between the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1522 the Portuguese moved the apostle’s remains to a new tomb and church, which attained the status of Cathedral in 1606.

Pope Pius XII honored the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore raising it to the rank of Minor Basilica by apostolic brief dated 16 March 1956. Massive followings and the immense devotion of people to a very ancient image of the Blessed Virgin, also known as “Our Lady of Mylapore,” were among the motives that prompted the Pope to bestow this honor.”

Sundowners on the beach last night.

Gosh, this is fun, and it’s a bit easier to say after a few great meals and for Tom, with bacon with his eggs the past two mornings. My guy sure is a picky eater and is much more content where he can tolerate something on the menu. 

Let’s face it, for many travelers, including Tom. Good food is a part of the experience. For me, it’s of little importance as long as I comply with my special diet and am not starving, although I do especially enjoy meals when we’re cooking for ourselves.

The pretty beach scene at Ideal Beach Resort.

Once we arrive in the UK, we’ll be cooking again, which is almost two months from now. In the interim, we’re managing better in India, figuring out what works for both of us, with our expectations in check.

This hotel, the Ideal Beach Resort, a four-star facility, is quite lovely. Although it’s not a luxury hotel, it has everything we need. Since Indian people don’t necessarily consume alcohol (some do), the bars are seriously lacking in many hotels in India, as is the case here, a closed room with a few bar stools.
Last night, we sat at a table on the beach at a tiny outdoor beach hut. It was still very hot and windy, but it was good to be outdoors, watching tourists play ball on the sand.
Swimming in the Bay of Bengal is not recommended due to severe undercurrent.

The moon was full, and we were able to take a few photos. After an hour, we headed to the dining room, ordering the same meals from the previous night, knowing they worked well for each of us.

This hotel has not been a very social experience when there’s no particular spot where guests go to mingle. We had some excellent interactions with other tourists in hotels along the way. But, soon enough, we’ll be on a ship where socializing is the name of the game.

Some of our readers have inquired about how we’re feeling, in light of the coronavirus about going on a cruise on April 3rd, only 25 days from today. Of course, we have concerns. 

Last night’s full moon.

The cruise line contacted all passengers, offering us a full-price cancellation voucher but not a cash refund. If we withdrew, we’d have to find a place to stay for 30 days, paying for hotel/holiday home and flight, most likely to the UK, leaving us with an expensive Viking Cruise Line voucher which could eventually be worthless if the cruise industry crashes.

The Viking Sun is a small ship carrying only 900 passengers. This particular cruise line has yet to have a single virus case on any of their ocean-going or river cruises. Our temperature will be taken before boarding, and passports will be checked for recent countries visited.  Many countries are being excluded, and passengers will be refused to board.

I don’t know. It’s everywhere, including our own USA. Nowhere except Antarctica is free of the virus. Besides, we’re already traveled there. We have military-grade face masks we purchased months ago, and if a single case is found on the ship, I assure you, we’ll be wearing them. 

Tom’s dinner for three nights, a form of chicken Cordon Bleu with pasta and bread. He says it’s good.

Sure, we are more at risk traveling internationally than those staying housebound wherever they may live. But, if people so much as go to a market, a pharmacy, a school, a restaurant, or any public place in any part of the world, risks exist.

In the interim, we watch for and check for more information from Viking, should they decide to cancel the cruise. There’s nothing more we can do at this point. If we had to pick a place to “hide” from the virus, we don’t know where that would be. Does anyone know?

Instead, we continue with our India tour exercising good hygiene and considerable caution as much as possible. We may consider canceling any terms where there are vast numbers of tourists at any given time. We’ll research and make decisions as we go along.

That’s it for today, folks. Lots more is coming, as mentioned above, including yesterday’s exciting tours. Stay tuned.

Photo from one year ago today, March 9, 2019:

The Nyala seems to be following a small forkl of kudus consisting of two boys and their mom.  It appears he’s taking a liking to the mom. For more photos, please click here.

Colorful temples in Chennai…

The skill and years of artful work to carve these colorful figures are mind-boggling.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site in a few months, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you

Regarding today’s photos, taken two days ago in Chennai:

From this site

There are numerous temples in this one location. Many come to pray here every day. We weren’t allowed inside the temples since we weren’t Hindu.

“Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.

A god with a bull.

The unique facts about this temple are that it was built in the 7th century. The spectacular architecture of the temple featuring stone carving, woodwork, well-designed pillars, and various other attractive points is a treat to watch. Devotees can be a part of 6 different Pooja held daily at different timings throughout the year.”

Peacocks are the national bird of India and are often represented in many sculptures.

From this site: “Kapaleeshwarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, located in Mylapore, Chennai in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Shiva’s consort Parvati worshiped at this temple, is called Karpagambal, is from Tamil (“Goddess of the Wish-Yielding Tree”). The temple is the most ancient one that was built around the 7th century CE in Dravidian architecture.

This covered outdoor area is a special place for worship and families to discuss and decide if an arranged marriage is suitable for a couple. There was one such group in this area. See the next photo.

According to the Puranas, Shakti worshipped Shiva in the form of a peacock, giving the vernacular name Mylai (Mayilāi) to the area that developed around the temple – mayil is Tamil for “peacock.”Shiva is worshiped as Kapaleeswarar and is represented by the lingam. His consort Parvati is depicted as Karpagambal. The presiding deity is revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the Nayanars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam.”

To the far right, this group was discussing possible plans for an arranged marriage with an arbitrator who helps determine if the union is a good fit. Horoscopes for the potential bride and groom are highly influential in the decision-making process. In the center, further back in the photo, the area was cleaned after a wedding.

Currently, we are in Mahabalipuram, staying at the lovely Ideal Beach Resort, a beautiful oceanfront property. Tomorrow, we’ll share photos of this location, where we’ll wait until Tuesday to head to Pondicherry via another relatively short road trip.

It is astounding these colorful 7th-century structures have survived century after century.

Also, we took photos last night of our anniversary dinner and a lovely chocolate cake the resort provided us for our celebration, which was greatly appreciated, especially by Tom. Food photos were also coming tomorrow when we both had an excellent suitable dinner.

Today’s photos were from two days ago when we toured colorful temples in Chennai on our last day before heading this way to Mahabalipuram, a two-hour drive from Chennai. 

There were many Indian people at this site, but few international tourists from what we could ascertain. We haven’t encountered many Americans while in India party due to the distance to travel and Coronavirus fears which have seriously impacted international travel.

As much as we enjoyed the colorful temples, we weren’t fond of our stark business-type hotel, and we were pleased after two nights to be on our way. After arriving here at the Ideal Resort, we were thrilled to be on the waterfront with ocean views from our room. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this menu included some continental cuisine and a spacious and charming hotel room with a massive bathroom.

The Hindu women sat on the ground in a circle, preparing offerings for the gods in many forms.

Ah, the little things, they mean so much; a lovely room; good air-con; a comfortable bed and pillows; the food we both enjoy; and reasonably good WiFi, all are greatly appreciated by us. We seldom find a location to offer all of these amenities, but we can sit back and relax when they do, feeling grateful.

The southern part of India, where we will be going forward, is hot and humid year-round. We must remove our shoes when visiting temples, and walking on uneven ground in the heat was challenging for me at specific points. But, no whinging allowed. We continued.

We’re done touring for the next 48 hours. This two-day break is a welcome relief. We told our driver Raj we wouldn’t need him for the next few days, although he offered to stay nearby, sleeping in the luxury SUV, if we needed him to take us out anywhere to dine at other restaurants.

I tried to center this photo, but people were in the way. It was a Friday, the holy day in India.

This made no sense to us. We’re happy with the food here, and even if we weren’t, we’d hardly want him to hang around for us when he can drive two hours back to Chennai to spend these last two days with his family. Once we take off on Tuesday, he won’t see his family until March 29th, when his service to us ends. 

The only other place in the world we’d seen a temple similar to this was in Singapore in June 2016. See the link here for a similar temple.

By the way, a few days ago, I wrote that we wondered how our driver would shower, change clothes, and do his laundry. Yesterday, we asked him, and he explained that all hotels have shower and bathroom facilities for tour guides. 

Unfortunately, it was a cloudy and smoggy day impacting the quality of our photos.

It was a relief to discover, but we feel bad he has to sleep in the SUV that, with bucket-type seats, doesn’t appear to be too comfortable. Sadly, this is life in India for many workers, and we highly respect and appreciate the services we are provided with, not a complaint.

It was amazing to see these colorful temples built in the 7th century.

The tour guide we had for the temple, the first woman tour guide we had, was a little too pushy for our liking. Although very kindly and well-intentioned, she was pressing to ensure we got our money’s worth by extending the talking and the tour much longer than necessary. 

Each structure has a unique design, all of which are colorful and have survived over the centuries.

It was hot and very humid. We were both sweating profusely. I can walk long distances on flat, even surfaces, but walking up and down uneven steps and over rough surfaces is still tricky for me. I’m hoping in time this will improve. In the interim, Tom is helpful and patient with me as I soldier on as much as possible. 

A plane was flying over the temple.

It certainly hasn’t prevented us from experiencing the endless array of stunning sights in India. We’ve seen and done so much. It could take months of posts for us to become caught up.

A road on the way to the temples.

With 26 more days until the board the ship in Mumbai, we still have lots of India left to see, all of which will be in the southern part of the country where it is hot and humid this time of year, becoming more so in the days to come. We’re grateful we didn’t come to India in the heat of the summer months and highly discourage travelers from doing so. 

A sincere thanks to so many of our readers who’ve written to us wishing us a “happy anniversary!” Your kindness means the world to us!

Photo from one year ago today, March 8, 2019:

When friends Lois and Tom visited for three weeks in October, we spotted the Nyala crossing the road from a distance but never were able to get a decent photo. From there, we searched daily, hoping to spot it again, and then he magically appeared in our garden. What a treat! For more, please click here.

Travel day…Today is our 25 year wedding anniversary…Heading to the beach!…

In an old vehicle located at the Best Exotic Marigold  Hotel, Us is referred to as a Willy/Jeep. For that post, please click here.

Today, as we celebrate 25 years of marriage (together almost 29 years), we’re posting a few photos of us taken during this past 12 months, all since the dreadful surgery in February, as we continued our travels three months later in May 2019. 

Unfortunately, until we started traveling, we took very few photos of us or any of our family members for that matter. We just weren’t the photo-taking family. Not so much the case now.

On February 5th in Bikaner, India (posted February 6th), a camel pulled a cart up the steep hill to the dunes where we all gathered for sundowners. Click here for the post.

Today, with time at a premium, as we were getting ready to leave Chennai, we were struggling to find more photos of us from the past year when so much of it was spent during my recovery when I wasn’t up to it having photos taken.

We’ve made it to our following location, one we’ve been incredibly excited to visit, the village of Mahabalipuram (try to pronounce this!), where we’ll stay at the Ideal Beach Resort located directly on the ocean, the Bay of Bengal.Tonight’s dinner will be a better fit for both of us.

I checked out the hotel’s online menu, and there are several options suitable for our tastes and dietary restrictions. This will only add to the enjoyment of our anniversary dinner.

We’ve only spent two nights in the peculiar hotel, the Ibis in Chennai. Although we had incredible touring experiences yesterday, which we’ll post tomorrow, we’re content to be on our way.

Out to dinner in Minnesota in November 2019, with our dear friends Karen and Rich. Click here for that post.

This has been a tough year for us, but our love and devotion to one another have seen us through the challenges. Although I’m still not 100%, Tom provides the support and care I need when out on long, steep walks and visiting sites with lots of steps and uneven pavement. 

As we’ve often mentioned, the anniversary of our world travels has been the anniversary we celebrate the most. It was on that date, on October 31, 2012, that our dream began, and we’re so grateful we can continue every day.

On our way in December to the Vegas Golden Knights game with son Richard. Thanks, Richard, it was an enjoyable night! Here‘s the post from that night.

We take nothing for granted: not about being together; not about our lives of world travel; not about the places we’re blessed to visit; not about good health and certainly not about the people we love.

And now, at 3:30 pm Saturday, we’ve arrived in Mahabalipuram at our beautiful hotel with ocean views, excellent WiFi and air-con, and a big bathroom, not like the recent Ibis hotel in Chennai with a bathroom smaller than a cruise ship. 

We were hot and sweaty while on a Celebrity cruise from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale after dancing at the silent disco in November 2019. Click here for that link.

For the next three days, we’ll do a little sightseeing and then spend a few days of relaxation at this beautiful beach resort. We couldn’t be more content to spend anniversary #25 this way… in India… on the ocean and in love.
Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 7, 2019:

Check out the mature horns on this Big Daddy kudu! For more photos, please click here.

We arrived in Chennai…Food issues…Another long travel day with a few worrisome moments…

This blind priest prays in this position all day, standing outside the  Eklingi Temple. As a functioning temple, no photos are allowed. Silver was used in embellishing the interior, and it was stunning.

Yesterday at 1:00 pm, our driver, Vishnu, picked us at the hotel in Udaipur to begin the harrowing drive to the airport for our 4:00 pm flight on Indigo Air with an expected arrival time Chennai after changing planes in Bangalore.

The first flight was relatively smooth. No food is served on Indigo Air unless pre-ordered and paid for online, although the flight attendants will serve coffee/tea and nuts for a fee during the flight.
We’re always in awe of the detailed carvings, many of which require decades of diligent work to complete.

Since my breakfasts are somewhat skimpy due to a lack of foods I can eat other than eggs in one form or another, I was hungry and thirsty by 5:00 pm when the flight was in the air, and the flight attendants began serving.

I ordered a small bag of almonds and a cup of green tea, enough to hold me for a few hours until we’d expect to arrive at our hotel in Chennai, sometime after 9:30 pm. There’s nothing I can eat at the airport stands that are available after we’ve gone through security.
Every carving has a special meaning.

No doubt, food has been an issue for both of us in India. Don’t get me wrong, I love Indian food, although most dishes are laden with thickened sauces, lentils, and potatoes, none of which works for my way of eating.

Sacred cows were kept safely on the grounds of the temple.

Tom, on the other hand, is struggling more than I am. He won’t even try most Indian dishes when his taste buds don’t allow for heavily seasoned or spicy foods. If spices are left out of most words, they become bland.

Generally, there are other visitors when we visit temples.

He doesn’t eat dark meat. For example, he’s ordered plain chicken, but pieces of dark meat are often cut into smaller pieces with the bones. The chicken appears to be boiled and, without the Indian sauces and spices, doesn’t appeal even to my less picky tastes. 

Nagda Temple is not a functioning temple, but the Gods contained therein are attended to daily. They are symbolically brought food, flower offerings, and bathed each day. No visitors are allowed when the Gods are sleeping.

We’ve yet to see white chicken breast offered as the main dish option. We’ve asked, but they don’t seem to know what that is. It’s a cultural thing. We keep reminding ourselves we are in a unique culture and what they eat is different from what we know.

Many Gods are represented in artfully crafted stone and marble.

Vegetarian dishes are out for Tom, although he’s ordered vegetarian fried rice and potatoes on several occasions. The reality is, we are making the best of it, somehow not starving and filling up on foods that do work for us.

I order omelets for breakfast each day. Tom has eggs and toast, enough of each to fill him up. There’s no bacon, no ham, no meat side dish of some type. Dinners are challenging when most are buffets with literally nothing I can eat and nothing Tom will eat.
A ceiling in one of the temples.

Anyway, when our first flight was 30 minutes late taking off, we were worried we wouldn’t make the second flight with only a one-hour layover. We checked out flights online only to discover there were no flights from Bangalore to Chennai after our scheduled flight at 7:30 pm. 

If we missed the connecting flight, we’d have to spend the night at the airport until the first flight in the morning. What a dreadful thought that was. As we rushed to our gate at the second airport, having to take a bus from the plane to the terminal, we thought we were going to miss it.
Many God sculptures in temples have been pillaged over the centuries. And yet, the Hindu people still treat the temple with the same symbolism and respect, as if they were still there.

As it turned out, when we arrived at the appropriate gate, we discovered the connecting flight was delayed by 45 minutes. Relief! We could sit back and relax until it was time to go.

Once in Chennai, our new driver Raj explained he would be with us on all tours and road trips until March 29th. He sleeps in the nicely appointed SUV, which, much to our delight, even has WiFi, which will be great on the long road trips. 
Tom takes a photo of me taking a photo of one of several beautiful temples.

We couldn’t believe Raj sleeps in the car, but apparently, other drivers and guides in India do the same. I’ve yet to ask him where he’ll shower and do his laundry. I assure you I will ask and report back here.

The temple structures were made of marble which is abundant in India, but over the years, the white color has changed to this light brown coloring.

When we arrived in Chennai at the most peculiar hotel, the Ibis City Centre, at 9:30, it made no sense to have dinner that late. Tom wasn’t hungry. I was starved. He explained he’d sit with me if I wanted dinner. There was nothing on the menu that appealed to me. Thus, I passed on eating and went to bed in our (as stated above), the most peculiar hotel.

These massive pillars remain along with these 400-year-old temples.

As for the peculiar hotel, it’s clean, friendly, and ultra-modern, circa the 1990s, with lots of colorful molded chairs and black lacquered tables. There isn’t a single bit of evidence that we’re are in India, anywhere in the entire facility. It has the fastest WiFi signal we’ve had anywhere in India, so that helps.
We’ll leave again tomorrow for another road trip to our following location, which we’ll share once we arrive. Tomorrow, March 7th, will be our 25th wedding anniversary, and we’re excited to spend it overlooking the sea in a gorgeous traditional Indian hotel.

We met this lovely French woman, Stephanie, a yoga instructor who’d come to India with many of her students. After chatting across tables at dinner, we invited her to sit with us, and a lively conversation ensued. We are always so delighted to meet beautiful people like Stephanie in our travels.

This morning we visited some temples, unlike anything we’d seen so far, reminding us of our visit to Singapore in 2016. More on that tomorrow while we prepare the day’s post in the WiFi-enabled vehicle on our way to the following location.

This is such a good experience for us, unlike anything we’ve done in the past almost 7½ years, which we’ll carry with us into the future, God willing, a long and healthy lot… For YOU, too!

Photo from one year ago today, March 6, 2019:

Little came looking for me, wondering why I hadn’t been sitting outdoors after the primary surgery as I’d usually done. Oh, Little, you put such a smile on my face. For more photos, please click here.