Travel day…Pondicherry here we come…Photos from Mahabalipuram tours…

“Krishna’s Butterball (also known as Vaan Irai Kal and Krishna’s Gigantic Butterball) is a gigantic granite boulder resting on a short incline in the historical coastal resort town Mamallapuram in the Tamil Nadu state of India. Since it is part of the Group of Monuments at Mamallapuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built during 7th- and 8th-century CE as Hindu religious monuments by the Pallava dynasty, it is a popular tourist attraction. It is listed as a protected national monument by the Archeological Survey of India. It is best viewed at sunrise from northwest to southeast or at sundown from northeast to southwest when the panorama is bathed in magical golden hues.” Our guide explained that at one time, centuries ago, the locals tried to move this boulder using elephants, but it wouldn’t budge.

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Today, we’re moving again, leaving Mahabalipuram (finally, I can pronounce this), also known as Mamallapuram (the locals changed the name when they weren’t pleased with its meaning centered around sacrifice) driving with Raj to our following location, the French-influenced Poidicherry.

Another of many temples within the World Heritage Center, made from a single rock.

It’s only a two-hour drive, but we’ll stop along the way to see a temple on the beach that we missed a few days ago during a Hindu festival when roads were blocked off due to the crowds. 

“The Descent of the Ganges, also known as Arjuna’s Penance, at Mamallapuram, is one of the largest rock relief in Asia and features in several Hindu scriptures.”

If we’d gone to see it on Sunday, it would have required a very long walk in the sweltering heat. Raj suggested we wait until today when the crowds are gone, and we can drive up to the temple and take some photos of the exterior.

Al “Varaha, (Sanskrit: “Boar”) third of the ten incarnations (avatars) of the Hindu god Vishnu. When a demon named Hiranyaksha dragged the earth to the bottom of the sea, Vishnu took the form of a boar to rescue it. They fought for a thousand years.” The wild boar, which we saw while on safari, is often depicted in historical sculptures.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Ideal Beach Resort, where we’ve savored great food, ice-cold beverages and had 10-days of laundry beautifully done for IDR 2395, US $32.44. We’ll be posting a positive review at TripAdvisor later today.

The aluminum pots are used all over India for cooking. In some communities, a driver with a truck visits villages selling these to locals who don’t want to use public transportation and carry the pots home. The driver provides “credit” for locals and comes around once a week to collect payments. Other vendors, including those selling plastic housewares, do the same.

After dinner and drinks for three nights, our entire bill, including the laundry, was only IDR 10991.43, US $148.99. Our tour included the cost of the hotel stay, and we’re only responsible for food, beverages, laundry, and tips.

A temple carved from a single massive stone.

This tour requires a lot of tipping, for which we use cash in most cases. Instead of the necessity of tracking every rupee we pay in tips, we’re keeping a running total of all money we acquire for ATMs, knowing it’s all going to pay for tips. We spend the remainder by credit card.

A tree with an unusual bulb-like base was growing from this rock.

I downloaded an app on my phone, Mr. Receipt, to note details on every receipt when we receive it. Then we can immediately toss it, and all the categories are neatly arranged. 

We carefully walked on the edges of this monument to avoid falling into this opening, formerly filled with water. While we were inside, an older man fell but wasn’t seriously injured.

This is working well, as opposed to the old method of accumulating a lot of receipts and then having to log them all at once before leaving a location. Anything that can reduce the time spent tracking our expenses is worth it to me.

Another view of one of the enormous reliefs in Asia. See details in the above photo.

We didn’t go on any tours; instead, we quietly spent time at the resort, walking about the hotel grounds, on the beach, and enjoying the lovely scenery. We had sundowners on the beach in the evening, watching the moon rising while chatting with tourists as they walked by.

Inside one of the temples/rock formations.

Now, we’re off again to Pondicherry for two nights for some new activities and tours, which we’ll post over a few days. We’re are getting good at packing quickly. 

See the sweat on Tom’s tee shirt. It was very hot when we were there, but no shorts were allowed in the temples.

Yesterday, I took everything out of my one suitcase, refolding and reorganizing everything. After dinner, our laundry arrived, and I added my clean clothes. Now my bag is tidy, and it’s easier to find items. Tom’s bag is always neat. Go figure.

The Brahma Bull…”Nandi is the gate-guardian deity of Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. He is usually depicted as a bull, which also serves as the mount to Shiva. … The Sanskrit word Nandi (Sanskrit: नन्दि) has the means of happiness, joy, and satisfaction, … His mount, in the oldest Saivite texts in Sanskrit, Tamil, and other Indian languages.”

We just arrived at yet another corporate-type hotel in downtown Pondicherry. We prefer more tourist-type hotels, but here we are again in a corporate environment. But, it’s clean, has some interesting French architecture and the dinner menu looks promising.

This was the second area we visited in Mahabalipuram, where more revered stone carvings remain excellent.

We unpacked what we needed; toiletries, digital equipment, and plugins and left our bags opened but not unpacked. We’re officially in the mode of living-out-of-a-suitcase these days, and we’re getting used to it. We can be ready to leave in minutes. This unforgettable tour of India has taught us more than one thing!

Generally, clothing in shops such as these is inexpensive.

The following is information on our recent tours in Mahabalipuram, along with the many photos we’ve included.

The area is known for stone and granite statutes that are shipped worldwide, often at a shipping cost four or five times the item’s price.

From this site: “The town has a collection of the 7th and 8th-century Hindu religious monuments that have been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It is on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, about 60 kilometers (37 mi) south of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

There’s plenty of restrooms available for tourists and local for a small fee.

The site has 40 ancient monuments and Hindu temples, including Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna’s Penance – one of the world’s most significant open-air rock reliefs. 

Shops in the center of the town of Mahabalipuram.

The site includes several categories of monuments: Ratha temples with an architecture of monolith processional chariots built between 630 and 668 CE; the mandapa viharas with halls and stone roofs with narratives from the Mahabharata, Shaktism, and Vaishnavism; rock reliefs, particularly bas-reliefs of Shaivism, Shaktism, and Vaishnavism; stone cut temples, particularly those dedicated to Shiva that also reverentially display Vishnu and others, built between 695 and 722 CE; and, archaeological excavations with inscriptions some dated to 6th century and earlier. 

The cave temples and monolithic temples were built during the Pallava Period. The site is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India.”

The exterior of a civic building in Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram

Thanks for stopping by. May your day be colorful and bright!

Photo from one year ago today, March 10, 2019:

Another photo of the male Nyala who visited us for the first time on Friday along with Kudus and Ms. Bushbuck, three types of antelope in the garden simultaneously. For more photos, please click here.

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.

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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.