Saturday October 18, 2008 Mamalapuram & Stone Temples
On Saturday, we arranged with Stephen to take us on a day trip to Mamalapuram, about 50 km south of Chennai. Stephen's brother drove. He drives barefoot, and demonstrated his dodge-em skills very well. It seems to be honk-honk and whoever is more aggressive. There are very, very few stoplights, and the air pollution is terrible. It took us 45 minutes to really get beyond Chennai, and another 45 minutes on a toll road which was definitely not limited access or expressway. Mamalapuram is famous for its rock carvings, which are actually temples (Hindu), some incomplete, built around 700 AD (AD is now called CE today - Common Era). These are made from HUGE (two story+) granite outcroppings, and quite ornate. It was very hot in the sun. We saw several of these temples, pursued by huckster of postcards who do go away if you do not speak or show any interest. Anne got overheated and dehydrated even wearing a hat and sun protection clothing, so we went to a new air-conditioned resort-hotel restaurant for lunch. The lunch buffet was not ready, so they offered us chicken club sandwiches. When they were served, we thought it was a mirage - white bread, fried egg, chicken salad, and french fries - but it was real and Western and we thought we had died and gone to heaven! The town still has a big rock carving industry - we drove past several of these workshops, spewing choking rock dust. We then went back to Chennai. There also happened to be a BIG political rally at the beach Saturday night, and hordes of men all wearing yellow shirts and all pumped up, were driving more wildly than usual towards Chennai. Kinda scary. The traffic was horrible, but it could have been lots worse, and did get far, far worse after we got back, as we read in the English language newspaper, The Hindu, next day - as in total gridlock.