10 Oct 2017. Our driver was already waiting for us when we trooped to breakfast at 07:30 before setting off on a road laced with temples and ruins. Our hotel host suggested this route:
Our first stop was the temple to the dancing Shiva in Chidambaram. Interestingly, this had not been on our original route plan, as Derek’s guidebook had not suggested it. Two different travel agents we had spoken to at various points had suggested it simply as a must, and they were right. It was a lovely temple.
Things to know about visiting Hindu temples in India:
1. You will be removing your shoes and leaving them either in a pile or checking them. If you check them, it seems to be 20 rupees per pair. If the temple has lots of bare stone, you will very much benefit from packing along a pair of socks to slip on, as the stone gets very very hot.
2. You must cover your shoulders and wear long trousers. Please remove headwear when you enter the temple.
3. You may not take pictures inside the temple itself, so if you are carrying a visible camera, be prepared to have many people tell you, or to put it away inside something so that it’s clear you know the rules.
4. Temples are closed for a long midday break, starting around 12/12:30. This doesn’t mean you can’t visit the temple, but that the areas where active worship are done are closed. So don’t let the time stop you from visiting the usually vibrantly decorated courtyards. There will be many locals there as well, some of them napping or chatting or making out in the shade. This is a good time to join them and to speak to some of them. They will all want selfies with you.
We all climbed back in the car and zoomed off for our next temple, at Gamgaikonda Cholapuram. By the way, the drivers all seem to have a lot of fun trying to get my pronunciation correct. So far I’m not doing too well.
After GC, we rushed to Kumbakonam to see the Darasuram temple.
After the temple, our driver wanted to show us a neighborhood of weavers. They make saris and shawls from dyed silk and silk/cotton blend.
We lunched at a tourbus resort restaurant. It was noisy and full of tourists. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s where our driver brought us.
After that it was on to Thajavur (Tanjore – which makes sense when you hear the locals pronounce it). The museum was extremely boring, as it’s just all the stuff we see at temples, only out of context. I liked the building best, I guess.
The temple was the last in a long day of temples. I didn’t go in, just watched the sunset reflect off the back side. Also, my camera battery died as we entered, so there’s only one photo. The sunset viewing was really nice, and many locals were doing the same as us: lounging on the stones and watching the show. Afterwards, some of them wanted selfies.
Finally, we arrived in Trichy, our destination for 2 nights. We checked in, refreshed slightly, then went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Everyone was tired. I am feeling very done with temples and ruins. I’m glad to be in a city, where I can do some people watching and see more life. I don’t mind the active temples, but the ancient ruins are less interesting to me.
Sometimes it’s hard to find alcohol in Tamil Nadu, so I don’t have an end-of-evening photo with a drink. We’ve really been having early evenings anyway. One drink about does everyone in.