Sunday June 21, 2015 (Asia, India)
Somehow I made it here to Madurai. We took an early morning cab to get ourselves from Puducherry to Villupuram. Villupuram is a main railway hub, so that’s where our ticket to Madurai originated from. I definitely got a bit panicked in the car thinking I was going to have to open up the door and have a quick puke. I kept it all in for the one hour ride.
Now we were at the train station and awaiting our train’s arrival. I just squatted down on the ground in the blazing heat and lamented my very existence. Still quite achy and nauseous. It’s really the nausea that kills me. I don’t mind aches and pains so much, but the feeling that I may vomit at any minute… I’d rather do without.
Our tickets indicate “Second Seating” as our class. There are a whole bunch of classes on Indian trains, and second seating sounds pretty reasonable, no? We got a look at it by the time the train arrived. It was an open car (like the majority of train cars in India), so it was obvious there would be no climate control for us. But alas, once we boarded we noticed that the ceiling was absolutely covered in rotary fans. Just dozens of them all over the place turning away. Not really enough to make up for the lack of AC, but it was better than nothing.
We sought out our particular seats on this car. I was really, really hoping for a window seat in case the contents of my stomach wanted to be freed back into the world. One of our seats was supposed to be a window, but of course some guy is already sitting there. The travel agent that booked it for us had mentioned that we would be in a “cabin of six”. That sounded kind of reasonable to me. But these aren’t cabins – just two benches facing each other with each bench expected to hold three people. We were surrounded by several mothers and a small herd of children, so we had to kind of fend for ourselves. Keep in mind I’m mostly on the verge of collapse and am now sweating like a pig from the absurd heat.
I tried to just lay back and relax, and all in all I felt pretty reasonable by the end of the ride. Poor Sandra had her legroom severely compromised for a large portion of the trip when a middle-aged woman decided to sleep on the floor immediately beneath her. When the gentleman next to me got up and left from his window seat about an hour into the ride, I immediately slid over to take over his place from my adjacent middle seat. Not long after, a woman at the “cabin” across from us began signalling to me: she wanted the window seat. I closed my eyes again and let Sandra make vomiting pantomimes to let her know that I wasn’t feeling well. I’m white as a sheet with a permanent frown on here lady: please don’t ask me for my seat! So yes: the ride was near-horrific for me, and only slightly more tolerable for Sandra. But we made it. And in the intervening days, I’ve started to feel quite a bit better!
So now we’re in Madurai. It was founded over 2500 years ago, and is thus one of the oldest cities in India. That’s kind of neat, right? One of the first shots we got was actually of a bunch of people playing pickup cricket while a train wheels by. With some random domesticated wildlife just wandering around as well. It’s a quintessentially Indian photograph!
Our big day out was today when we visited the Meenakshi Amman temple. The temple itself isn’t actually that old (in Indian terms) being completed between 1623 and 1655, but it’s the most popular and impressive temple in the city. We had read that you just paid a small fee to bring a camera, so I was excited to cart my big-boy camera and finally get back into snappin’ some photos. Upon arrival, however, we were told that cameras were not allowed. After walking all the way there carrying my camera. Wonderful. After continuing to ask around, we’re told that you’re only allowed to have a mobile phone camera – no other cameras allowed. As to why a beautiful temple thinks it’s a great idea to only allow people to take crappy pictures of the area, I’ll never understand. So all we’ve got are iPhone photographs, but hopefully you enjoy them anyway. I think we did pretty well under the circumstances!
The temple is full of lovely carved pillars, painted frescoes, and statues. The super-tall gateway towers are known as gopurams. We took a photo of one in Chennai, also. At one point during our wander around the temple, a lady came up and popped a bindi on Sandra right between the eyes. Then she added a bit more vermillion powder on the forehead from the hairline down to indicate that Sandra was married. So she told us. And she gave Sandra some nice flowers for her hair. Beauty! Unfortunately the stare factor increased dramatically once Sandra appeared to be a pseudo-local, but we still got a nice picture of her blending in without a trace!
I didn’t get any decorations whatsoever. Hrmph.
Tomorrow morning we fly to Sri Lanka! Let’s hope flights aren’t cancelled and the two of us stay healthy! See you on the other side!