Tag Archives: Indigo

Madurai, Meenakshi Amman Temple

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Madurai, Meenakshi Amman Temple

After our very short flight from Bangalore, we arrived in Madurai. We decided on visiting Madurai. Firstly as it seemed a natural route on travelling north to Pondicherry, also after watching a travel program on British tv hosted by Joanne Lumley, who was tracing her Indian roots, and visited the Meenakshi Amman Temple. So it wetted our appetite to see for ourselves.

Madurai is the third largest city in Tamil Nadu and is just like any other busy Indian city, but the one thing that makes the town worthy of a visit is the the magnificent Meenakshi Amman Temple. Meenaksi Temple receives around 6000 devotees a day, and during the annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, the temple can attract over a million pilgrims and visitors from all over India. The temple has four very large Gopuram’s or towers. North, South, East and West, and are around 50 metres tall, 170 feet, and covers an area of some 45 acres. It dominates the Madurai skyline. We could see it quite clearly, and our hotel was some three to four kilometres away. We had four nights in Madurai, we just took things at a leisurely pace. You don’t have to stay this long if time is tight, but I would recommend two full days.

Visiting the Temple

The Temple is open from 05:00 to 12:30, then reopens again at 15:30 to 22:00. Entry is free, (except for the museum which is 50 INR ) but worth the entrance fee. You are free to explore everywhere, except inner prayer section, where non Hindu’s are not allowed. I would recommend visiting in the morning thus avoiding the afternoon heat.

Must see sights.

Putu Mandapam Market. Fruit & vegetable and the banana markets

The Putu Mandapam Market is housed in the confines of the temple,”underneath it in fact”. It’s mainly a wholesale market. Consisting of four long aisles, each aisle having it’s own specialty. One for cook ware, one for fabrics, one for beads costume jewellery ribbons and braid, and finally one for ornate pots, water containers and various elaborate Hindu effigies. Wandering through the market I couldn’t help admiring how the Indian people are so industrious. Each little stall was a small and very productive cottage industry. The fruit and vegetable market and the banana market are just a maze of colour, so many different types that I have no clue as to what they are. It’s a photographers dream.

Gandhi Museum

The building that houses the Gandhi Memorial Museum, is the historic Tamukkam Palace belonging to Rani Mangammal of Nayak Dynasty built about 1670 A.D. It was in 1955 the palace with about 13 acres of land was gifted by the Tamil Nadu State Government to the All India Gandhi Smarak Nidhi for the purpose of housing Gandhi Memorial Museum. Entrance to the museum is free, and from an Englishman’s point of view it’s a must visit. As you walk around there are panels detailing Gandhi’s life from the early days with lots of photos and quotes from various politicians. Taking you through Gandhi’s epic struggle to gain Indian its independence. Now being an Englishman I am not one who subscribes to the whole British Empire, Britannia Rules the waves, etc etc, and after reading his struggle and what the British did to India and how they left it, I did come away feeling rather ashamed. I know some will say that the British did a lot of good, and I’m sure we did in some respects. There are also probably many Indians, I’m sure, who were glad of the British occupation, but I’m also sure there were plenty that weren’t. Whatever you point of view is it’s always “in my view” good to look at it from another countries perspective, and the Gandhi Museum certainly does that.

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India trip overview and travel tips

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Well is been a few months since we have been back from India so I thought it was about time I wrote about our trip as a whole and to supply some tips for anyone who is thinking on a extensive trip around the country, and to also say some thanks to the many helpful people we met on the way. The first thing I would like to say to anyone who is going to travel around the country for the first time like us is don’t imagine that anything you are used to in the western world will be the same in India, like the roads, transport system, way of life and the infrastructure it is total and utter chaos in a nice way I might add, the people are wonderful and so very helpful, but if you approach your trip with a very open mind, expect the unexpected you will not go far wrong. 

Roads

Driving or being driven in India is just like being in a surreal version of Mad Max or a demolition derby without in the main any contact, add to this the conditions of the roads “I use the term roads loosely” with potholes so big you could loose a small child down with conditions similar to driving off road. Add to all of this that there appears to be no driving laws at all, even the traffic police have no control as we discovered when a uniformed officer tried to stop the traffic to let other vehicles cross the junction but no one took any notice and he was nearly run over, quite how many people are killed or injured in a year one only wonders. With all the above in mind don’t let it put you off as it can be quite hilarious at times, just try to relax and enjoy the trip. 

Trains 

During our trip we had four train journeys planned. We booked our tickets using the Cleartrip.com website also we got a lot of useful advice from the “Man in seat 61” website, also we viewed various videos on YouTube in regards to the seating so we though we were pretty well set. Our first journey from Jaipur to Ranthambore was quite pleasant seating was just as we had researched, we met a very nice Indian family and had a very pleasant journey. There were plenty of food and drink vendors walking up and down the train selling all sorts, samosas, dosa’s, fruit etc. toilet facilities were not bad, not the conventional toilet pan variety I might add just the hole in the ground sort, it seemed quite strange standing there doing your business and watching the train tracks fly past you underneath. The downside to this system is when standing at the train station waiting for your train to arrive the strong smell of human excrement is overpowering, I say no more. Our second journey was a different story all together. On boarding the train at Ranthanbore to Agra “which incidentally was two hours late” it became immediately apparent that our trip was not going to be quite as smooth. The train had started its journey some 24hrs or more from where we had boarded all the compartments had their curtains drawn and it was extremely dark and this was at miday so there was no natural light coming in, we also discovered that the three of us were split up even though the tickets were all booked together, the girls were at one end of the carriage and me at the other also I forgot to mention that someone still had their bunk made and was in asleep in my seat “sounds like the three bears story”, so because of this we all decided to sit together on a not very comfortable isle seat. After a while I needed to give my numb backside a rest and decided to walk along the train, so with action camera running off I went. On reaching the end of our carriage I could not believe my eyes, you see in the area in between the carriages were the toilets and washing facilities, I witnessed a Indian chap stripped to his pants having  a wash, other people asleep on the floor, a card school in progress and the most disgusting toilet facilities I’ve seen, we all could not wait to get off. So the decision was made that to endure three hours on a train under these conditions was bad enough but we all felt that an overnight journey would be to much to endure, so our trip to the Hampi was cancelled who as it turned out to be a good thing, see below. 

Domestic Airlines 

Whilst we were in India we had four internal flights booked, two with Indigo and two with SpiceJet. Our flights with Indigo were excellent, we knew what they were like from previous experience, but our dealings with SpiceJet was somewhat different. Our first flight from Cochin to Bangalore was ok but not as polished as our Indigo experience, they seemed to be less organised and professional, they even tried to charge us excess baggage on arrival at the check-in desk even though we had paid for our excess in advance. The next problem was the fact that our flight from Bangalore to Hubli was changed to a little know military  airport called Belguam as the runway was closed at Hubli for resurfacing, which was not ideal as Belguam airport was some two and a half hours further on by road making our total journey from Hampi approx six hours by road, and if anyone has travelled by road any distance in Indian would know can be a nightmare. So we decided to add a couple of more nights to our stay in Mysore and change our flight from Bangalore to Hubli to Bangalore back to Mumbai for our  connecting flight back home, but as I wrote in my post on Bangalore the day before we were due to fly to Mumbai SpiceJet cancelled our flight altogether “great” but thankfully we managed to get a flight on the same day with trusty Indigo.

Hotels

And special thank you to all at Stanley Wilson Travel for our transport in Cochin and Munnar.

Useful Websites:

Bangalore

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After our nice relaxing four nights in Mysore it was time to move onto Bangalore and this was not without more problems “it seemed that everyday we have been in India something has gone wrong”. I received an email from SpiceJet to say our flight from Bangalore to Mumbai had been cancelled and was instructed to call them for an alternative. So I called and was offered none as there were no flights going to Mumbai on the day we wanted to travel, great! So with with refund processed and iPad in hand we managed to get a flight with Indigo airlines at the same cost thankfully.
The journey back to Bangalore took around three hours,. Before leaving Mysore we checked the website that we had used to book our accommodation with to refresh our memories to make sure that the apartment which we had chosen was the one we were getting. On arrival things seemed to be in order as the outside of the apartment block was just as the photos on the website. Once we checked in the staff took our luggage and started to trundle up the street, “not a good sign”. We walked about 100m up the road to a different block altogether. Inside it was nothing like what we had booked, It wasn’t very clean, everything was shabby, it was dark and it had no terrace, the room we had booked specifically stated it had a terrace, we had even stopped on the journey from Mysore and bought some wine and beers so we could sit on the terrace and relax. I informed the manager that this was not the apartment we had booked an we were not prepared to stay unless we got the one we wanted, he told us that there were no apartments with a private terrace, only a communal one I explained that the images on booking.com clearly showed a terrace and a far better apartment than the one we was in but he wasn’t going to budge. I was not prepared to debate the matter anymore and called booking.com who thankfully sorted it out so we was not going to get charged. “Like I said always a problem” so iPad in hand “again” we booked a stay at the My Fortune Hotel which looked very nice indeed, and on arrival thankfully it was,
The guide books state that there is not really a lot to see in Bangalore “we only visited as we had to change our plans, the main attraction seems to be the palace. So on our first and only full day in the city we grabbed a Tuk Tuk and headed for the palace. On arrival the palace grounds was buzzing with activity as it appeared that their was an Indian wedding going to happen later in the day. Everywhere was very brightly decorated with bunting, flowers and large statues of elephants and Hindu gods, it was spectacular. We all thought it must have been someone important or very rich, as there were people setting up large spotlights to illuminate the outside of the palace, some guys setting up a remote controlled helicopter with a camera attached for arial filming, we also saw a TV crew setting up vehicle with a huge satellite link dish on top, and the colours of dress especially the woman’s sari’s were spectacular. After we watched the proceedings for a while we went into the palace.
Once inside it was all a bit of a disappointment, pretty bland really, nothing like the Mysore Palace, but we are glad we went as we would not have witnessed the build up to the the Indian wedding.
After our visit it was time for a coffee so we headed back to the MG road “most cities in India have a Mahatma Grandi road”.
Whilst we were having coffee I was trying to arrange a taxi to take us the next day from our hotel to the airport for our flight back to Mumbai. I telephoned the driver who had brought us from the apartment that we had originally booked as he had given me his number, but unfortunately I had difficulty with getting my requirements across, so I gave up. Fortunately for us a very nice Irish chap who had lived and worked in India for some for years had overheard my conversation and put us on to Meru Cabs. So I gave them a call, spoke to a really nice lady who spoke good English and made the booking, a very professional outfit indeed. You get a text to confirm your booking, a text about twenty minutes before the cab arrives then another when it’s outside, the distance to the airport is some 40km and on arrival the meter read 840 INR about £8.40 just amazing.
I had quite a long conversation with our new Irish friend and during our chat I asked if he could recommend a place to eat for later that evening, when he told us a place called the Thirteenth Floor down the MG road. Now the thirteen floor is just was it implies the thirteenth of a block which has a couple of restaurants and a club. We decided to eat one of the restaurants called Ebony , it turned out a very good recommendation, the view over the city was amazing, the food was very good and the prices very reasonable indeed.
Well Bangalore was the last city on our trip before we fly back to Mumbai.

In my next post I will say thank you to some of the many helpful people we met on our travels, and post,  hopefully some valuable “Top Tips”