To complete our hat trick of Tamil Nadu city visits before reaching the Bay of Bengal, Jess and I spent one night in both Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) and Thanjuvar (Tanjore). With almost every city and town having both old and new names, trying to organise transport between them is a mine field. We often ask each other if we are definitely on the right bus and, to be honest, we’re never more than 50% sure at best. Locals travelling on board with us are very helpful though.
Trichy is a huge, crowded and busy city and home to one the biggest temples in India and a Rock Fort temple.
Having only one day to experience both, we rose early, ignored our new yoga mats and breakfast, and walked to the Rock Fort temple. On a massive outcrop, towering 85m above the city with stony arrogance (Lonely Planet South India guide 2015 😉) the top of this temple, a climb of 400 steps, offers sweeping views of the city. The early start meant we only had to cope with 30 degree heat instead of 39 and we were also rewarded with a family of monkeys playing and eating as the sun began to rise.
Back to Hotel Deepam, a quick breakfast (where we were taught how to pour tea from a silver cup into a silver bowl and back three times before drinking) and off to Sri Raganathaswamy temple.
The temple was indeed very large, resembling a fully functionung town encased by religious monuments, walls and pillars. Hessian mats were laid out for bare footed visitors to stroll along because the midday sun had turned the stone floor into the world’s largest George Foreman grill. While inside, Jess was genuinely confused when, amongst many Hindus and Indian tourists, she spotted two of me.
We had one night and one sight here. Yep. You’ve guessed it. Another temple. But one with a twist. The Brihadishwara temple, or ‘big temple’ as it is known locally, shuns the garish but strangely appealing colours adorning all the temples we have seen so for and plays it au naturale. The contrast of this naked, untouched granite was amplified by the light of the setting sun which painted a glorious array of reds, oranges, pinks and yellows onto the surface of the rock. A favourite no doubt.
As we soaked it all in, groups and families of very friendly and polite Indians approached us desperate for photographs with the two celebrities in their midst. For a person who goes to great lengths to avoid small talk and physical contact it was a struggle. It was all very well mannered and every photograph was greatly appreciated. This taste of attention left us both in no doubt that fame is not something we would ever want to experience.
What we did want to experience however was an Indian train journey so, going against Lonely Planet recommendations, we decided that in the morning we would turn up at the train station ticket-less and try to hop on board one of the unreserved ticket carriages to our next destination…