Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Fake snow and the beach

It has been go, go, go so let's start with the Crimble bit since so many of you have asked... Well, loads of tacky Christmas trees with fairy lights and false snow, a few jingles in the background and ZERO turkey or stuffing were basically as good as it got. Still, I took great comfort in grilled jumbo prawns and cocktails followed by delicious banana crepes on the Eve itself which went on till the wee hours (playing jenga with a large group of merry Indians). Christmas day was a heady mix of poolside and beach (with the occasional onlooking cow) and lunch was almost amusingly bomb-dived by greedy crows.

We hung out in Mamallapuram (also known as backpackistan as it is a bit of a traveller's ghetto) and it was a lot of fun. On the cultural side there's the famous Shore temple built originally in the 7th Century (Pallava period in this part of Tamil Nadu) but then re-built. Cut out of rock and overlooking the sea, it represents the 'perfect cosmic body,' facing east and west for sunrise and sunset. It is believed to be the last of a series of sister temples to survive as the others were revealed only after the recent tsunami.

Then there are the Five Rathas (meaning chariots in Sanskrit) which are carved from a single piece of rock and are basically low-laying monoliths, each dedicated to a Hindu god. Only discovered 200 years ago, (by us Brits), each one has its own rather large animal mount for protection - obviously an elephant is compulsory... Nearby are Mandapans (more rock-cut temples) scattered over even more rocks which are covered in trash. People also travel from far and wide to see Arjuna's Penance which is an extraordinary relief carved into a huge boulder, depicting Hindu and South Indian life. Although it is holy (Shiva and sages feature) somebody definitely had a wry sense of humour as a domesticated cat seems to be doing penance in front of an audience of highly amused/bemused mice.

Now we are back in Kerala - Varkala to be exact which is a beautiful beach resort (yes, there are temples too) and famous for its Ashram (more Indian style than Auroville). Ironically we have been advised not to eat fish because it 'might not be fresh' so are feeling a tad deprived. Still the large row of restaurants perched high on the cliff offer a pretty good smorgasbord for all tastes.

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