Just 50km South of Chennai, this town was the major seaport of the ancient Pallava kingdom, with a beautiful Shore Temple to prove it. Mamallapuram is truly a travelers hub, with many affordable guesthouses and various places to eat with expansive international menus.
A dramatic and beautifully preserved historical site that has been dominating the shoreline for over 1400 years now. The floors of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are made of pure unpolished hard granite and it faces East so that the sun shines on the main deity of Shiva Linga in the shrine. To be completely honest, we didn’t go in because the entrance fee is 30 Rs for Indians but 500 Rs for foreigners, and that is a bit much for something that you can really enjoy from outside the fence.
Beach and shopping
Yet another east-coast town that is not ideal for swimming, although you can definitely go for a dip. The beach is beautiful but the undercurrent is quite strong and it has a fairly steep decline angle. There are plenty of food stalls (definitely have some fried mackerel!) and an open market on the sand to buy things like leather-wear, wooden carvings and Tibetan trinkets. I bought a wonderful pair of sandals and would have loved to get one of those carved elephants if it wasn’t for the fact that we had another month of dragging it around the rest of India 😉
Another thing to look for here is a tailor-made dress or suit. I got an amazing salwar kameez from beautiful purple cotton with flowers printed all over. Hand-made by a lady in a little alley-way that took my sizes and finished it overnight for 800RPS!
Descent of the Ganges is a giant open-air rock relief carved on two pink granite boulders. The legend shown in the bas-relief is the story of the descent of the sacred river Ganges to earth from the heavens led by Bhagiratha.Cave Temples
There are some temples and other structures carved straight out of rock in the central hillside area, so you can travel between them on foot. The scenery within the hills is also quite unusual, with smooth rock rising out of the forest and carved stairways leading between the mandapas (pavilions), caves and carvings.
Krishna’s Butter Ball
A gigantic granite boulder that rests on a short incline and seems to defy the rules of gravity. Many kids playing around and people taking selfies but actually a good spot to enjoy an ice-cream in the shade. We heard that in 1908 some governor used seven elephants to try and move the boulder from its position due to safety concerns, but with no success.
Monkeys and puppies
The park that is home to the butterball, lighthouse and caves houses a fair amount of monkeys and street-dogs too. While we were wandering around the many boulders and carvings I spotted a tiny little puppy that didn’t look too good. I gave it some water to drink, washed it a bit and went to find a street-stall with biscuits to feed it something. While I walked back with a pack of cookies in my hand, a monkey ran up and stole them straight from my grip! The greedy creature tried to climb into a tree, stuffing cookies into his mouth while we yelled at him. Luckily he dropped most of them because the little dog definitely needed them more.
I know that feeding animals on the street is not the best idea in the world, but I just couldn’t resist this helpless little thing. And in the end it makes for a fun story to tell 😉