Tamil Tour Part 2

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Cardamom House
On the road in our Nandi, a very spacious minivan for the four of us, we made our way back into the foothills of Western Ghats, to Cardamom House, our next stop on the Tamil Tour.

We stumbled out of the minivan into an explosion of vividly pink flowers, green bushes and all manor of flora and fauna. The shelter of plant-life and the surrounding hills, folded Cardamom House into a comfortable cocoon of rustic bedrooms and patios. Everything about the place was peaceful and relaxing, the cane furniture and beautiful garden, the bright blue pool surrounded by sun loungers – the fact that meals were served to us at regular intervals in the day by charismatic (and at times sassy) waiters (one of whom was aghast that I had repudiated my gender role and not made my bed whilst the gentlemen were out – and wasn’t afraid to tell me). We took walks through the surrounding palm trees and Sam wrongly assumed that throwing a coconut at a peacock would make it show us it’s feathers.

In short, it was the perfect place to celebrate Michele’s birthday, with some deliciously tasty mango juice and rum, that tasted more like Mango than rum and hence more than a few glasses were raised to toast the big day. The waiter made up for his sexist slip by arranging the surprise of a beautiful birthday cake with party poppers to be brought after the meal – Happy Birthday Michele!

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Trichy
Trichy (Tiruchirappalli, hence the short name) is another large city in Tamil Nadu, with temples and the largest textile store in the South. We had a new guide Sudha, who as well as guiding us through the features of the temples, enjoyed snatching our cameras from us to take pictures that only he had the skill to capture. Unfortunately, the temples were covered and under construction, so we had to exercise our imagination as well as our patience with the snap-happy Sudha.

In the afternoon, after a traditional South Indian Thali (little bowls of different local curries with rice), we got lost in the textile store (Sam treated himself a man-sarong) and then climbed to a hill top temple with panoramic views of the city. The day was busy, and at the end we bundled into Nandi to be taken to our next stop Thanjavur, where we would be sleeping for the night.

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Thanjavur
Thanjavur – the home of temples, a palace and lots of chola bronze artefacts. It is also home to Tanjore-Hi, one of the most experimental hotels I have ever been in. It featured dark blue glossed walls and floors, and a futuristic, illuminated, x-Ray vision photo panel , the size of half the roof, suspended above our bed. But they really knew how to serve a good breakfast.

Sudha was back and better than ever, warning us away from the ill intentions of Hindu women that brushed arms with us (?) and single-handedly directing and coordinating a photo shoot, with vision that Mario Testino would have been proud of. The city temple was resplendent with high towers, bare stone carvings and beautifully peaceful gardens.

We visited the city palace and then confused the hell out of waiters in a restaurant by trying to ask if there were nuts in the thali, and just about every vegetable variety, and even cheese was mentioned before we eventually reached an understanding. We were all very relieved.

Thanjavur was a busy but pleasant place to walk around, and we enjoyed sharing our extensive curry knowledge with Sam’s parents over our evening meals and confusing yet more waiters with my nut allergy. After a busy day of tourist activities, we thoroughly enjoyed our company and playing card games together, before turning into our room to sleep under the sky of the glowing blue-light-x-Ray-modern-art and awoke feeling cultured to our very cells.

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Bad Luck in Bangalore

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My first impression of Bangalore was that it was a beeping, smoggy and fluorescent light-filled city with plenty to offer. My final impression was that Bangalore was a beeping, smoggy and fluorescent light filled city of madness – that I couldn’t wait to leave. Now that I’ve ruined the end of the story, I could go on to justify my view, but I think we had a run of bad luck in Bangalore that has quite discoloured my view of it… Or maybe that was the thick black pollution that fills the streets and prevents you from seeing at all.

I can see why people say it’s ‘trendy’ and ‘fun’ – if by this you mean there are places where you can drink and not get glared at, shops with all of the designer labels you can find back home and coffee shops booming out deafening David Guetta tunes. There is definitely a young, university drinking-scene, with people watching Goa versus Kolkata on the big screen and enjoying cocktails out of funky glasses. But this wasn’t what we were in the mood for after a horribly long sleeper train, being charged an extortionate amount for an average room, being charged an extortionate amount for an average meal and having cheesy yoghurt thrown over my new top by a clumsy waiter (my punishment for attempting to look presentable).

A tuk tuk driver told us of how the place had tripled in size over the last 10 years, as we waited in a traffic jam where we choked on the fumes of hundreds of beeping cars. The progression of Bangalore into a pulsating business and technological city has been as swift as it has been unpopular with the old locals – who have understandably found it hard to adjust to the huge, and pollution bringing changes. The result for me was the city felt a bit unnatural, over-stretched and over-priced – and seemed like a very forced attempt to keep up with the likes of Mumbai. Although I’m guessing this is because we made a few wrong choices with the areas of town we decided to go.

Sam woke up the next day feeling unwell, and so as we were left to roam the streets due to an unreasonably early check out time, we spent the (entire) day in a Starbucks – which is by far my best impression of Bangalore. We were given lessons on the stages of coffee tasting, delivered by a sweetly nervous member of staff who wanted to practice her English skills. In between sniffing the aromas of Kenyan coffee beans, we were given free samples of everything from vanilla lattes to red velvet cake. It’s hard to reconcile this Starbucks with the one we have at home; the nearest they get to doing anything for free is avoiding taxes.

The title of this post shows that we hit Bangalore at a bad time for us. There is always a chance of falling foul of a huge city, as there is so much on offer you may end up choosing wrong and missing out on some real gems. Would I go back? No, I value my lungs too much.