Tamil Nadu, India
Several buses and six hours of travel took me away from the amazing Kerala region and into colorful Tamil Nadu. I headed straight to the Southernmost point of India. The town of Kanyakumari is small but draws massive weekend crowds. The big attraction is the famous Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock that sit as independent islands just of the coast. The land is situated in a way that allows for stunning panoramic views.
The bus ride north from Kanyakumari to Madurai was worth a mention. The road was a properly paved highway with lanes that were actually used. Traffic was minimal with plenty of breathing room. Almost no honking occurred for the duration of the five hour drive. Amazing! It was peaceful and beautiful. I stared off into the mountains in the distance and large green plains and watched miles of wind farms pass by. My mind wandered in and out of daydreams as I sank into my seat. This was by far the most relaxing journey I’ve had.
Arrival into Madurai, also known as temple city, was an abrupt, rude awakening. Big and busy, as expected, the temple here is really the only thing to see, and it’s worth a visit. The temple is a detailed, colorful, compound. From the outside the walls and angles hide its enormity. From the inside, its size is felt. Tall ceiling and echoing hallways wrap around hindu figures where people stop to give offerings and prayer. The energy created by devoted worshipers is serious and palpable despite the selling of souvenirs and random trinkets around every corner. As with many temples, cameras are not allowed inside.
Pondicherry is an unexpected little place with a good vibe. Upon first glance, it is like any other busy Indian city with a tourist pull, but neatly tucked away in the corner is a little area known as the French Quarter. The streets are perfectly manicured. Flowers shade the lanes and huge doors to open into mesmerizing secret garden courtyards. It is all things French. Stores, restaurants, and the even the library are labeled in French. The language hangs in the air from around hidden corners. For a moment you think, am I in India anymore? A little piece of France lives here and the rest of India carries on around.