Monday, March 16, 2009
Driving in India is a very interesting experience. The lanes are barely even really regarded as suggestions. There are more motorcycles than anything else, and a lot of little yellow taxis which they call tuk-tuks.
The taxis have two wheels in the back but only one in the front. They are basically motorcycles with a passenger compartment on the back. In the city, everyone just kind of weaves in and out of the lanes and tries not to die. Outside the city, the motorcyles mostly stay on the shoulder of the road, the tuk-tuks drive close to the shoulder, and the cars and vans stay in the regular part of the lane. Our van spent about half the time in the oncoming traffic lane, passing other cars and tuk-tuks and swerving back into the lane just before getting smashed by an oncoming tour bus.
Many of the motorcycles had multiple passengers, some had whole families hanging off them. The most common was a guy driving with a girl wearing her sari and sitting side-saddle in the back. Most of the time the guy had a helmet but the girl almost never did. No sure what that means.
There is tons of trash along the sides of the road, at least along the road we were driving down. It was along the coast and there were roadside stands selling watermelon or coconuts every half-mile or so.
There were cow wandering the sides of the road, mostly just eating the trash. Also some goats and dogs. The tour guide said that the cows belong to people and they are basically just free-range and they all head home at night. The people keep them for their milk. I wonder how trash tastes when filtered through a cow. The guide said that if somebody hits the cow then the owner will expect restitution. Since they tend to wander out into the highway (we had to swerve around a few) I'm guessing that is a fairly frequent occurrence.
A few times we stopped at stop lights and people came up to the windows and tried to sell us stuff. There were also small children who came up to the windows to beg. We had been told not to give anything to beggars but it's hard to see. When we got to Mahabalipuram and got out, we were accosted by people trying to sell us stuff. They would follow us around and wouldn't take no for an answer. Often they would follow us until we got to the car and then still stand outside the window trying to get us to buy.
Our first stop was the "Shore Temple" which is something like 1300 years old. It is made of granite and is mostly eroded. I guess there were originally 7 towers, but 5 of them are under water. We were surprised they let you climb around on them.
We went to another temple area where each of the structures was carved out of a single rock of granite. There were 5 of them and these things were pretty amazing.
There were some animals there too that were carved out of solid granite:
Finally we we came to a huge sculpture that was a whole mountain of granite with carvings all over it. The pictures below don't even show half of it.
It was very hot and humid and we were glad when it was time for lunch and we went to a gated, air-conditioned hotel for a buffet. I wasn't very adventurous on the foods I chose.
Next we went to a crocodile farm where they have thousands of crocodiles and a few turtles and other things. They have a 16 foot saltwater croc and thousands of these regular crocs
And even this baby which they let me hold
Last place we went was a place called Dakshinachithra, which is basically a little village where they have crafts and building from all over the different Indian provinces. It's basically like the Polynesian center in Hawaii, but for India. We saw potters spinning pots, weavers weaving silk, people making baskets and all sorts of things. The only thing I took a picture of was the drummer/dancers. They were very loud but fun to watch as they danced and made human pyramids (or human whatever you call this)
Finally we went back to dinner at the hotel. We ate at the Mongolian restaurant where you pick lots of raw meats and vegetables and they fry them up for you on the grill. Very tasty.
It was only 8:30, so I thought I would watch the rest of Gandhi, but when I lay down to watch it on my phone, I woke up around midnight. Jet lag and a very full day catching up to me. I answered some emails and went back to sleep around 1:00.
Posted by Casey at 6:31 PM