Saturday, 22-Oct-2005
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Saturday, 29-Oct-05
Sunday, 30-Oct-05
  If you wish to see the Webshots album containing high-resolution versions of all these photos plus all the other pictures I took on this day, click here.

After working on Friday I was able to play tourist for the weekend. Normally this would be at my own expense but the operations manager at Brooks graciously decided to pay for a car and driver for me. The cost was about $50/day. Can you imagine what "limousine service" like this would have cost in the U.S.? I had an English-speaking driver at my disposal from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day.

Now... where to go?!

The hotel (Days Inn Deccan Plaza) has a "Travel Guide" desk so I asked for some advice. I said I wanted to see some temples and other architecturally interesting places. I mentioned the Mahabalipuram Park that a co-worker had visited on a prior trip so he suggested some other sites to see on the way. It turns out, according to my driver/guide Deva that most of these sites were places of interest for children! Ah well. "Communication is the problem to the answer".
Deva showed me this statue of Vishnu made of one solid piece of stone. They really get into that 'round here. That is, making things out of one piece of stone. You'll see more of that later.

This particular statue is about 60 feet high and carved out of a marble-like stone. I'm standing as close as Deva said I was allowed to get.

Throughout my tours of the various holy places, I remained very respectful. When I visited the temples in Kanchipuram (translation: City of Gold) the next day, I was required to remove my shoes and socks to walk around the grounds. No problem...

I did stop at the Alligator Park on the way to Mahabalipuram. It was a bit of a bore and poorly maintained. If you've seen one sleeping gator and you've seen'm all. It only cost 40 Rupees to get in ($1 USD) so what the heck!

I walked around for maybe 10 minutes while Deva waited out in the car.

I should mention here that Deva is a skillful driver. That is we weaved through the maze of cars, motor scooters, ox carts, holy cows (yes, holy cows!) trucks, pedestrians, sleeping dogs and potholes at breakneck speed without a scratch! I decided early on that I was just going to sit calmly and not worry 'bout a thing! So I just sat back and enjoyed the show. It was, ah... interesting.

We rode in a new model "Ambassador" sedan which is the only model car still made in India. It reminded me of the old Morris Minor we had when I was a kid. It has a stylish British look to it.

After an hour and a half of fairly light traffic (for India) we arrived at Mahabalipuram Park. This park is by the sea and was flooded by the tsunami last December. We passed by several clusters of thatched huts where people were still living at subsistence level nearly a year later. I read in the paper that the generosity of the government has been misplaced and heard the same thing from a co-worker at Brooks. The government has provided upwards of 200 fishing boats where before there were only 125... there's no one to run them! And donations of clothing by citizens has been outstanding but... they don't need clothes, they need material to build themselves new homes! Strange. (Where's Rudy?!)

The photo to the right show's me standing in front of Krishna's Butterball. The rock looks round from this side but is actually football shaped. The backside projects way out so it is well balanced, it won't roll down the slope!

To the left of Krishna's Butterball is this 40 foot high, 100 foot long base relief sculpture. Amazing. For the walk through the park, Deva hired a guide for me. It cost 400 Rupees or nearly $10.- This is quite expensive. Deva told me later that he makes 50 Rupees per day as a cab driver. (I paid him a 500 Rupee tip each day. I also learned that the two tips I gave him will pay his rent for the month!)

The carvings tell a lot of stories but I can't remember them. You can look them up on the internet if you're interested in reading more about it. The guide was very knowledgeable and made the walk through the park quite interesting.

"Mahabali" was the name of a king who made his home in this city and since "Puram" means "place" the city's name literally mean's "Mahabali's Place".

As I mentioned, the Indians are "really into carving things from one rock". At Mahabalipuram Park all the carvings, including these 5 temples, are carved from a single stone. In fact, the two temples in the center of this shot (behind the elephant) are both carved from a single rock. Amazing. It took 200 years to create these temples. They date from 600 to 800 A.D.

The temples look very impressive in the photos but when you get closer they are quite weathered and not very finely detailed. Granite is a coarse stone and does not lend itself to fine detail. However when you stand there and "soak it in" for a while, you become amazed at the amount of effort it took to create these monument/temples. It took generations of work with hand tools with probably hundreds of people. It is very impressive.

Just to give you a little feel for the street life of Chennai, here is a shot from inside the car on the ride back to the hotel after the visit to Mahabalipuram Park. Actually, traffic is light today because it's Saturday.

Take special note of the little vehicle to the far right, it's called an "Auto-Rickshaw". It has a motorcycle style front wheel and steering with two back wheels. You can squeeze two or three (or more) people on the seat in back. They serve as taxis and there are hundreds of them scrambling around the city. I'm told it costs around 30 Rupees to get from my hotel to work and back. That's good to know because I'm also told that this will be my way of getting back and forth to work.

Wish me luck! I'm going to try it for the first time Monday morning.

If you wish to see the Webshots album containing high-resolution versions of all these photos plus all the other pictures I took on this day, click here.

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