Guts still in trouble this morning. Both of us sh*tting for England now. Breakfast is a strict orthodox vegetarian affair, not even eggs, as this is a Jain hotel. Napkins are filthy but otherwise fine.
Subu and Fred are here to pick us up for the drive to Kanchipuram. The drive back takes us through the same landscape in the opposite direction, rocky hills, lumps of granite sticking through the thin topsoil, then a landscape of fields with tall palm trees and people working in the fields. It’s another feast for the eyes while we whizz (at 40mph) through Andra Pradesh and then Tamil Nadu. The occasional stop for a picture, until we run out of film.
Fred nods off. Subu gives him unapproving looks and exchanges knowing smiles with Ness in the back.
After several hours we reach Kanchipuram. It looks like a fairly ordinary town. It’s supposed to be the home of the ornate high-quality silk saris.
Fred strikes a pose
First we’re taken to see two temples, Fred’s call, not ours. The first one is dark. We receive spots on our forehead. It’s all a familiar routine by now. The second one is built out of sandstone and extensively reconstructed. At the first one I had to stop Fred in his lecture with a, I hope, polite “too much information”, which had to be repeated again ten minutes later. A sandal vendor who tries to flog me some footwear, realising the limits of his collection, comments “ah, big feet!”
We drive to a silk weaving “factory”, expecting the usual emporium-style approach: demonstration, then the hard sell. The demonstration is interesting, seeing the huge weaving looms, the intricate work, the workmanship, etc. Upstairs we do the shopping bit. They are less pushy here which makes it easier for us to pick something. We pick a scarf and a silk wall-hanging thing as Ness has called it. Then it’s on to Mahabalipuram. On the way out of Kanchipuram we stop at a house. Outside two women are doing something with silk, bundling it together and preparing it for dying. For a bit of baksheesh we are allowed to take a picture and get to have a look inside the house. Two huge looms occupy the entire room. Fred is his useless self and lectures a bit to us on the weaving but I’ve had enough of him by now. The call to stop here was Subu’s I think. He seems to have more of an idea of what we’re after.
After Kanchipuram we drive towards Mahabalipuram. Lots of scenery, a few pictures, having restocked film at the temple. We stop for a cup of tea and a samosa at a little stall, á la Udaipur market, much to my relief. If we were in England I would probably be rather curt with Fred at the end of the drive, but decide the better option is to pretend that we’re grateful for his services, tip appropriately, and leave it at that. The final part of the drive goes quickly, on a road leading towards the coast.
Our hotel is the Quality Inn MGM Something Resort. The room is basic but perfect for our purpose. The hotel is located right along the beach, by the Indian Ocean/Bay of Bengal. It feels like a real beach holiday place, an Indian version. Palm trees all over the place, a nice clean swimming pool, a restaurant on the beach front. Looks like the beach is private. After saying bye to Fred and arranging to meet Subu again at 11am tomorrow, and quick welcome drink, we dump our bags in our room and go to explore the beach. Sensibly we changed into swimwear before going out. The beach is empty and pristine. The water is warm. We both get our feet wet and go for a bit of a paddle in the water. Ness is worried about the waves and undercurrent, which is strong, so I don’t go in too deep – shame, it feels nice and sandy underfoot, but I can see it slopes away steeply a bit further on. We head back to the hotel and laze a bit by the pool with fresh lime sodas. Glad we’ve got a bit of time here to chill out and leave the busy bits of India behind us for a while. There is a nice warm breeze which cools things down a bit. That evening we have dinner by the ocean in the hotel restaurant. Best intentions not to have anything spicy today are left at the door and I end up having the hottest dinner I’ve had in India so far, chilli fish (as I find out later). I am determined not to let this one get the better of me. “Spicy heh? I’ll show you spicy” The chillies or the heat must be getting to me – I’m talking to my food now. Worse, it answers back! The evening has a lovely feeling to it. I tell Ness that I’ll whisper sweet nothings into her eyes, then a JCB starts work, at 9-10pm, digging up the beach. A boy from the hotel walks over after a while and gets him to stop. I was tempted to suggest it, with an offer of Rs.100, having been told by our waiter that he would carry on working through the night! Chilli fish effects aren’t as bad or immediate as expected. Pah, I’ll show you spicy!