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I was annoyed this morning when the hotel tried to charge us 9,000 R for a car to Madurai; I argued with the manager for a bit but he didn’t budge, so we booked a car though (a good service we should have used every time we need a car between cities) that cost us 3,500. I don’t mind upmarket hotels charging a premium, but I do mind total ripoffs.

Our booked car showed up right on time at noon, and we drove the two or so hours to Madurai. Carol, as a last treat before returning to ‘normal life’, has booked the Heritage Madurai, a lovely old property outside of town in its own gardens. Our suite is spectacular, and Carol took great delight in revealing our own private plunge pool outside! 

We had a drink and some french fries sitting outside the restaurant and talked over our trip and all the things we’ve seen. Carol has chosen a wonderful place to wind down our Indian adventure.

6th March

Woke at 7.30am, though it took us an hour and a half to get moving, have breakfast, and grab a tuk-tuk to take us to Meenakshi Amman Temple, the last temple of our trip!

It was a bit strange at first as we had to leave our iPhones (and Carol’s Apple Watch) with the same people who took our shoes, but they were two nice friendly women and they even had a security system that took my photo and printed it out on my receipt. A guard thoroughly searched through my bag as we entered, and Carol was searched in a curtained-off booth, so security was particularly tight. And sadly, we couldn’t take any photos this time, which was particularly unfortunate since it was a huge complex with a lot of character.

A thousand-pillared hall held the temple art museum – the usual strange juxtaposition of carefully mopped floors and filthy, dusty cages full of cobwebs and dirt as well as poorly-cared-for artefacts. And strangely, here many of the glass cases that held bronzes also housed piles of small photographs, business cards, coins, and bank notes. For some reason, all these people had felt the need to cram these offerings into the glass cases of ancient sculptures. But then I watch people prostrate themselves on dirty flagstones, line up to pay pudgy priests to dot their foreheads with dye, touch particular spots on columns with white ash – and I never cease to amaze at the power superstition has on humanity, and how these little rituals seem to give comfort in a difficult world.

We sat for a while at the edge of the Golden Lotus Tank, empty of water, where a gang of men and women dug out the thick cracked layer of dry mud at the bottom and lifted it basket by basket up the steps to a waiting truck. Looming over the tank was one of the insanely detailed, towering gopuras, smothered in high relief gods, demigods, heroes, and demons painted in faded colours.

After wandering a while through the complex we left, a bit sad knowing it was our last temple, and walked for a while in the traffic-free street surrounding the complex. Then we grabbed a tuk-tuk to take us to the Gandhi Memorial Museum, which as suspected was closed for renovation (and has been for some time, despite Lonely Planet, which has become inaccurate and unhelpful) and only had a small building with some information displays – but at least they had the decency not to charge for it. Nearby was a replica of Ghandi’s hut, and next to that, supposedly his ashes; I say supposedly because there’s no record of Ghandi’s much-divided ashes ending up here. I find the semi-deification of this well-meaning but deeply flawed man somewhat strange, considering the real horrors of the 1947 partition.

We grabbed another tuk-tuk to a FabIndia shop close by where Carol bought another couple of scarves, then rode back to the hotel along the wide, dried-up River Vaigai, which our driver told us would be full of water next month when the monsoon begins.

We had a relaxed lunch in the main courtyard, then chilled out in our room and plunge pool. Unfortunately there’s construction going on next door, the sound of hammers and power tools, but thank goodness once again for AirPods.

Well, that’s basically it for our sightseeing in India. Just one last day to relax and recharge and we begin the long journey home.

We had a good dinner. The breakfast here isn’t great and the service slow (many of the staff have perfected the art of looking like they’re busy when they’re doing bugger all), but the dinner service and food is very good. I had a delicious chicken and caramelised onion dish.

7th March

Just a last relaxing day before we start the trip home tomorrow. I finished my book while lying on a recliner next to the hotel pool, then we had some lunch, then I relaxed in the plunge pool outside our room for a while listening to music. Later we both relaxed in the pool together talking about our trip. Then a last dinner (I gave the very friendly waiter Mutukhman 2,000 R as a tip – he’s been the best staff member all the time we’ve been here).

I downloaded podcast and Netflix shows in preparation for the flights.

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