Madurai has to be one of our favorite small cities in India. It is most famous for its Meenakshi Amman Temple that’s covered in bright carvings of Hindu Gods. The temple is most beautiful because of its vibrant colours and inside it has many shrines and the hall of a thousand pillars.
The city itself was very easy to navigate by foot and had many lanes to explore, however we did take a bicycle rickshaw to the Gandhi museum and enjoyed the sights along the way. The gentleman was very enthusiastic about taking us and even with a few missing limbs he did a fantastic job. In fact we couldn’t help but pay him double for being so chivalrous! There are several Gandhi museums throughout India, this one is known for the blood stained loin cloth which Gandhi had worn when he was shot, although people say it is a replica.
We had a great time roaming around the city meeting many friendly people. Damian even got a hair cut by a lovely man for ₹100! Our favorite restaurant in Madurai is Sree Sabarees, the food was super tasty and very cheap with amazingly fast service as they like to get people in and out quickly.
After finding ourselves an Aussie mate to go to dinner with we decided to randomly chose the top recommended restaurant on trip advisor. Not such a massive mistake but it was costlier than expected as the restaurant Pan Asian turned out to be in a frigging palace! India’s third largest 5 star hotel, The ITC Grand Chola. We had no idea we were getting dropped off at such a luxurious establishment whilst being completely underdressed for the occasion. Rolling with serendipity we ventured inside through the security scanners and guards. The place was a maze with no indication to there being a restaurant. Eventually we were escorted to the extravagant cigar lounge where we waited for a table to be available in the restaurant. By this point we found ourselves overjoyed by our unexpected circumstances and became delirious over the fact we weren’t eating street food that evening.
The food was one of those 'quality not quantity' dishes, I ordered the tempura prawns on a basket of frosted noodles which tasted delicious and a complete change from what we would normally be eating. The presentation and service was to be expected - impeccable! We all really enjoyed our indulgent evening which was completely off budget and not something we would normally do but it was an awesome surprise that we just embraced. Having said that for a top quality meal with four or so beers it cost approximately £30 each!
We did visit the Government Museum which was an interesting array of buildings with a gallery and gardens. The vibe of the place was a mixture of neglect and disorganisation within the exhibits. There were a lot of interesting artifacts but it looked as though the place hadn’t been touched since it had been installed. Many of the pieces were decaying and not properly persevered but there was one or two exhibits that were well maintained. Overall it was very intriguing walking around as there were few visitors and very quiet.
Chennai silks is a great fashion store to visit as the layout is huge and easy to navigate. It has several floors to accommodate for all occasions. The prices were very reasonable with very friendly staff to help you find what you’re looking for and shower you in chai! I bought a luxurious pure silk patterned saree for ₹3,000 to send home as a memento.
Bangalore is the hippest place we have visited in India due to its diversity in bars, restaurants and nightlife. It’s nicknamed the ‘Silicon Valley’ because of its high tech industry and is home to many young professionals and expats. We met many people who were on placements from across the world enjoying the delights of Bangalore and better yet drinks for women were practically free! Most bars and nightclubs never charged for females to enter and drinks just kept unlimitedly flowing! I couldn’t believe my luck considering pretty much everywhere we had travelled previously in the south had been difficult to drink. We did a lot of shopping, cinema and markets and just indulged in the city life. The botanical gardens were a highlight.