Tamil Nadu, Madurai to Pondicherry

I had planned to escape the touristy beach resorts for the Christmas holidays when the prices of accommodation sky rockets. Taking a look at my map of India, I thought the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu State would be a good starting point. The train left Varkala at 2.30am, so when I arrived in Madurai after a sleepless night to discover it was a smelly, polluted and horribly noisy city with nothing much of interest (with the exception of a large Hindu Temple and the Ghandi Museum) and nowhere nice to eat – it was a major disappointment! I decided to get out ASAP, but due to Christmas there were no trains available for another week. The next day I went down to the bus station and managed to buy someone else’s ticket for twice the price it cost him, but this was a small price to pay to escape Madurai on Christmas Eve.

I arrived in Pondicherry on Christmas morning at 6am. First impressions were very good, it was once a French Colony so the old city is well planned out with nice tree lined boulevards. More importantly it had real pavements that you can walk along without the countless obstacles you normally encounter in a typical Indian city. Ironically there was no room at the Inn – I wondered around for an hour but every hotel seemed to take great pleasure in telling me that they were full until January. Luckily the last place I tried had a last minute cancellation, so I was not going to be homeless on Christmas day.

Later that morning I met an American girl who was also travelling on her own. Things started to feel a lot more Christmassy at lunch when we found a French restaurant serving Turkey and cranberry sauce.

The next day I went on a day trip to a place called Senji Fort. It took about 2 hours to get there on the horrible and over packed local bus, but it was worth it. It’s completely off the tourist trail, so there was hardly anyone else there. It was similar to Bundi fort in that it has been left for nature to take its course and the monkeys have taken over, but the landscape and architecture were very different. It’s situated in a place with massive hills made entirely of giant boulders. The whole complex covers a huge area which must be more than 5sq miles, and there are loads of interesting buildings, temples, wells and fortifications.

It's hard to see, but there is a temple on top of this giant boulder.

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