Having just completed our penultimate overnight sleeper train – this one took 15 hours, from 4pm to 7am, to take us 733kms to Badami – I thought you might enjoy seeing a little bit of Madurai railway station, some trains and then laugh at our long walk.
To explain the long walk: when you book a train you know exactly which carriage and which seat is yours, it’s possible to view online stuff to see exactly where your carriage is likely to be, in this case we knew we would be carriage 4 of 23. So we positioned ourselves accordingly, using the signs on the station to get to where the fourth carriage should stop. BUT, our train was going in the opposite direction so we were positioned where carriage 19 of 23 would stop. Cue, a little stroll, carrying 18kgs, 500 metres up the platform.
After three lovely days near Periyar we headed off in a taxi to the 2500 year old city of Madurai, dropping down very quickly from the cool 1200m-above-sea-level zone to the tropical plains of Tamil Nadu. Three hours later and we arrived in Madurai, mad, busy, noisy Madurai. It’s not like Madurai is any different from other cities but after spending the last four days in serene countryside the noise was deafening.
Straight off to the railway station to check our rucksacks ahead of our overnight train several hours later and then it’s time for some food at the rated Kumar Mess and shopping at Chennai Silks, which is massive.
After lunch and shopping we head straight for the Meenakshi Temple which was potentially built in the 7th century, making it the oldest temple I’ve visited. It’s 1:30pm, it’s closed until 4pm, or is 2:30pm or is it 3pm. It’s so confusing, even the entrance guards don’t know when it opens. Either way we’ve got time to kill, it’s boiling hot, it looks like it’s going to rain and we’ve got nothing particular to do. Ok then, time for more shopping I’m informed.
Foreigners only have to pay Rs50 (65 pence) to visit the inner temple, the outer courtyard is free, but we are quite rightly restricted to the non-sacred parts. In the outer courtyard there’s a queue for the inner courtyard, it’s very long but instead of queueing we decide to go for a little walk around it. At the entrance it turns out you can queue for 1 minute and pay the Rs50 to get in, it turns out queueing gets you in for free…after about an hour.
What we can see of the temple complex is stunning, its painted ceilings, its ghats, the carved pillars, all of it. With only so much to see we didn’t spend long here and we left feeling happy to have visited such an historic pla
Afterwards we headed to the Hotel Supreme’s rooftop restaurant where it duly pissed it down, leaving us to eat at a table just under shelter, watching the rain and lightning over the Meenakshi Temple a few yards away. We had a great meal and Jane’s Kashmiri Naan, with its layers of fruit, nuts and raisins went down very well.