Mamallapuram, in South East India, is known as the place where waves dance to the symphony of stones.
It's a gorgeous little seaside village and all day you can hear the stone carvers chipping away at their sculptures. It has such a chilled out atmosphere. Most of the sculptures are of religious gods and goddesses but such amazing work. The artists love to talk about their work and can spend ages telling us the storis related to the different gods in different positions. One artist, a painter, told us that he had studied in Mamallapuram. When we asked him what subjects he had studied he said that Art was the only course on offer.
There are hundreds of yoga places and ayurvedic massage centres. I found such a lovely yoga teacher, Salamon. The classes are 150 rupees each but you get a discount if you go more often.
A small village, tiny in Indian terms 12000. Bohemian.. .the usual thing going on... everyone wanting to sell you stuff, (minimal) beggars, mosquitoes and cows walking the streets. The tsunami hit this place but its hard to distinguish whats destroyed and whats just poverty on the beach front.
Still overwhelmed by the last two cities and their windowless hotels, we check into the best place in town. So much for roughing it.
Hotel Sea Breeze lives up to its name. Its also the only place in town that has a pool.
We abuse it as the waiter at lunch tells me the locals sh1t in the sea.
Left: The quiet street with a stone masons shop foreground , Right: A cow walks the beach
We are finally having a good time, we are now in fishing village and fish is on the menu. We go to the same restaurant everyday for breakfast and dinner (Nautilus). Its run by a french guy and the waiter loves as we are from SA. He loves his cricket and ordering anything involves a half hour chat about the best allrounder or the most economical bowling figures in a world cup. The food is brilliant and cheap.
The village is famous for its stone masons. You walk the streets (these were a breeze compared to Mumbai and Chennai) and hear the sounds of chipping and chiseling as the locals work on buddhas, shiva statues and all other sorts of gods in stone from 2 inches to 7 foot. Its amazing to see as many of them don't even have more than one tool (chisel).
We have a routine, we are here for a number of days, we make friends with a few travellers and a few locals including a 10 year old who runs the phone booth but just wants to hear you talk on the phone to improve her English.
We are smiling everyday.
Everyday except for the day we go to the post office. Sim has brought too many clothes despite the warnings and has some light trousers made at the tailors here (3 Quid each and we felt we were ripped off). As with everything in India, process is paramount and overrides common sense at every corner. To post something you need to find a box. Not easy as everything is used again and again for different uses. Fill the box and take it to the post office, open, to show them what you are sending. Next its off to the tailors who makes a fabric cube for the box to go inside. He stitches it up and now you have a box covered in fabric. Next is the wax seal on every seam.
Back to the post office. Weight the item yourself.
Glue in a bottle and paint brush to put on your stamps. Sent. Finally, 3 hours later.
More stone carvings - all hand made
The rest of the time here is spent abusing the pool, eating at Nautilus and walking the few streets. We walk up to the road to go see some rock carvings from centuries back but otherwise we are happy to release the stress of the cities, the grey of London and the fear of taxi rides.
Our friend Sangeetha from the phone shop and some amazing carvings near the village