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Part 9
VARKALA & MADURAI

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The northern end of the Varkala ridge is in close proximity of the palm fringed, sandy beach. The palm trees themselves, silly as it may seem, had involuntarily turned into a bit of a headache to us as Carina experienced a close encounter with a coconut a few weeks earlier in Arambol, Goa, when one of those super seeds came crashing down from high above hitting the ground just a few feet in front of her. And now with rumors about someone just having returned from hospital with a dislocated shoulder after a similar incident, we were quite admittedly on the alert.

We got really spoiled (most prob- ably also taking on a few extra kilos) during our stay in Varkala, sometimes enjoying delicacies such as momo at Tibetan restaurants or dining at Nepalese two story jaunts while gazing out over the black, humid void of the Indian ocean where strings of fishing boats shone with their lanterns far away in the distance. 





Next to the main temple in Varkala there were these colorful baby dolls hanging from a tamarind tree as symbols of fertility to worship and behold.




Vishnu in good company.




Finally we are once again on our way and ready to depart from the major railway station at Trivandrum in southern Kerala, now heading for the ancient hindu city of Madurai in Tamil nadu, a journey of 6 to 7 hours.




In Madurai everything was the exact opposite to Varkala, this being a strictly religious and at the same time astonishingly filthy city in the heart lands of southern Tamil nadu. Most tourists go there for the massive Sri Meenakshi temple which can hold up to anything like 15000 visiting pilgrim hindus a day plus loads of westerners arriving either alone or signed up with well established  package tours.
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On the night of our arrival to the city they were burning rubbish right  below our hotel balcony. The city street department had enforced a deadline on the vendors and shop owners to get things cleaned up around the area. After the fire had burned out, the rubbish collectors appeared on the scene rambling the streets while searching through all the remaining litter.




Here is a cobra god with five heads all in all.




Nandi the bull, one of hundreds of details orna- menting the walls of one of the four gopurams (main gates) of the Sri Meenakshi temple. Each gate is littered with hundreds of carved animal and celestial figures, all very colorful and imaginative.




In front of Taj Mahal
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At night the scenery goes through a sudden change in Varkala when numerous restaurants open their gates and all the sun tanned tourists come out for a culinary splurge. Multitudes of iridescent light bulbs and fluorescent tubes glow among palm trees and decorate the restaurants where all sorts of fish and seafood is being prepared.




This is what became of (parts of) the swordfish in the picture above when it had been marinated in a cocoa milk and Chile based gravy and cooked inside a wrap of banana leaves.




Two sculpted guardians watching over the golden portal leading into the holy shrine of the temple.





Our friendly, talkative Tibetan chef at the hotel where we stayed for one week.


As is to be expected on board  second class carriers all over India, there was a never ending onslaught of hard working, over- indulgent hawkers selling any- thing from samosas (veggie pastries) to masala chai (spice tea) and even plastic toys, garments, lottery or news papers. They have inherited a way of reaching a next to nerve wracking amplitude by shaping their oral cavities to sound like a megaphone while their  eyes are quick to catch the slightest attention, even at five in the morning!

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In Madurai cycle rickshaws are still being largely employed as a means of getting around and serving as minor freight vehicles.




One of many exotic details inside the Sri Meenakshi temple area, each item serving as an object of pray and attrac- ting scores of devotees.




The golden central spire of the temple.




A bloke you wouldn't want to pick a fight with know-
ing he's got six limbs and you've only got two!




The mighty southern gopuram.




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