As we began year three it is fitting our first trip is with Ajay and his son Shiv. We have been hanging around together for two years now and have found that we travel well together.
We set off on Friday afternoon and reached Madurai without any trouble thanks to our new driver Raju. (and special thanks to the new DVD player in the van - we are now experts on Star Wars Return of the Sith and Barbies Fairytopia)
Madurai is known for the awe inspiring Sri Meenakshi Templecomplex. It is one of South India's oldest cities and has been the centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries.
The temple itself is humongous. Really, you could totally get lost in it. We stayed at a hotel on the outskirts of town, up on a hill and the temple is by far the largest structure in town. Now, I say "town" and "temple" and I had visions of a quaint little village with a temple out in the countryside. Well. Not so. Madurai is a "town" of 1 million people and the temple is SMACK in the middle of town. So, to say that this temple stood out is no small feat.
I have always wondered a bit about he draw of temples (outside the spiritual aspect, I mean). Many of my co workers children beg to go to the temple for special occasions, holidays and birthdays. I mean, come on , when was the last time on of our Christian children begged to go to church of their birthday?!
After going to Meenakshi temple. I get it! Its like a mini version of the state fair. There's flowers, food, elephants (yep, inside the temple with cool face painting AND they give rides), souvenirs, all types of people and its a festive atmosphere. Fun stuff!
The hotel we stayed at had equal draw for the kids. Besides chocolate donuts on the breakfast buffet and a pool (always my kids favorite parts of vacation), this place had peacocks. Not just wild, catch a glimpse in the forest peacocks, but big, huge, confident peacocks. We woke up the 1st morning to one sunning himself on our terrace, for over 15 min's the kids were enthralled (he finally flew away after they made so much commotion). You can also feed the peacocks every morning and evening. So Saturday evening found us feeding peanuts to the peacocks. I had one of those surreal moments when I realized how cool this experience is for my kids. When we were kids, our parents/grandparents would take us to the lake/pond/river park to feed the ducks old bread. We thought that was too cool. My kids wont have those memories (yet) instead they'll remember the time we fed the peacocks peanuts. Same thing, different country/culture, but it still translates.
The pool was also a big draw even though it was cool out. The kids found a frog, well a toad, in the pool and Dad was the hero when he got it out. Jimmy and Kay enjoyed the pool while Billy caught up on the local news. The boys were very interested in the bombs and explosions that we going on in Bangalore.
Sunday we had coffee with Ajay and Shiv as they headed off to continue their vacation and we had a leisurely breakfast and then headed back to Bangalore. Madurai is differently worth a visit if you are ever in Tamil Nadu!