When I first touched down in Madurai, back in 2005, it was safe to say I wasnt overly impressed. Thats not a reflection on Maduari itself, but the volunteer project i’d signed up to do was a definate slow burner. I’d just come from Sri Lanka where i’d had the most amazing 6 weeks coaching footy, but footy coaching in India took almost 2 weeks to get going. I wasnt best pleased, I even wrote a pretty stoppy post on my STA travel blog. It makes me cringe a little reading it back now, but it was how I felt at the time, so I am relucant to change it.
Anyway, but with no one to coach of the ways of the one they call football (not soccer), I was left with little else to do but either sit around sweating, or take a look around my new home.
Madurai itself was pretty much exactly how I expected it to be, BUSY! But thats not to say it wasnt also beautiful. Maybe I didnt appreciate it enough at the time, but now i’m older and potentially a tiny bit wiser I can appreciate that I was lucky to spend some tome there. The main temple was gigantic and utterly stunning from the outside and just as amazing once you got within the walls. The temple was so utterly stunning I was even able to forgive the temple of 1000 pillars only having something like 997 pillars.
Out on the streets the usual tuk tuk battles took place along side horse & cart bringing fresh food to the markets. Inside the markets we had our favourite tailor who would create all manner of garments for us for very little cost. Some of the other stalls were fancinating and the smells of incense a welcome change to the smell of gas and petrol from the roads.
One of our favourite places in Madurai was a little bar we found called Apollo 96. Dont get me wrong, we werent in there every night, but on the odd occasion, usually to celebrate someones birthday we would enter the starship enterprize themed bar. It was like being on the set of a Star Trek episode. I’m not a huge Star Trek fan, but I could easily appreciate the novelty aspect of drinking in this particular bar. The crowd in there were usually good banter too … although the large bottles of extra strong kingfisher probably helped their mood.
All in all I would like to go back to Madurai. As mentioned, now a little older and not so stroppy I think i’d appreciate it a little more. From what i’ve read the SE of India is not the most well travelled part of the country, but if you have the time I would recommend you make the effort.
*these photos are scans from my print outs. Please excuse the rough edges.