I came to Mahaballipuram, as it was then known, in 1989. At that time, it was a dusty little village with no paved roads, about 5 houses (it seemed), a guesthouse or two and a restaurant. Man, has it changed. It's now a travellers mecca with millions of shops, hawkers, tarmac, beachside restaurants, westerners in skimpy clothing and a swimming pool. I was gobsmacked and bored every one rigid about the good old days when you could wander undisturbed around the shore temple without anyone trying to sell you an elephant carved from soapstone or a pair of comedically baggy trousers.
A group of 12 or so of us international workers went for the weekend last week, mainly because, sadly, Malin and Romi are leaving this week (but we get to spend one last crazy weekend in "French" Pondicherry together, which will be an interesting experience!). We hired a car to take us directly to Mama, in 2 3/4 hours, thus, for about £10.50 return, avoiding a three hour train journey followed by a 3 hour bus trip. We were embarrassingly excited to discover the in-car DVD player and made a detour via a DVD shop to get some films to watch. So, with our driver (who didn't look old enough even to buy Diwali Fireworks) we bounced, hummed and chatted our way through some classy Bollywood numbers.
We ate seafood (a lot), some of us rode scraggy horses, (not me, I didn't think they'd bear up to it), a few rode white horses of a different type as they went out on a fishing boat on a sea that looked pretty rough to me. And I. Well, I spent a long time lounging by and swimming in the lovely swimming pool which had a view of the beach. As you can see from the photo, having a view is the best way to experience the beach as there is stiff competition for towel space from fishing boats, cows, rubbish and the occasional Indian Mr Whippy.
At the pool, I finally managed to slightly reduce my builder's tan of brown flipflop marked feet (thanks Robert) brown forearms and forehead and a round brown semicircle below my neck on my back, with the remaining portions of skin being luminous white. Now there is a faint beige tinge on my legs and a less abrupt delineation on my arms. I am hoping at Pondy I can capitalise on my gains.