Women in colorful saris filled the street. The men wore cloth wrapped around their midsections and nothing else. Horizontal stripes of paint in red and white, representing the god Shiva, lined their foreheads. Above me towered the medieval Hindu temple that had attracted the crowd. As my family weaved in and out of the throngs of devoted Hindus, I realized that we all had huge smiles on our faces. Our travel smiles were back!
After 7 months of travel, including a month in Sri Lanka which we found a bit boring, we wondered if travel weariness was affecting our ability to appreciate our new experiences.
But Madurai, India made us feel the excitement that attracted us to want to travel long term in the first place.
Rand was worried that India would be too intense for the girls and me, but we loved it. Madurai was exactly how I expected India be: dirt roads covered in garbage; noisy, crowded, colorful streets; cows roaming freely.
The people gathered in and around the massive Hindu temple were as fascinating as the temple itself. And the temple was pretty amazing with its huge towers covered in intricate sculptures.
We toured the temple one day after being tricked into thinking the girls and I had to wear scarves. A shopkeeper offered to lend us scarves for “free.” Instead we went back to our hotel room to retrieve our own scarves, but inside found no other westerners were wearing scarves.
We also avoided the touts encouraging us to come into their shop to see the roof top views.
At the temple we hired a guide. Often we prefer to wander around sights on our own, but we were glad to have a guide this time. Our guide, Raj, was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot about Hinduism.
We spent our evenings in Madurai at roof top restaurants, enjoying the view and our first tastes of Indian food in India.
Madurai was a great city to begin our travels in India.