My wife Carol and I spent a few days in Mamallapuram on ‘vacation’ from our retirement location, about 200 km away, in Tiruvannamalai.
This posting shows some of Mamallapuram as a beach resort and tourist town. It is most famous for its 7th century carvings. These are shown in more detail in another posting: Mamallapuram – Ancient Stone Carvings.
Mamalla Beach Resort
We stayed at the Mamalla Beach Resort, about 2 km north of Mamallapuram. Most of my life when I traveled, I always stayed at ‘low end’ places, a niche above the ‘economy’ places. Now, since costs are much lower in India, I may splurge and stay at a ‘mid price’ place. This time we did. And we enjoyed it. There are a number of other ‘beach resorts’ as well as many places to stay in the town.
To the restaurant and beach.
From our room.
Playing in the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal.
The water seemed cooler than in Pondicherry. The force of the waves and the undertow mean that this is not a good place for swimming. The water is refreshing. Both Carol and I waded into the ocean.
There is even a nice swimming pool, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
And we enjoyed the restaurant near the ocean. We could feel the ocean breeze and smell the ocean and hear the pounding of the waves against the beach.
For breakfast, they would make us fresh dosas at the grill. And an omelette if we asked. And bring Indian coffee (with lots of hot milk and sugar).
Carol in a saree.
She usually wears sarees now. And in Mamallapuram, since it is mainly a tourist town, the locals are pleased to see a western woman wearing one. She got comment after comment, “Super Saree, madam.”
“You look very beautiful, madam.” It doesn’t take a lot of those comments before Carol is again convinced this is the right way to dress!
Today she was wearing a plain one. We planned to stop in Chennai on the way home to the best Saree store we know there – Saravana Store, with an enormous selection, good help, discount pricing and in the midst of a big Aadi sale. I guess Carol just wanted to dress simply for the store trip.
The restaurant from the beach.
For many westerners, the beach is their main idea of Mamallapuram.
Walking to the beach you pass many shops and restaurants, including those who provide a stone carving experience.
For the kids …
Some brightly colored houses are here.
As well as an all-woman police station.
We enjoyed eating at the beachside places …
The vendors were pretty persistent, though. This one wants to sell us beautiful pieces of cloth.
The offered us lobster for dinner, fresh.
But we declined.
The next day, having fried calamari and a beer, we offered a place at our table, and were joined by a French couple. She was seeing about possibly opening an office in Chennai for the industrial machinery company for which she worked. They had checked out office sites, where they might be able to live and school their two children, and thinking about driving more then three hours a day through Chennai traffic. You could see by their expressions that they did not like the problems involved in getting around in Chennai. Now they were taking a few days to see some of India, and after Mamallapuram were going to the former French colony Indian city, Pondicherry.
The main beach is the only place I have seen so far where the ocean swimming is good. In other places I have seen so far, there is too much undertow, the dropoff too severe, etc. for safe swimming. Here that is not the case and we saw a number of people enjoying the ocean.
The Shore Temple is very visible from here.
Many fishing boats line the beach.
One can also arrange boat trips into the bay.
They carry the boat into the water, inserting poles into rope loops. It is a four-man job.
They hold the boat while you get in, sitting on the bottom of the boat, near the back, holding onto the side walls.
Then the boat is turned around, the motor started, and you are off, trying to bust through the waves to get out to sea.
The photos I got do not show how dramatic and exciting it was to get out through the waves. Each approach was carefully executed, with a man in the front of the boat calling out instructions, then the boat would push through the wave. After the wave would come a big slap! as the flat-bottomed boat crashed back down into the water. Sometimes this was with surprising force.
The boatman kept his eyes on the waves and the rocks, and got us out to sea. These are their fishing boats. His father before him was also a fisherman and boatman. In his day, and for maybe two thousand years before, they used oars. Now they have motors.
I think getting the boat through the waves was much more of a challenge in the days of oars.
We saw the top of a sunken temple. These were exposed more by the tsunami. They say in the olden days (1300 years ago) there were seven temples visible as one came into the harbor. Now only the two towers of the Shore Temple are visible.
I don’t know why the others are now underwater. Did the sea level increase? This makes me think about what is said to be possible with global warming. I think it is said that if Greenland’s glaciers melt, it will add ten feet to sea level. Antarctica also holds another ten feet of water. What happens to Mamallapuram (and other seaside communities around the world) with this much sea rise?
When we got out a bit, they stopped the motor and we just drifted for a while, rising and falling with the waves, the only sound was the wind, and various boat noises.
The boatman took our photo. Our clothes were wet from the sea water. This splashed in while we were getting through the waves. Also, in the foreground of this picture you can see a black slit. Sometimes water would geyser up through this slit into the boat.
And we took theirs.
Then back to shore.
We passed by the Shore Temple, seen here as a triangle among the trees.
And headed back to the beach.
Coming back to shore was much easier than getting out through the waves. Here they were like surfers, carefully catching a wave and riding all the way through the surf into the beach.
We got out, and they picked up the boat and brought it back up on the beach.
It was good be be back on land! We walked back to the road from town to the beach.
Carol stopped at a shoe stand, and ordered a new set of sandals made. While she was in the shop, I noticed this knife sharpener, busy at work. I think he would carry his pedal-operated grinding wheel from place to place, then when there were knives to sharpen, he would set up and go to work.
There are many shops for tourists, mostly selling stone carvings and loose fitting clothes and bags for westerners.
We stopped at this art gallery. Carol thought the work was interesting. Isn’t this a pretty saree she has on?
We spent three days here. This was about enough, though we did not see everything. We enjoyed the stone carvings, the beach front ambience, and the beach resort at which we stayed. We also enjoyed the ‘tourist food’ available in the many establishments near the beach.
So far this was the place most focused on the tourist of any we have visited in India. This means the street vendors, especially near the popular stone carving areas, were the most aggressive we have seen so far. We tried to say (with the few Tamil words we know), illay (no), vendam (don’t want), and nee po (you go). None of this was very effective.
From here we make a quick trip to Chennai to shop for sarees. Rajan brought his family, wife and two kids, with him, so his wife could get a couple sarees too. Then back home to Tiruvannamalai.
Related Post: Mamallapuram – Ancient Rock Carvings