We couch surfed in Madurai for 2 days with a guy who let us stay at his guesthouse even though he wasn’t there to meet us. I’ve come across surfers like this before in my travels but this was a little bit different because not only did we have a place to stay without the host, but we also got full use of his personal driver! It was the real royal Indian experience.
At first David and I felt quite uncomfortable with people addressing us as ‘sirs’ and ‘madams’ but sightseeing Madurai in an A/C car was definitely something we got used to. After being treated like royalty in Allepey, it felt just as good to let the trend continue even though at moments we did feel guilty for feeling so spoiled.
The downside of having someone take you around from your doorstep is that you don’t really get to experience the city, to know where things are and have the cultural experience amidst the local crowd. Although we did get to experience the upper class cultural experience of having more touts approach us as we stepped out of the car, as well as the surprising gasps when I spoke in Tamil.
Madurai is known as the city of temples and is one of the oldest cities in India. The main temple is what everyone comes here for and it is a beautiful labyrinth of statues. The city is centered around the Meenakshi Amman temple and its as lively as ever. Organized Chaos took on a whole new meaning in Madurai as we watched life go crazy from the inside of our car. To add to the mix of cars, trucks, autos, bikes, and scooters there were also ox carts pulling goods, rickshaws, more cows and goats, sometimes monkeys near temples and dogs. In the midst of all this chaos I was grateful to be sitting in a car with a driver who knew what he was doing. It also makes sense why people have drivers if they can afford it.
The amusing thing is that there is never an accident! Everyone knows what they are doing and take extra care in avoiding it which makes life a teeny bit more efficient.
Our day in Madurai was pretty chaotic. We visited 3 temples (Alagar Kovil which is a few kms away from Madurai, a lot smaller but old and beautiful) followed by a palace (which was under construction so it made no sense as to why it was open), then did some much needed shopping since I was in dire need of some cultural clothing. Tailors are in every corner so prices are very cheap. It was actually pretty overwhelming and I feel the need to return to Madurai just for the shopping.