After the craziness of Chennai, there is no better place to kick back and chill than Mamallapurnam, Tamil Nadu. After I suffered one of my many meltdowns in Chennai and with the help of a more experienced traveller, I made the 60km bus journey to this most beautiful Indian coastal town.
Overlooking the Bay of Bengal, Mahabalipurnam (its correct name) was an important trading post and home of the diplomatic missions to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. The stunning archaeology shows Roman, Chinese and Indian influences from a number of dynasties and their various deities are reflected in the stone carvings.
As I was there out of season accommodation was plentiful and cheap. If you commit to staying for a set period you’ll have money knocked off. The main town is host to dozens of amazing restaurants serving traditional Indian and global cuisine. You can eat in a new place every evening and never get bored. The tradesmen and stall holders seem to be super chilled; I was only hassled a little and it was all good natured.
Mahabalipurnam boasts several kilometres of golden sandy beach. There is nothing better than sitting back on the sand dunes and watching the brightly coloured fishing boats go out to sea or returning in the evening with their catch.
However its biggest claim to fame is the elaborate stone carvings that surround the town. Hewn directly out of the rock, the surrounding area is littered with carved stone deities, cave temples and monoliths. Displaying elements of Buddhist, Chinese and Dravidian architecture these sculptures are not to be missed.
(Sleeping Vishnu carving)
It is no surprise that some of the structures have been given UNESCO World Heritage status.
(They tried and failed to move this boulder with 7 elephants)
It is well worth paying one of the local guides to show you around. My guide was a university graduate whose restaurant business had gone bust due to an army of mosquitoes invading during peak season. Now he offered tours. I think he may hold the world record for number of beedies smoked in two hours.
Also, please do take the time to see the Shore Temple, a world heritage site that was almost lost when the tsunami hit.
(The UNESCO protected shore temple)
An amazing place where I made many a fond memory.