RTW TRIP THIRUVANNAMALAI, INDIA DAY 125 -126: MEETING PILGIMS AND CATCHING A GREAT VIEW
When we arrived, we were hot and tired and not in the mood to look for lodging. The first choice in the Lonely Planet wasn’t available. We looked at several other places, a few that even had squat toilets or no showering facilities at all. I knew that a lot of these places were occupied by pilgrimages, and were really basic… but I was afraid it was too basic for me.
We ended up staying at Swati Sri Lodge, a large and basic place that was cheap and roomy. After looking at the first few super basic places, all I wanted was a place that had a shower and a basic Western toilet. Swati Sri Lodge fit the bill, although I can’t say the cleanliness level was up to what I had wanted. To be on the safe side, I slept on the bed with a large scarf on the bed, with my pillow encased in a giant ziploc bag, with another scarf on top of that.
What we DID have, was a little deck, a TV where we could watch the ever brainwashing Gaana commercial over and over again, and episodes of the bratty monkeys on the National Geographic show called Monkey Thieves.
There are several tourists in Thiruvannamalai, many who are staying at a nearby ashram. Because of all the tourists that come to the ashram, there are a good number of restaurants in this town. By far, our favorite was German Bakery. We had to wait a bit to get a seat, as this place was clearly popular with all foreigners in town, but it is definitely worth the wait. Everything looked delicious, and their pastas were tasty. This place is busy for a reason!
Our other favorite for lunch was a restaurant right around the corner from Arunachala Temple called Abirami Hotel. Come sit in this dark, yet air-conditioned place for excellent thalis.
When visiting Thiruvannamalai, one should obviously visit Arunachala Temple and see a pooja, or the process of worshipping God with a pure mind and heart. If you go inside the temple, you may be lucky enough to see a ceremony where there is a fire fueled with ghee, and some men doing a spiritual prayer. Someone may also put a chalk imprint on your forehead when you walk through to watch the ceremony. I had no idea what I was doing, but they were very welcoming.
We also followed a friendly local who guided us to a silent ashram meditation place, complete with a great view of the city from the temple. We thought him and his wife and their two dogs were trying to guide us here for money, so when we handed money to him for a tip, we were pleasantly surprised to see that he handed it back to us. I think they just really wanted to show us the view and the ashram. Ultimately, we felt awful for trying to give him money when he was just being nice.
A highlight of Thiruvannamalai was surprisingly just walking around the residential neighborhoods where we were able to interact with locals up close. You can see small shops, cozy homes, kids coming home from school, women playing games, and men working with their animals. Everyone was extremely friendly and curious to see the final product when taking their photograph.
Costs for Day 125:
Temple shoes 4
The best thali ever at Arthy Restaurant 210
Rickshaw to new bus station for Thiruvannamalai 55
Bus from Vellore to Thiruvannamalai 98
Rickshaw from bus station to Thiruvannamalai hotel 50
Swati Sri Lodge 600
Tuktuk to Manna Cafe 50
Manna Cafe lime soda, chai tea, spaghetti, soy cutlet, fries 370
Toilet paper and chips 47
Tuktuk from Manna Cafe to Swathi Lodge 50
Total cost for Day 125: 1584 rupees / 2 = $12.48 per person
Costs for Day 126:
Swathi Lodge 600
Arunachala temple pooja 20
Abbirami AC restaurant 2 veg thali and water 230
Shortest rickshaw ride to Shanti Cafe 40
Shanti Cafe Masala Chai tea, green tea 65
German Bakery 2 pastas, brownie, water, lime soda 460
Tuktuk back to Swathi Lodge 50
Bananas from Swami 21 (free banana for a total of 8!)
Total cost for Day 126: 1492 rupees / 2 = $11.75 per person
What I learned: Keep your windows and balcony doors closed when you are sleeping in India. I had a rather frightening experience waking up with a monkey on my bed!
Actual dates of travel: Jan. 6-7, 2015