At breakfast, the room of the restaurant is empty, as well as the plates. We feel like asking for the moon when we ask for toasts. We decide to give up, leave and buy biscuits somewhere. Well, yes, except that the car will be 30 minutes late. The guy at the reception sends us back to breakfast where by magic food has appeared! We stuff ourselves with parathas and potatoes!
We then visit the Sun Temple of Konark, a massive charriot with 24 giant wheels. An enormous stone temple which dates from the 11th century, partly renovated, full of erotic sculptures from the tantric period (soon a post on this).
Small digression on one of the Indian paradoxes: they worship penises (the lingam of Shiva), a lot of temples are adorned of sculptures with sexual character but the smallest hint of a tit on TV and the image is blurred and the sex is a huge taboo. A heritage of the English according to my Indian friends; in my opinion it started changing well well before the British time, and the Arab invasions starting in the 8th century also played a part - and I am not the only one to think that! see here). And here are the Indians somehow stuck between thousands year old tradition and “modernity”. Just saying…
The complex of the temple was superb, not only the architecture (see here: A) but the gardens, and we enjoyed it big time in spite of the heat and the Indians who stopped us every 30 seconds (I do not exaggerate) to take a picture of/with us. A little annoying after some time…
Small stop at the beach on the way back. Virgin beach as soon as one moves away a little. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and quiet beach that I have seen in India.
|De Konark, Orissa - Nov 2011|
Lunch at 3:30 in the only open restaurant. “Open all the day”. The waiter brings us the menu and lets us lose ourselves in it. And then at the time of the order (some 10 minutes later), there is only “fried rice”. Normal. And a chai? No? Good… He finally takes his fingers out of his a.. to prepare me a tea!!
After that it is superb! There is an incredible crowd on the beach. The tradition in this auspicious day (Kartik Purnima) is to send small boats to the sea, in commemoration of the close relatives who left in this day to Java, Sumatra, Bali (from where the name of Bali Yatra or Boita Bandana). Many people come to the beach for that, including tribal Indians, the old women not wearing a blouse under their saris etc. What a piety!
A superb experience thus, especially with the puja (ceremony) on the beach at 18:30 where the Hindus get purified by fire. Many people took pictures of us but it was only fair as we did the same!
The next morning, on the advice of the guy at the hotel, we decide to go to Jagannath temple at 5 in the morning, the “best time” according to him. We are excited: it is an important place of pilgrimage, apparently a site that Hindus should visit at least once in their life!
How surprised we are when we discover, at the entry number one, that only Hindus are authorized to enter!! But how??? It was written nowhere on the site of tourism of Orissa!!
I jabber a bit of Hindi and the guard sends me to the “identification office”.
In the most total chaos of pilgrims, cows etc, we turn around this immense temple, with guys following us all along.
At the last entry, it seems that we will be able to enter. A so-called priest with a loincloth and only one tooth begins to talk to us. I leave shoes, camera and cellphone (all of this is prohibited) to my friends and go to try my luck with these guards.Nothingl. When I go back to my friends, I am a bit irritated (I respect; but I would have found nice if the guy at the hotel or the rickshaw had informed me; it is 5 in the morning for the love of God!!). The priest is still there pestering them. He wants to sell offerings for the God we won’t be able to see. It pisses me off!! I ask him to leave us. The fellow understands that his pathetic strategy to get money from us has failed and gets upset: “You are Christians? HERETICS!! Go back to your country. ”
Mmmmhhhhh. Mmmmmhhhhhhh. And YOU WANT MY FIST ON YOUR FACE @fod,ezi#[|éfr€ioz@] ?? (I did not say that, it is not very politically correct, and he was old and skinny, and above all I could not the words, but it gives an idea of the atmosphere on that early morning with people annoying tourists at any hour…)
It reminds me of the situation Christian-Hindus is tended a little in Orissa, and apparently, this is not a joke.
But not regrets, it was awesome to see all the pilgrims and the fishermen when we got back to the beach.
This time, the taxi to the airport was there one hour early. The boy comes to seek me on the beach for me to announce it and I indicate to him that I want to take my breakfast first. He asks me what I want. Just toasts. 30 minutes later, we are in the restaurant room. And 20 minutes later, nothing. Nothing at all. I call the boy, inquire where the toasts are. He looks at me with empty eyes and asks “what toasts?”. Holy cow…
|Puri, Orissa - Nov 2011|
Retrospectively, first words of Lonely Planet on Orissa: it is very laid-back.
Ah! That it is the least you can say!! No stress there…
I learned my lesson: to avoid bad surprises next time, I will take the Lonely Planet, no matter its weight, and I will know that the following temples are for Hindus only:
· Jagannath Temple of Puri (Orissa) and Lingaraja in Bhubaneshwar (Orissa)
· Golden Temple of Vishwanath in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)
· Temple of Guruvayoor in Guruvayoor (Kerala)
· Temple of Trimbakeshwar close to Nashik (Maharashtra)
· Temple of Balaji in Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) – but apparently people from abroad have already entered there.
Apparently an American tourist succeeded in melting down in the crowd and entering the temple in 2010. She was arrested and she must have had a good time!! (Source: http://www.eturbonews.com/20247/us-tourist-arrested-india-entering-jagannath-temple)
More details on tourism in Orissa, Puri area: here
I recently did a mini-break in Orissa.
Orissa, and more precisely Puri, is there:
Immediate question when I speak about this trip (to Indians and others): “But why there?? Why Orissa??“
I was looking for a place to visit with my friends, with a big time constraint – which doesn’t really help in India.
I had posed a first option on Bundi, in Rajasthan. Super pastoral. But that implied one night of train + one hour of car to go there and 3 hours of train + a plane to return. And then while doing some research I found out that we would miss the local festival by only a few days. But that we could attend the festival of Puri, in Orissa. It is a sacred city in India and there is a festival! No need to say no more. And it is also easily accessible by plane and not too expensive. Done!!
We arrive at the mini airport of Bhubaneshwar. How nice to be able to walk from the plane to the terminal!! We find a car without a problem for Puri (one and half hour from there). It is dark outside and we can’t see anything. On the other hand our ears take load. Loud Indian music and the driver is hooked to the horn. Never seen (or rather heard) that. Really. And surprisingly our 2 other drivers during the trip, same thing!!
We arrive at the hotel. I succeeded in taking the last one on the beach, so far from the other hotels that the driver believed it did not exist! There is no roof, the 4th floor is in construction and obviously the work has been stopped. The restaurant is in the basement, “nicely” decorated with plastic flowers. There is no one… Guys constantly pass half naked (apparently the restaurant is between the staff quarters and the shower). The roasted fish is good but the chicken is not well unfrozen. I have to point it out. Answer of the waiter - which honestly did not express anything (the absolute vacuum): “it is the AC”. Good Lord. The food is not cooked and he talks to me about the AC! Good luck…
The night goes by, with crackers and other backfires…