Friday 9 August 2019
The roads in Bangalore were deserted. It’s a festival day, so people are at home. Not crowding the roads! And it only took an hour to reach the airport – usually unheard of!
My flight was at 6pm to Bhubaneswar. In the state of Odisha (also called Orissa). The first time I’ve been to this state!
We landed in Bhubaneswar at 8pm. On time! The first non-delayed flight during this trip.
My hotel was about a 20 minute drive away. I had got a pre-paid taxi at the airport (which cost 350 rupees – about £4, which is relatively expensive for a short trip). Enroute, the driver started telling me that the price I had paid at the kiosk was for a small car. And what he had turned up in was a large car. So he was demanding more money. Another 200 rupees. This is all absolute rubbish. Just so frustrating that everyone try’s to rip you off or con you all the time.
By the time I arrived, it was too late for dinner. So just time for bed.
Saturday 10 August 2019
I have a driver for the day, to go to a few nearby towns! He picked me up at 8am and we headed out of the city, towards the coast.
Along the main road were lots of pilgrims – walking 120km to Puri. They were each carrying a pole, with bowls of water on each end. And no shoes. It was already over 30 degrees! There were various rest points that had sprung up at the side of the road, where the pilgrims could balance their poles and eat/sleep.
We passed through villages and rice fields. Lots of cows and goats.
At 9.30am we arrived in the town of Konark. This area is famous for the 800 year old UNESCO site – the Sun Temple.
It was expensive for me to get in – 600 rupees (£7).
The route up to the temple was completely lined by stalls selling a whole range of plastic stuff. This isn’t an active temple, so there were no temple offerings.
It was busy, lots of Indians. I was the only white person, which didn’t help the situation. Endless requests for selfies. I said yes to a few. But the problem is, as soon as you stop and someone sees you are taking a picture, they all push and crowd and before you know it, you have 20 phones in your face trying to get a picture of you. It’s not nice being surrounded with phones shoved in your face. It kept happening over and over. I just wanted a peaceful walk around, to view the temple and take photos. But the reality is, don’t stop for too long otherwise people will crowd around. I started saying no to some pictures, but people act as if you’re being most rude.
The temple is said to represent a chariot of the sun god Surya. There were once seven horses (representing the days of the week) pulling the chariot, which sits on 24 stone wheels (representing the hours of the day). It was very ornate all around.
In the grounds were lots of other temple structures and carvings – some large elephants and lions!
It was really hot. 33 degrees (phone said it ‘feels like 42’!). I was soaked from sweat.
We stopped at a fishing village in Konark. The fishermen are not allowed to go out – there’s been a ban for the past few weeks due to bad weather. And the sea was pretty wavy. So the beach was lined with boats.
It was a 40 minute drive along the coast to the next stop – Puri.
This coastline was hit by a cyclone in May 2019 (Cyclone Fani). There was extensive damage in the area – it took 2 months to restore electricity to the area. There is still a lot of flooding around and every tree is damaged.
A lot of the area is farmland. With lots of water buffalo hanging out in flooded fields!
For Hindus, Puri is one of the holiest pilgrimage places in India. In particular the Jagannath Mandir temple.
The road leading up to the temple was hectic. Cars are only allowed so far, then there is a checkpoint, beyond which only tuk tuks, motorbikes and bicycles are allowed. Market stalls lined the edge of the wide road. Bikes weaving in between the hundreds of pedestrians.
Non-Hindus are not allowed into the temple. But can view from the roof of the ‘library’ which is opposite. I’m not sure it is a library. There were very, very old bookcases with some very, very old books in them. But really it’s just a con to try and get as much money from tourists as possible.
The temple is based on Jagannath (Lord of the Universe), an incarnation of Vishnu. It was built in 1198. 20,000 people are dependent on Jagannath for their livelihood.
We got back around 2pm. I hadn’t eaten all day, so went to a snack restaurant. Despite being in north India, I got South Indian food – a paper dosa. It was rather massive! And I got some vegan Indian sweets – made from cashew and sugar.
I spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and lazing around. Too tired and hot to do anything!