Happy People

Posted by on 17, Feb 2024 in 2024 - An Indian Winter, Asia, India, Tilly the Tandem

Happy People
Sacred Pond
Sacred Pond
Temple entrance
Cerimonial Chariot in Kumbakonam
Another Cerimonial Chariot..

Our day off in Kumbakonam saw us visiting more temples and the grand pond.  This either enormous pond or small lake is the centre piece of a 12 yearly festival where 12000 people bathe in it at once. It’s a very impressive lake and is surrounded by steps for easy access, but fenced off for most of the time so you can’t get into the holy waters easily.  Although some thinner than us folks squeezed through the fencing for a dip.

We have had a fair amount of Indian food so far, and our stomachs were still not quite right so we headed to the London Grill and Shake for dinner and comfort food.  Sadly the restaurants sister restaurants in the UK had closed after COVID, so it should really just be called the Grill and Shake, but it tempted us in and the food was great and thankfully it was air conditioned too.

We are now well inland and the temperature has risen by around 5C, which is a lot when cycling.  We’ve been fortunate though in that most days it’s been a bit overcast and combining that with a dawn start has meant we normally (with one exception so far) haven’t been dry roasted by the time we get to our detination.

Our ride out from Kumbakonam was again on lovely quiet backroads, by the rivers and canals and eventually down a road that turned into a mud track.  The locals turned us around and showed us a diversion with much gesticulating and we carried on only to end up in a village where they stopped us and told us the road was blocked further on.

The whole village then appeared whilst the best English speaker explained the situation.  There was so much laughter and waving that the u turn was worth it with the villagers waving us off with huge grins on their faces.

The young English speaker had a small child with him and we gave the boy a small red London double decker bus key ring as a thank you. I’m not sure they have keys to their homes as they don’t seem to have doors sometimes but he beamed and will undoubtedly have had the rest of the village kids coming to examine it later.  These moments are the best thing in cycle touring – going wrong, finding wonderfully kind and helpful locals, and getting set back on the right path again. Brilliant.

We have now learnt that level crossings are the most dangerous place to be when a train is coming.  The gates close and the build up of vehicles, mainly motorbikes, is horrendous.  Both sides of the crossing fill the whole road – there’s no room left for the oncoming traffic and tuck tucks  squeeze to the front pushing and shoving.

Then the barrier goes up and it’s all non stop hooting and revving and no one moves. Then a few bikes get through a tuk tuk brakes the lines and everyone starts to weave between the other traffic in utter bedlam.  We just stop and wait at the side of the road until they’ve all gone and laugh.

Awaiting the bedlam when the barriers go up.

We’ve not seen any tourers up to now but bumped into a French family on their way to Chennai from Nepal on 4 bikes and then about 10 minutes later a German couple on their way to meet their son in Japan.  What Fab-u-lous trips!  The locals must have wondered what was going on with all these cycle tourers going past! We’re like London buses these days…

French family on long tour through
India & Sri Llanka

One of the most amazing things we’ve seen so far, isn’t in fact the temples, it’s the women riding side saddle on the back of a motorbike, not holding on, in flip flops, without a care in the world as the bike swerves all over the place. Sometimes they’ll be holding the shopping, sometimes on their phones and sometimes holding a child or baby or all 3.

They always turn to wave and beam at us whilst managing not to lose a flip flop dangling from their feet.  They don’t even seem bothered by the numerous speed ramps or pot holes.  If there was an Olympic sport for this India would clean up!

Which brings me nicely on to rubbish.  It’s odd, Chennai was filthy in many places, but as we’ve got further away the piles of rubbish seem much less and coming into Thanjavur it looks tidier than most western cities.  The variation in the rubbish is quite extraordinary.

Our hotel here is very nice! And when I asked for some ice for our cool bag they brought me a fridge!  That’s some serious effort to get a tip, well played!

But the the Indians don’t actually  like cold drinks much. They believe they aren’t good for you, so our last hotel didn’t even have a freezer in the kitchen. But we like to set off with our cool bag stocked with a couple of frozen bottles of water and some other drinks.  There really is nothing like being able to guzzle an ice cold drink in the middle of nowhere when you’re gasping. And it’s not as if many of the stalls have cold drinks either.  Some do, almost all dont, certainly in the more remote areas we are in now and even if they do, they will only have very very sweet drinks.

The temple at Thanjavur is a UNESCO site, locally known as The Big Temple….it’s huge and very impressive and also heaving.  We were the only westerners on our own wandering around with a couple of western tour groups with a guide.

The Big Temple

We love the fact that the locals don’t mind you being there, they show you where to go (or not to go), beam at you and wave.  Linda helped a lady down some steps and everyone around was laughing and smiling. It’s quite unlike any religious site we’ve been to before.  We loved the temple buildings, but the inner sanctum area was dark and dull by comparison. More like a bunker than some of the smaller highly decorated temples we’ve  visited so far. 

But we sat on the clositers floor and gazed at this wondrous place, obviously doing numerous photos with locals every few minutes where there’s even more laughter and smiling. They really are the happiest people, or perhaps they just find us incredibly funny!!

Thanjavur Palace

The Palace here is also a must see – but it was quite a let down after the temple.  The Main Hall was fabulous and that was about it.  The highlight for us again was the school kids.  There were loads of school parties – all in uniforms, well organised and they all wanted to shake our hands, ask us our names and say the ubiquitous “How are you” .  I’ve never seen such happy children, they left a far better impression on us than the Palace!


  1. The smiles come across in the blog – obviously very happy people.
    Mind you, I’m surprised you didn’t try to take the actual fridge with you on Tilly. Sure, no one would have noticed! ????

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