Monkeying around

Posted by on 25, Feb 2024 in 2024 - An Indian Winter, Asia, India, Tilly the Tandem

Monkeying around

Moving on from Thanjavur we decided to take the main road as the small roads added too much distance between available hotels.

The advantage of this is that it’s short, the roads are generally excellent with fabulously smooth well kept tarmac and there’s lots happening along the road. As it was a Sunday (we think) there were loads of restaurants and stalls and even houses with enormous festival size speakers blaring out highly distorted Hindi music to bop along to on the way.  As you’d pass them you’d have to cringe as they were ear splitting loud.  We’ve never heard such loud music but at least you couldn’t hear all the hooting!

But we bopped along to the music, once the ears stopped bleeding and motored along toward Puddokottai.

You actually feel quite safe on the main road – there’s almost always a nice shoulder, definitely less cows, dogs and pigs to avoid and the driving all around you is entertaining in that Hollywood car chase sense. Except these aren’t scripted. But they all seem to miss each other and we arrived at Pudukkottai in one piece only to get our first puncture just after stopping to watch loads of monkeys feasting and fighting over a pile of bananas left for them or the gods at a shrine.  No idea if one of the little bilghters sneaked round the back of us and stabbed the tyre with a staple, but we had a flat moving on and had to stop to change the tube.

Naturally it was on the rear wheel, so the chain, the chain tensioner and the gear changer all have to come off to get the wheel off. But we’ve done this many times now and Team Tilly worked like a Formula 1 pit team and we were back on the road quite quickly.  At least we provided some entertainment for the monkeys whilst they had their tea!

Rolling into Pudukkottai we found a nice cafe to have some snacks and the obligatory milk shakes with a lovely breeze and in the shade.

We had to pose for photos with various customers and the staff and again, everyone is just so happy and laughing, it’s so much fun.

Just as we had finished our round of photos and chatting to locals a young guy who spoke no English came up to me and thrust his phone at me with an ongoing call.  I said hello and it was the local press.  We’d only been there for about 10 minutes and we’d been spotted! Now we know what Harry and Megan feel like… ! We answered the usual questions and then finished our milkshakes to head on to our next photo op.

They love milk shakes here, another plus point in my book, but they seem to prefer 6% fat milk as the norm which is rather like drinking cream.  But as we are living on lime sodas, water and soda water all day they are very welcome, and I’m sure the energy boost is good too.

For some reason the milk comes in plastic pillow shaped pouches that I’ve found impossible to open without milk going all over the place.  The Indians do love their plastic despite the numerous public education signs about less plastic pollution .

In fact the piles of rubbish have been enormous in places and you see dogs, cows pigs, goats and people all combing these piles of rubbish for food.

In some places the rubbish is burnt at the side of the road and we think in others it may be collected occasionally. But it’s often right next to the rivers, streams irrigation channels and lakes. Or even in them.

But the government are trying to change people’s behaviour.  Public education signs dot the highways – we think they are designed by people on sabbatical from doing cracker jokes.  They have to rhyme, be a short and a bit corny. They cover everything – drink driving, using your mobile phone, speeding, overtaking being polite, considerate, rubbish etc. They seem to have no affect on the driving though, or if they do I’d hate to have seen it before they put the signs up!

Passing a bike shop on route to our next hotel we picked up a spare tyre tube. The hotel was another modern one and there are always dozens of staff everywhere, usually two or three guys outside, sometimes there’s bellboys and others we don’t really know. Security perhaps?  Anyway, we checked in to the ‘Grande’  and it lived up to its name – It was full of marble, had underground parking, large halls and a living wall stretching two floors (obviously filled with plastic plants!) But once you look more closely the build quality of many of these newish hotels is very poor. 

Welcome flower bowl at The Grande

Most have also had only single glazing, presumably to so you can listen to the hooting  all night, because though it does decrease, it doesn’t stop. Even at 2am vehicles will hoot their way down the street.  Our earplugs are a god send.

The room arrival game we play is light switch lottery!  The record so far is 13 light switches for 4 bulbs and in this particular hotel we had numerous switches and the added bonus of  the windows not fitting properly.  When closed you could put a pencil through the edges of the opening section.

But the rooms are always clean and comfy with lovely staff and the restaurants are usually pretty good too.

Not far off our destination the next day we got another puncture.. 2 in 2 days..! so decided to take no chances and change the tyre as well, aided by a swarm of mosquitos..

Puncture no 2…

Back up and running we turned off our route to visit Chettinad, a small village with streets lined with grand homes from 1840 to 1950, many now in some state of disrepair.  The main attraction is the Palace, which according to our guidebook was open daily, but in fact was closed to the public unless you knew the owners.

Chettinad Palace.
Abandoned Chettinad Villa

So we visited some of the other houses instead. These all had internal courtyards like Roman villas and were very ornate inside, using the most expensive internal decorations possibly in a oneupmanship competition with the other houses. Italian marble, English tiles, Teak and other expensive imports littered the interiors.

The outsides were a festival of colours, balustrades and carvings, most of which had now faded and broken.

A couple of the houses were being refurbished and this town could be one of the most magnificent displays of Indian architecture in the country if the others get done up too.  But India is full of build and forget projects. Maintenance seems to not be high on their list of priorities.

Restored villas
Meet the locals….

Our hotel had arranged dinner in one of these mansions – which was incredible – and when we sat down the waiter asked us if we wanted.. a beer! Holy Moley.. we’d died and gone to heaven – he lost both hands!.. So an ice cold Kingfisher and a curry rounded off the day, though the curry wasn’t actually up to the normal exceptional standards we’ve had so far, but the setting made up for that..


  1. Another great installment, guys… so atmospheric…shame about the Ps .. but good move to change tyre!

  2. So many memories you are bringing back to us ????

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