One of the best ways to discover a new place is to hop on a bicycle. It lets you see things at your own pace, you can get off to take as many pictures as you want, and parking is a breeze. Our recent bicycle discovery took us to the ancient Pallava town of Mamallapuram (or Mahabalipuram as it’s also known), about 60 kilometers south of Chennai. Cruising down the OMR is a real pleasure and reminds us of the beauty of the countryside. The road is flanked by fields and has a calming effect on our senses. We’re soon at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay. The first thing that strikes me is how well this resort has adapted itself to the natural environment. It’s green everywhere you look, and the walk to the beach is filled with nature inspired décor. After a hearty late lunch at Water’s Edge Café, we’re off to discover the jewels of the town. The manager tells us it might be a bit hot, but we’re too excited to let that stop us! The best time to go however is early in the morning. Speak to the staff the previous night to make arrangements for you and your family.
There are a number of trails to choose from, and we pick the Bicycle Temple Trail. We’re given our safety gear and feel like school children going off on a picnic as the staff has packed us water, juice, muffins and yoghurt.
First Stop – Potter Town
Though this is part of the Auto Trail, we decide to cycle to the village of Poonjeri. On our left is the incomplete Pindari Ratha and then we’re cycling over Buckingham Canal. The potter’s home is surrounded by clay, a potter’s wheel and many, many terracotta pots. He demonstrates for us and I give it a go only to create what can be best described as “abstract art”. His wife sits by hand-painting them for an upcoming wedding.
The Sculptor’s Workshop
The seasoned sculptor is the personification of “cool”. His hair is in a man-bun and he’s wearing chinos. He takes us through his workshop that employs tens of craftsmen who painstakingly carve through hard granite to produce stunning results. Most are to be exported around the world, some are commissioned pieces from museums. He’s also got a small shed where he experiments with more contemporary styles.
The Seashell Museum
We pop into the seashell museum for a quick tour of the largest number of shells I have ever seen in one place! It’s a dazzling array of colours and shapes, bringing to light how complex and gorgeous the oceans really are.
We then head to the main town to enjoy the 5 Rathas, Arjuna’s Penance, Krishna’s Butterball, and The Shore Temple. The UNESCO World Heritage structures are an experience of a lifetime – monolithic monuments with rich background stories. It makes us think of the expertise the Pallavas must have possessed. It would certainly take an intelligent group of artisans to create the bas-reliefs and temples without power tools!
Guests staying at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay can pick from walking tours, bicycle trails, auto trails, deep sea fishing/diving, and face-to-face with crocs with an opportunity to learn about crocs and venomous snakes! Talk to the staff for information on leisurely or longer tours as well.The trails start at Rs. 1250 per person and include refreshment as well as a guide from the resort. For details and to book your trails, call 044 2744 3636.