Today we drove out of Bhubaneswar about
40 miles to visit the 14th-century Sun Temple called Konark. We
then returned and flew to Chennai (Madras) and arrived at our newest
destination. We had indian food at the hotel buffet, which was
pretty good and spicy. Immodium is your friend.
But before we get to the story of the day, I want to expound on a few
notes I've taken during this trip. Why today? Because I
just ate and feel like typing, that's why. If you want to skip
the exposition click here to go to the Konark story
Ok, here goes:
. For the first
time in many a year, most of the hotels we have stayed at have not had
clocks, clock radios, or clocks on the TV. Did someone pass some
law preventing us from knowing what time it is? It's not like
they're selling watches downstairs and got rid of the clocks to improve
their sales ratio. So far, only one out of six hotels has had
timepieces of some sort. What gives? The hotel I'm in today
I know DID have them because I have pictures from before, but now - no
clock. What's up with that?
OK, you can
tell I don't need a hair dryer too bad, but a little schvitz in the
morning is not a bad thing. Having a hair dryer used to be a
given, especially for those catering to westerners and calling
themselves 4 or 5-star hotels. Well, out of the six hotels, only
3 have had them. Neither in China did, the Four Seasons in
Bangkok had one in a nice cloth bag, but there wasn't one in Bombay at
the Sheraton Towers. It can't be a safety thing, because they're
more than willing to give you an open-coil pot to put water in and
electrocute yourself. What gives?
Turn Down Service.
know how it goes - you're at the office all day, you have 30 minutes
before your next gala dinner and want to close your eyes for a little
bit. Just as you get settled on the bed, "knock knock" Turn down
service guys show up to put slippers on the floor and turn down the
sheets. For a tip of course. Is life that hard that you
can't turn down your own sheets? No one in the 'States wants to
turn down my sheets, but so far 6 out of 6 have interrupted my few
minutes of peace to ask me to get up, open the door, and say "no
have noted the, um, erratic posting pattern, which has primarily been
driven by available internet access. It's 2007 - if I'm paying
$300 a night can't you toss in some decent access? Why do I have
to pay $15 for slow and unreliable wireless, if it's available at
all? Hoteliers, get with the program. Internet should be
included in hotels tailored to business travelers. 'Nuff said.
If you're from
the US, you don't want to drive in China, India, Bangkok, or many other
countries in the world. Frankly, you're not a good enough driver
to not kill yourself and dozens around you. That's why for a
reasonable price, you can get a driver and car provided so that rather
than being a menace, you can spend your time in the back seat, head in
hands, praying to whatever higher power you believe in to protect you
from the hundreds of near-misses per mile. But the system works
out pretty well. The way they organize it is the driver pulls up,
tells them who they're calling for, and gives the hotel the unique
numbers in the license plate. The coordinator then calls you, and
the driver goes somewhere to park, like an underground garage or
somewhere further away. When you arrive, you tell them your name
and they page the driver via PA or cell phone, who then picks you
up. It's simple but works out nicely. Recommended.
Just remember the peril-sensitive sunglasses.
That's enough for now, more as time permits. Now back to our
show, which is already in progress...
Today we visited Konark, an incredible World Heritage site. The
site is aligned with the sun to shine at a particular point inside the
temple on a particular day of the year. It also used to have a
couple of lodestones that were magnetic that had some apparently
unusual properties. You can read about it on Wikipedia, I'm sure.
Parents, please note that further
down on this page there are some images of some sculptures at Konark
that you may not want to show your children. You have been warned.
Konark is about 40 miles away from Bhubaneswar and took 90 minutes to
get there. This area is much more rural, less populated, and less
trafficked than the other areas of India we've been. There's lots
of thatched-roof cottages and rice paddies along the way.
Some towns have established their own toll booths along the route.
Chickens, goats, sheep, cows, dogs, and oxen abound.
At the temple we hired a guide (200 Rupees for a couple of hours) and
he gave us the grand tour. The temple was originally right on the
water, but the water receded over the years and is now more than a mile
away. The stone walkway is new.
There's a front section which was used for dances, and the large
conical section in the back which is the temple itself.
Here you can see the lower, flatter dance area.
This is an image of a lion dominating an elephant which is dominating
Man. It represents how power and wealth have kept Man down.
The temple is intricately carved in three layers - the bottom which is
mostly animals, is intended to represent nice things for children. The
middle section, which is mostly images of people, and mostly
bare-breasted women, is about the things adults have to deal with -
we'll just call it "family life". Above those, are green granite
statutes of various gods which represent the spiritual journey taken by
people on their death. Heavy stuff. But here's some
pictures of the carvings to give you an idea how they look. Very
detailed work, somewhat weather worn but you can see the 12-year effort
Here we are on the dance platform, and the separation from the main
temple is apparent.
This is a green granite stone, that if you hit it sounds musical. It's
carved out of one piece of stone, which is much harder than the
sandstone most of the temple is made of. The gods images are made
from this same kind of stone, and each is also in a single piece.
The height of the temple can be seen here.
The basic organization of the temple is that of a 24-wheeled chariot
pulled by 7 horses. Most of the horses are damaged but this one
is mostly intact. Nice work.
The wheels are not only used to appear as chariot wheels but are also
sundials. Here he's showing how if you put your finger on the
center of the axle, you can see how the wheel can tell time to within 3
minutes. He was right.
The guide said that when the temple was being carved, many people were
leaving the kingdom to become monks, and thus not have children. In an
effort to encourage people to be in families, much of the temple is
intended to, shall we say, stir the loins. Here's a husband wit
The big overview plaque.
At the top of a steep and not-so-safe climb we arrive at one of the
incarnations of Shiva (I think). The arms are not there but the
rest is, and it's a beautifully executed piece of carving.
More family life.
The main doorway to the temple, carved out of a single stone.
With that we returned to the city. I took a picture of this sign,
because frankly, I'm not sure what it's trying to say.
The return trip was a bit longer due to more traffic.
Here's the main courtyard of the Trident Hilton Bhubaneswar where we
stayed. A nice enough hotel.
But then it was time for our next stop, so we'll see you soon from