Well, its no beautiful beach town, in fact, part of the town reminds me of this beach ghost town that Astrid and I happened upon in Sicily a few years ago. But what Puri lacks in ambiance, it makes up for with a laid-back relaxed vibe that makes it really easy to be here.
We are staying in Z Hotel on Chakrathirta Rd., also known as CT Rd. Funnily, many people say that CT stands for “Cheat Tourists,” which many of the shops and restaurants are designed to do. The Z however, is a piece of sanity and relaxation away from the chaos of hawkers, touts, and rickshaw drivers. The place used to be the rural get-away house of a Maharaja and the owner keeps it in very good condition. The staff are helpful and the room tariff doesn’t break the bank, which is always good at the end of the month. The sea breezes waft through the room and fill it with salt air, a welcome change from exhaust fumes! To the left is a picture of Puri Beach at sunset just behind the Z Hotel.
Yesterday, Astrid and I rented scooters to go to Konark from Ganesh Tour & Travels, also on CT Rd. He charged me Rs. 150 for each scooter for the ENTIRE day, 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The ride to Konark, which is about 40 km from Puri, was fantastic riding through animal sanctuary lands with green fields, sand dunes, snaking rivers, and incredibly blue sky. It was hot and steamy from the morning rains, but riding on the scooters was so cooling we didn’t even notice the heat. The crowds of crazy drivers that are so ubiquitous in India were also absent, so we were basically on the road by ourselves for most of the journey, passing a bullock cart, a herd of goats, or a bicycle here and there. The cars that were around passed us without incident. This was the first time since we got to India two months ago that we actually had the freedom to do what we wanted to do on our own time schedule. IT WAS FABULOUS! No waiting for a taxi, no waiting for buses, no waiting for anything!
We arrived at Konark around 10:30 a.m. and were immediately dogged by a guide that wanted us to use his services. I had read that this would happen, so we let him show us where to park the scooters and had him show us on the sign board at the entrance to the temple complex that he was in fact a registered guide as there are only 29 registered guides. He showed us his ID and it matched so we accepted his offer. I’m so glad we did, he was very knowledgeable about the temple, the carvings, and the history that we would have been lost without him. It would have just been another ancient temple and we would have missed the intricacies of it without him, as well as the Kama Sutra/ Tantric carvings. BTW, I can’t remember his name, but he was number 20 on the board, just look him up if you are there.
Designed to look like a cosmic chariot of the sun god, Surya drawn by seven horses, which represent the days of the week, the temple sits on 24 stone “wheels” that represent the 24 hours in the day. The temple stands 35 meters high and at one point there was another temple behind it that stood 70 meters high. It is gargantuan! The whole complex was positioned to catch the first rays of morning light that would illuminate the deity inside the temple. For more info, check out the Wikipedia page about Konark and the Sun Temple.
We finished our tour in about an hour and a half and ended up paying the guide for two hours because we were so pleased. This temple is one of those “must-see sights” and you should do it with a guide. It makes if far more interesting.
After getting back to Puri around 3:00 p.m., totally sunburned and hot, we returned our scooters, had a snack and then took a long nap. A totally peaceful day!
Oh, if you ever get to Puri, try Peace Restaurant on CT Road. The food is so fresh and good and they get fresh seafood everyday. Everything we had there over four days was incredible. Try the ten grilled prawns for Rs. 150 or about $3.50 US.
We leave tomorrow for Bhubaneswar and a flight to Mumbai and then Goa to see the Portuguese colonial influence on that side of the country. See you on the beaches!