It all began on a lazy afternoon in the last week of May, we were at our hometown on a one week vacation, the whole family hiding from the searing, coastal summer heat in the one room that has an AC, when it struck us that the working people and the kids in the family had vacations and we shouldn’t let them go waste by just lazing at home. Also, the new Maruti Ertiga that joined the family had to be tested on a long road trip. In that one afternoon, before certain members of the family could wake up from their afternoon seista, a road trip to Kanya Kumari and Thiruvananthapuram was planned, most bookings were also done before any one could change their mind !
Day 1 Nellore – Chennai NH5
Most of our family trips seem to begin from Chennai, considering that our hometown is 3 hours drive from Chennai and the city is the best pitstop if we were heading south and above all, our emotional attachment with Chennai. Taking the NH5 from Nellore to Chennai, always brings back memories of our growing up years. After more than 20 years, we were driving to Madras with our parents. From the days of Maruti 800, we graduated to a Maruti Ertiga !
We started on an afternoon and reached Chennai by evening, with a stop for coffee at a little eatery called Gems near Tada. Our sibling, working in Chennai, joined us a we reached Chennai and we drove to Urapakkam for our first pit stop for the day, we had booked our stay at Oyo Room Swagath Guest House. Since it was only going to be a stay for the night, we were quite pleased with the simple hotel, each room was a single BHK apartment, must have been built as a group house complex.
For dinner we headed to Nattarasan, the well known Chettinad restaurant in and around Chennai, it was only a short walk from our hotel. The food was enjoyable and after dinner, we went for a leisure walk, having tea and chatting with the tea seller. When we talking about our Madras memories, he told us, we were not in Chennai, Urapakkam was technically part of Kanchipuram district, that is how far Chennai city has expanded ! We had planned to have a leisure start the next morning, when travelling with kids and senior citizens, it is always a good idea not to rush your mornings and to start well after breakfast.
Day 2 Chennai – Srirangam – Madurai
We were ready to begin our journey quite early the following morning. We had to briefly catch up with office work, some of us were technically working from home and when the entire family is together, any place is home ! By 8.30 AM, we checked out of our Oyo Room and headed straight for breakfast. We spotted Arya Bhavan, just a short distance away and indulged ourselves to Idly, Dosas, Pongal, Idiyappam, Puri and coffee. That was the beginning of 6 days of feasting !
We drove on the familiar, buttery smooth Chennai – Trichy highway, we had been to Trichy 4 times so far on tours but the head of the family wouldn’t hear of crossing Trichy and not stopping by to visit Thiruvanaikaval and Srirangam.
Lunch was at Aariyas Hotel, just before you reach Trichy. On all our previous trips since 2009, this is where we stopped for lunch !
Our first temple visit in Trichy was Thiruvanaikaval, one of the 5 Panchabhootha sthalams dedicated to Lord Shiva. We have written about the temple in detail in one of our earlier posts.
No matter how many times you visit these temples, it always feels like a new experience, such is the beauty of these ancient temples of Tamil Nadu.
It was around 3 PM, when we visited the temple, it had just opened for the afternoon and there were hardly anybody at the temple. We had a pleasant darsanam of the Lord and a leisure time admiring the art and architecture of the temple.
Next, we visited the Srirangam Temple, the primary of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Lord Vishnu. We have said all that we could about the temple here, to say any thing more, we will have to learn a new language !
The darsanam of Lord Ranganatha took about an hour, we couldn’t see Goddess Ranganayaki because it was a Friday and her shrine was closed for some special poojas. A visit to Srirangam is incomplete without the prasadam – Sweet Pongal, Puliyotharai and Thayir Sadam (curd rice). The taste feels like the prasadam has come down to earth straight from Vaikuntam !
Srirangam temple is the largest functioning Hindu temple, half the town is within the 7 prakaras of the temple ! There are battery operated cars for Senior Citizens to pick and drop them from the entrance gopurams to near the main shrines, for the rest, it is a good, long walk, long enough to burn the calories gained from all the prasadams one has had !
It was almost 5.30 PM when we left the temple. One of our guys had to connect to office, he managed to take a client call all the way from US, sitting on the steps of an old, locked house in Srirangam with the sound of the temple bells in the background and the temple elephant taking a stroll right beside you !
Technology and tradition co-exist, a wonder of the times that we live in !
We then headed to Yatri Nivas for some coffee and relaxation. Located on the banks of the Kaveri river, Yatri Nivas run by the government, seems to be a decent place to stay at Srirangam.
Our visit to Srirangam complete, we drove on to Madurai, where were staying for the night. It took us 2 hours to reach Madurai from Srirangam. We had booked our stay at Oyo Rooms Home Stay in Anna Nagar, Madurai. It was huge bungalow converted into a home stay, it was a fun experience to have the whole bungalow for ourselves. The home stay does not provide any food, there is only one caretaker. It is a good idea to book it only if you are travelling in a bigger group.
For dinner, we went to a nearby outlet of Temple City hotel, the food was not great but we were tired and wanted to call it a day as quickly as we could.
That was the second day of our trip and we were scheduled to reach our destination, Kanya Kumari the next day.