At Greaves, we love to hear stories of our clients' travels in
India. In this feature, Mr. and Mrs. Ogden describe their wonderful
experience visiting South India on our Saffron & Sandalwood Tour. From the temples
of Madurai to the elephants of Nagarhole National Park, read on for
their first-hand account of their travels.
1. Have you travelled in India previously? If so, where
did you visit, and how long was your stay?
We have been to India three times now. The first trip was an
11-night tour of Delhi, Agra, Orcha, Khajuraho, Bandavgarh, and
then back to Khajurho and Delhi. The second trip was a two-week
tour of Kerala. Thirdly, we took a two-week tour of Rajasthan,
visiting Bharatpur, Jaipur, Jodphur, Jaisalmer, Kumbalgarh and
Udaipur. This was our fourth trip.
2. What made you choose this particular tour to India?
Why did visiting South India appeal?
David's father was born in Chennai and we had never visited this
part of India before, plus we have always enjoyed viewing wildlife.
So the combination of the three made perfect sense when we
organised this itinerary.
3. You started your trip visiting the wonderfully ornate
temples of Madurai where you saw the Aarti ceremony - can you tell
us a little bit about the ceremony and the Meenakshi
Unfortunately, we had very little sleep due to delayed flight,
so we decided just to watch the procession rather than get
involved with the whole ceremony. Meenakshi Temple was vast,
extremely colourful and highly ornate, the tour of one of the most
beautiful temples of Madurai was fascinating. Because it is a
working temple we got to witness a little slice of life beyond the
complexities of Hinduism, we were shown a ninth-month pregnancy
meeting between two families to explore the possibilities of
marriage, which, unfortunately, appeared not to be going
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai ©
Saiko3p - Shutterstock.com
4. Following Madurai you visited Tiruchirapalli and then
the temples of Thanjavur-how did they differ from what you saw at
the temples of Madurai?
The Trichy temple, dedicated to Vishnu, is huge. We particularly
admired the pillars of the Sheshagiriraya Mandapa covered in
rearing horses and warriors armed with spears, representing the
triumph of good over evil (or as depicted here Hindu over Muslim).
We loved the beautiful simplicity of Thanjavur's Brihadishwara
temple. It is much older than Trichy, begun in the 11th
Century, but the elegance of the stonework was overwhelming. Made
out of granite the intricacies of the carvings have lasted longer
than many other temples you see elsewhere
Brihadishwara Temple, Thanjavur
© AJP - Shutterstock.com
5. All in all which of the temples and temple complexes
did you find most impressive, and why?
Our favourites were in no particular order - Darasuram (below),
which was small, beautiful, peaceful and beautifully carved;
Thanjavur (see above) and Mamallapuram, so beautiful again and in a
Darasuram Temple © Arvind
Balarman - Shutterstock.com
6. What were your impressions of the Auroville Township?
Did you interact with any of the residents?
We arrived at Auroville after our tour of Puducherry having
toured the Sri Aurobinder Ashram, which, while very interesting, we
found a bit too much like a cult. We got a similar feeling about
Auroville - for example, the giant gold ball seemed too extravagant
for the place in view of its stated aims. We did not interact
meaningfully with the residents although we did note the rather
commercialized shops. But it was interesting.
Gold Meditation Hall, Auroville
Township © Aleksander Todorovic - Shutterstock.com
7. What was the best meal that you had on your trip? How
would you rate the overall quality of dining while visiting South
Generally we ate very well but the food was 'hotter' than we had
experienced before so had to be a bit cautious! There was no single
best meal but we would note the two dinners at Maison Perumal,
which were delicious and followed by a great conversation with the
team running it! We had a great dinner in the Taj hotel in Chennai
- our first meeting with a chutney trolley bigger than a cheese
trolley here! We had a great dinner in the Taj hotel in Bengaluru
when we tried their vegetarian taster menu. We had a very good
lunch at another hotel in Thanjavur when we hosted our guide and
driver, a complete lunch cost only 100 rupees a head and was so
simple but extremely good! Finally, the best breakfast was at Coorg
but unfortunately I was ill there and so didn't eat any dinner
there - I suspect dinner would have been great as Isabel [a cookery
teacher] was giving demos of the signature dish and a guided tour
of the kitchen by the chef!
Southern Spice Restaurants, Taj
Coromandel, Chennai © Taj Hotels
8. You spent a couple of days in cities Chennai and
Bengaluru, followed by Mysore. Mysore conjures up images of the
romance of India - what were your impressions of the city? And how
did it compare to the other two?
Mysore was a city we enjoyed and we really clicked with our
guide Rahda. It is certainly more beautiful than the big cities of
Chennai and Bengaluru. Its Chamundi hill and trees and Maharajahs
palace all give it charm, as does the lovely market. The military
history including the Duke of Wellington is also interesting.
Maharajah's Palace, Mysore ©
Jorisvo - Shutterstock.com
9. Towards the end of the trip you spent a couple of
days looking at the elephants of Nagarhole National Park. Which
animals did you spot? Did you go on a boat safari?
We did not go on a boat safari as there was very little water in
the river. As a result we had safaris in an open topped vehicle,
which I think was much better as our great guide could take us
where he wanted to go. We saw a lot including monkeys, spotted
deer, sambar deer, elephants, peacocks, a few birds, giant Malabar
squirrel and three tigers.
Elephant at Nagarhole ©
Venkatesh Murthy - Shutterstock.com
10. You stayed in some lovely hotels during your trip.
Which stood out for you and why?
The best hotel was Coorg Taj - the setting, design and
facilities were magical. The staff were so lovely and so helpful
when I was ill - a chest infection not gastro-enteritis! The Maison
Perumal was in its way just as lovely but very different. I
supposed both stood out for being so personal.
Taj by Vivanta Madikeri, Coorg ©
11. Tell us about your experience of travelling with
Greaves provide and expert, specialised holiday when you always
feel well cared for! They encourage clients to have input into the
make up of the tour and things go like clockwork. If a problem
occurs they sort it out - this happened on our Kerala trip at one
hotel. Our drivers have always been supportive, good humoured and
interesting. Deepak stood out among them four years ago. We have so
many special memories of India and Indians!
Inspired? Explore the Saffron & Sandalwood Itinerary for