First impressions of a thousand (a day)

First impressions of a thousand (a day)

By Lonneke — October 27, 2015 02:32 pm

Driving from the airport into Madurai, you can't help yourself: you compare what you see to the previous country. And you notice the same palmtrees, dust, and large vehicles produced by Ashok Leyland. Same traffic too, I've now convinced myself, when traffic is so hectic and chaotic, that all participants are probably very alert and careful, exactly because of the mayhem. Heck, it might even be safer this way, instead of counting on all taken safety measures to look out for you. I ensure myself: all these people don't want to die either. But I digress.

Pretty soon you notice the differences: somehow the chaos in the street is more vibrant and friendly, like you would imagine old bustling Hanseatic cities, so much activity and handicraft going on, everywhere you look. It feels dynamic but authentic, and you know: there's no other place on earth like this. The people seem to stay very true to themselves, although they are hard to read.

Funny thing: we catch ourselves converting to Sri Lankan rupees first and then to euros, we'll have to unlearn this habit soon.

Walking around the enormous Meenakshi temple (you can not do this place justice in a photo), we admire the thousands of carved gods, goddesses and demons and also all the different bindi's on people's foreheads, from a modest darkred dot to a white smear all across.

In the first restaurant we tried, the walls were covered with mirrors, as if this kind of frantic frenzy needs multiplying! Everybody was shouting at each other, throwing buckets in corners, waving their arms at each other in what seemed dispair. The waiters walked around with big pans with rice and many pots with different sauces, flinging the food on every plate that was getting emptier, after a short nod of the guest. They were so helpful, as we studied the menu with big questionmarks on our faces and just brought us what they thought we should have. Since then, we got to know a few dishes already and we eat like the real Asians do: everything with our right hand (okay, I'll admit it, we still use both our hands, we're not that skilled yet). And every new flavour is another surprise to my suspicious brain: my goodness, the freshness, the combinations, the rich taste, the diversity: not as subtle as the Sri Lankan rice and curry, but man, does this food taste good!

So there you have it: a mixture of everything, space and noise, finery and decay, openness and aloofness and it all comes at you at lightspeed!

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