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India - traveling south

After the interesting (nightmare?) start in Chennai, I quickly made an exit from there and headed a short distance south on a crowded bus to a small seaside town called Mamallapuram.

It is a town populated by hundreds of rock carvers. They come from all over India to study here, probably due to the 20 or so rock carved temples that are scattered around the town. From dusk till dawn there is a continual chorus of picks chipping away at rocks. The people here are laid back compared to their big city counterparts, but as everywhere in India you are still inundated by the locals to purchase things or asked for money. I quickly learnt how to deal it - a quick shake of the head and confidently walking ahead.

After a couple of relatively peaceful days by the sea, spent exploring the surrounds and enjoying the plentiful cheap fresh seafood while overlooking the Indian Ocean, I jumped on another bus and headed further south along the coast to Pondicherry. This contrasting city was until recently a French province, where the locals speak French rather than English and most of the tourists are from France.

I hired a rickety push-bike and tried to master riding around the city streets among the pedestrians, cows, other push-bikes, rickshaws, carts, cars, motorbikes, busses and trucks! - all of these furiously darting along among a chorus of beeping horns. I soon learnt the golden rule of the road - 'might is right - you have to give way to anything bigger than you.

I survived the city roads, then headed to the countryside, to an experimental city of the future called 'Auroville'. This is a large community where they say all creeds, politics and nationalities can live in peace and harmony. To me it was more like a leftover hippie cult from the 60s.

Looking back, in the last few days I have come from Australia, gone from a bustling Indian city to a quiet seaside town, to a French city and a city of the future. Now that's what I call diversity.

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