Mahabalipuram … NEVER again!

Shore Temple - Centerpiece of Mahabalipuram.
Shore Temple – Centerpiece of Mahabalipuram.

Once, just once in my life, I want to visit one destination in India where I won’t get ripped off, cheated, abused, intimidated and generally made to feel like concentrated crap.

Just once, I want to walk into a place, relax and listen to what it has to say to me, and walk out in one piece. Just once.

Mahabalipuram, near Chennai, is a UNESCO heritage site that has been on my bucket list since many years. When I took a day off to visit this temple town that dates back to the 7th century, I thought it would be a memorable experience. It is after all, a UNESCO site.

Memorable it certainly was, for all the wrong reasons.

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Pancha Ratha – five temples carved from a single granite boulder. Thirty eight years in the making. Dedicated to the Pandavas and Draupadi.

The instant I got off my car, a horde of hawkers and touts descended upon me. Buy this, try that, come with me and I’ll give you a good time … they just would not leave me alone. And then I made the enormous mistake of hiring a guide to take me around. And I wound up paying him Rs.750/- for no particular reason. He took me around in my own car, to monuments that were easy to locate anyway, and gave me information that I had already looked up in Wikipedia anyway. But he did ensure that the right hawkers ripped me off.

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Arjuna’s Penance – bas relief sculpture, depicts various episodes from the Mahabharata.

The arrogant moron at the ticket counter gave me a nasty shock, as he refused to issue a normal ticket to me. The fee for Indian nationals is Rs.10/- only. For foreign nationals, it is Rs.250/-. I never understood why foreign tourists must cough out at least ten times what Indians do, wherever they go. Do they get anything more for the huge amount of extra money they pay? I hardly think so.

For some absurd reason, the afore-mentioned arrogant moron at the ticket counter was convinced I was a foreign national, and demanded Rs.250/-. And then demanded to see my ID. I offered my driver’s license, and he felt it was forged. I told him I’d rather go back to Bangalore than pay Rs.250/- to that arrogant jack-ass. Finally, he relented and gave me a Rs.10 ticket.

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Krishna’s butterball – an unusual balancing rock structure.

Hawkers, hawkers, everywhere. Every nook. Every corner. Every turn. And they will not leave you alone. They go on and on. They chase you. They harass you. Until you buy something. And my friendly guide ensured that I did buy a lot of worthless artifacts, at astounding prices.

The day ended with my taxi driver ripping me off, and forcing me to pay an extra Rs.500/- for a speeding ticket that he got on the way back from Mahabalipuram.

I had it coming to me. A fool and his money, after all. Should have just stayed at home.

Why do these hawkers and touts think that tourists from another land owe them a living? What value do they provide to the places that they infest? They did not build any of the magnificent monuments that people like me travel hundreds of miles to admire. They do not maintain the place, they in fact soil it with their presence.

They abuse the law with impunity. They loot tourists blatantly. They harass, they harangue, they intimidate. And the local custodians of the law simply stand by and watch.

And then we wonder why India’s share of the world tourism market is less than ONE PERCENT. That’s right. Mera Bharat Mahaan has less than 0.72% of the global tourism market.

Bottom line: Mahabalipuram is strictly avoidable. Admire this ancient temple town in the safety of the Internet.

Mahabalipuram was certainly the experience of a lifetime. That’s because I will never go there again in my lifetime.

Ah well, I did take some good pictures. Enjoy my pictures, and be happy you didn’t get ripped off, unlike me.

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7 thoughts on “Mahabalipuram … NEVER again!

  1. Unhappily I suffered similar experience. At the end of the visit the guide asked for 2500 rupies and then he showe a copy of “Agreement between Indian Associanton of Tour Operators & Tourists Guide Federetaion of India” (you can find it on internet) which indicated 1650 and as he was becoming agresive I gave him 1500.
    Monuments are great but the rest is not……

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  2. Oh yes your pictures are gorgeous Srinivas, but your story is sad – unfortunately all of us who love travelling have similar stories!

    Its a wonderful tale of something absolutely pathetic…you must share it with the TN tourism board. May not result in anything, but who know…

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  3. How sad your much-longed for visit was marred by rip-offs, cheats and rudeness. My visit to India showed that there is so much to offer the tourist but we Westerners do find this sort of behaviour off-putting and consequently, many avoid India. This is a shame as the country has so much to offer. Unfortunately until authorities recognise that they stand to gain more from tourism by cleaning out those who are rude and intimidate and allow the people that love their country, their environs and want to share their culture, there will be little change. I commend you for highlighting the issue.

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    1. Yes its so sad to see such things….this happens not only to foreigners even for us…im from tamilnadu but still i got the same feeling what u said here. …it happens not only in mahabalupuram, all over India…people dont have proper work so they started looting and behaving like this which is highly condemned. ..authorities should take an action and punish such offenders…

      Pics r amazing…

      My suggestion is “dont miss this place at any cost” if u visit chennai tamilnadu…hire a proper guide or explore yourself….its worth visiting…u wont see such wonderful sculptures anywhere..

      Yes..this will make a scar in ur mind after the visit….but still worth it…

      Like

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