Magazine article The Spectator

I Prefer Tamil Nadu

Magazine article The Spectator

I Prefer Tamil Nadu

Article excerpt

The novelist and Conde Nast supremo on his favourite Indian destination

When people ask me where they should go in India, I always say either Rajasthan or Tamil Nadu. Mostly they choose to go to Rajasthan but I think prefer Tamil Nadu.

Rajasthan has the exotic colour, the turbans and the saris but in all other respects Tamil Nadu is exactly what you want from India.

It's very lush with huge, centuries-old trees, great shrines and the best and least-visited Shiva and Vishnu temples. The temples are almost all impossible to pronounce, let alone spell, like Gangaikonda Cholaprurum, Chidambaram, Darasuram and Mamallapurum, which is probably why people don't go to them much.

You fly into Chennai so it's a bit off the tourist track and hard to get to, but it's worth it. You could spend at least two weeks going south from Chennai to the Polk Strait and see something fascinating every single day.

Tamil Nadu is intensely hot but with lots of cool shade. There are jungles and paddy fields and beautiful villages full of straw huts - thankfully they don't seem to have discovered concrete. The combination of strong heat, shimmering landscape and incredibly sexy temples with their 1.001 ideas is wonderful.

One of my favourite places is the French enclave at Pondicherry, a mini colony on the Coromandel coast. One of my dreams is to live there some day. The beach is so serene, with white sand and palm trees and wonderful swimming. It's like Goa was 25 years ago, so far not ruined. …

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