Southern Delights in India - Chennai 18-20 September 2017

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September 20th 2017
Published: September 29th 2017
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Day 1: Chennai from Colombo, Sri Lanka Monday to Thursday 18 -21 September 2017

We were saying goodbye to Sri Lanka and our new friends, Sue & Dave from Oakey, to start our next adventure around southern India. We arrived in the Chennai International Airport after 1 ¼ hour flight with Sri Lankan Airlines. It was around 3.30pm on Monday.

As we had changed a couple of options on our travels, we were not met at the airport. As soon as we arrived at the exit, we were pounced on by taxi and tuk tuk drivers who were not keen to leave us alone. We knew we were back in India. Sri Lankans are not so pushy lol!

The temperature was 35 degrees with tropical humidity.

We organised a pre-paid taxi so that we were not ripped off. One driver offered á very good price’ of 1200 R (50 Indian Rupees to $1.00 AUD). We got the pre-paid taxi for 500 R!!

Chennai (formerly known as Madras), the largest city in South India and the fourth largest city in the country, the capital of Tamil Nadu is located on what is popularly called the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal.

It was about a 30 minute taxi ride to our Raintree Hotel on Anna Salai which was a lovely hotel. We were greeted by several friendly staff and was checked in efficiently. For one of the first times, we were unable to get the local currency at the airport so we didn’t have anything to tip the man who bought our bags up. Oh dear!

We were to stay in the hotel for 3 nights. We decided to go for a walk and find a bank. Instantly, we were hit by the thick, chaotic traffic, 100s of horns blowing and tuk tuks, motorbikes, cars and busses, all jostling for space on the road. We were definitely back in India!

Soon we found the ICIC bank which accepted our CC (after trying 3 others). The road which our hotel was on was being used to build a Metro Rail system so there was security fences and narrow footpaths for several kilometres. When completed, it will take 1000s of locals off busses etc. we walked around for about 1 1/2hr and decided to return to the a/c of our hotel as it was heading towards 6.00pm.

Once back at our hotel, we went for a walk around the Hotel to find where everything was, including the roof-top bar and swimming pool and gym. We decided to have a cold beer on the roof top but a sprinkle of rain caused us to change our mind. There was another bar off from the lobby so for the next hour we enjoyed chips, peanuts and a couple of British Empire beers which was local beer.

That evening, we used the hotel restaurant for dinner (called ‘The Kitchen’) and had one of the best chicken tikka that we had tasted. We were looking forward to exploring this large city the next day.

Day 2: Tuesday 19 September - Chennai

We learned that Chennai has varied aspects of traditional South Indian culture existing alongside the lifestyle of a modern city complete with its plush hotels, restaurants offering a range of continental to typical South Indian cuisine, long and uncrowded stretches of beaches, modern shopping malls, and cinema halls. While moving around in the city one cannot overlook the obvious British influence that is so evident in the various cathedrals, buildings in IndoSaracenic style of architecture and wide tree lined avenues. However, despite the undeniable strong English legacy, Chennai has retained its traditional Tamil Hindu culture and effectively blended it with the foreign influence.

Chennai had the third-largest expatriate population in India at 35,000 in 2009, 82,790 in 2011 and estimated at over 100,000 in 2016.

The Chennai Metropolitan Area is one of the largest city economies of India. Chennai is nicknamed "The Detroit of India", with more than one-third of India's automobile industry being based in the city.

The name Madras originated even before the British presence was established in India. The origin of the name is unclear; one suggestion of several is that it may have originated from a Portuguese phrase mãe de Deus, which means "mother of God", due to Portuguese influence on the port city, specifically referring to a Church of St. Mary. According to some sources, Madras was derived from Madraspattinam, a fishing-village north of Fort St George which we went to see. However, it is uncertain whether the name was in use before the arrival of Europeans.

In 1996, the Government of Tamil Nadu officially changed the name from Madras to Chennai. At that time, many Indian cities underwent a change of name. However, the name Madras continues in occasional use for the city, as well as for places named after the city.

After India gained its independence in 1947, the city became the capital of Madras State, which was renamed as Tamil Nadu in 1969. The violent agitations of 1965 against the compulsory imposition of Hindi and in support of English in India in the state marked a major shift in the political dynamics of the city and eventually it had a big impact on the whole state.

Because of Madras and its people, English now exists in India, otherwise Hindi might have been made the sole official language in India.

On 26 December 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami lashed the shores of Chennai, killing 206 people in Chennai and permanently altering the coastline. The 2015 Chennai Floods submerged major portions of the city, killing 269 people and resulting in damages of ₹86.4 billion (US$1 billion).

We walked down the beach and saw many houses that were destroyed and have never been lived in since. The beach was full of fishing boats, nets, humpies where some people were living and lots of rubbish. Opposite the beach there was only one set of high-rises that had been restored. Again, there was rubbish everywhere.

A tuk tuk driver (standard rate seemed to be 150 R) took us to the Kapaleeshwarar temple which was extraordinary and on the banks of a large lake which was lined with steps. It reminded me of the lake at Pushka in northern India. I paid 25R to use my camera but couldn’t take any photos inside the Temple. I hadn’t planned to go inside and the long line of people waiting to go inside confirmed my decision!! This was a Hindu Temple of course.

We also saw the Catholic Santhome Basifica near the beach as well as the Light House and Vivekanda House which was now an art gallery and art museum. We saw these with a 2nd tuk tuk driver who took us to the Express Avenue Mall, a very modern multi-story shopping mall and food hall, and air conditioning – yay!!

It was lunch time so for the very first time on this trip, we didn’t eat the local food. We had a Subway and then went to Starbucks for coffee. We have noticed again there was no diet drinks available, which was always tricky for Tom.

After lunch, we walked for a couple of hours back to our Hotel.

We had another lovely meal at The Kitchen in our hotel.

Day 3: Wednesday 20 September 2016 – Chennai

Tom and I agreed that it was good to have break in between the two tours and staying in a great hotel. The clothes are all clean and the blog is almost up to date! Staff at The Raintree have been excellent and we have got to know several of the staff, particularly Thangam who gave us lots of hints on what to see in his city.

Today we decided to walk south, over the Adyer River, to soak up the real Chennai rather than the tourist Chennai. We came across several schools and universities as well as research institute. There was a Leather Research Institute which was hugh.

As we walked along, of course many tuk tuk drivers came up to us asking if we wanted a ride. One young motorbike rider stopped to ask if we needed help. I guess seeing non-Indian people walking along the edge of the road is not a usual site.

It was about 11.30am and we spotted a café across the road. It was the Ciclo Café which was attached to a cycle shop. The café was spotless. We just couldn’t get over the contras from the frenetic outside. The table legs were made of bike forks, wheels made up the side of tables, bike handle bars and carry baskets made up paper toweling holders in bathrooms, spokes made up wall decoration and light-shades etc. It was so cleaver. We had the best cappuccino and latte in the café since we started our holidays. It was so good, we decided to book for dinner that night.

We continued our walk further south, turned a corner and came across several Hindu temples and a railway line. We were patting ourselves on the back regarding how good we were getting at crossing the busy roads where there was very little break in the traffic. The challenge and good fun!!!!

We then took a tuk tuk back to the hotel to relax and have a swim before dinner. It was good to catch up with our son Adam before he was flying out to Japan for a study tour. This complemented chatting to our daughter Kerrie a day earlier. Family is so important to us.

We caught another tuk tuk back to Ciclo Café for a magnificent meal. I had beef medalions (incredibly tender) and Tom had cordon bleu. No alcoholic drinks in this heavily emphasised Muslem district. We had refreshing lemon soda.

We had no trouble hailing a tuk tuk to take us back to our hotel.

Additional photos below
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12th December 2018

We enjoy the content of your blog
Hi Pam and Tom, We at really enjoy the content of your blog and we feel that it would be useful to our members. We are hoping that with your permission, we could publish it on our site and of course all credits and links back to your site will be added. Thanks in advance. The Team at

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