Chennai formerly known as Madras

We kind of cheated with our transport today and opted for an air conditioned taxi for the 2 hour trip north to Chennai instead of the local bus. Our excuse was that we were only spending one night in Chennai so wanted to get there as quick as possible. It had nothing to do with the fact that the bus was going to be packed and crawling the last 50km in bumper to bumper traffic with no airflow…….

We had slightly changed our plans to add in Mysore down the track, so shortened our time in Chennai. We had booked a place right near the central train station and were pretty impressed with some of the buildings leading into the area. This included the red and white brick train station that was exactly the type of building we expected India’s majestic city train stations to look like.

The taxi driver had a few issues navigating to our hotel as we didn’t realize we were situated in a rabbit warren of tiny streets off the main thoroughfare. We even had to get motor bikes moved at one stage to get the car through. But we made it and after check in decided to walk around the local area looking for food.

This plan kind of hit a stumbling block when we walked back out to the main road and were hit with a very potent sewage smell that we traced to the overflowing drains along the side of the road. We soon came across a man with a stick at an open manhole trying without success to unplug the blockage. My appetite kind of left after that and didn’t I feel like eating at any of the restaurants where you had to cross a rickety bamboo bridge over the sewer to enter. Luckily we found a tuk tuk driver who said he would take us to the best vegetarian restaurant around so we got in and off we went. After a short petrol stop we were dropped of outside a hotel that was chokers with locals. Thanks Mr driver who actually charged us the correct price without us having to barter. Winning!

The food was Thali specials which we have mentioned previously and it was good. For me the highlight was the mango milkshake that I swear was made with condensed milk. After lunch we headed back to the hotel to wait out the midday heat.

About four o’clock we ventured out again and headed to the fort area. We were expecting a fort but instead got a cluster of oldish office buildings that are being used by the Indian government. So not sure what was the highlight here but we ticked it off anyway. We then decided to head to the local markets in nearby Georgetown. We found a lovely tuk tuk driver who accepted our fee without any arguing and off we went. Alarm bells should have been ringing because of his easy compliance and we soon found out why. Just for a little more he would take us here, there and everywhere. We told him we were not interested and he seemed to think we were not understanding him as he proceeded to explain the plan that we should take. We eventually got it through to him that we were paying him the original price and not going on a tour around town with him.

We were dropped off near the markets and were thrown into the hustle. These streets of Georgetown have been selling goods for hundreds of years and are set up in streets. So you have the flower street, the paper street, the takeaway container street, the plastic bag street, etc. It’s a real life market for the locals and it was great. The smell of jasmine and rose along the flower street was sensational. The women here attach strings of jasmine blooms to their hair and it is definitely my favorite smell of India. You will be sitting on a sweaty local bus and then a beautiful Indian women in an immaculate sari will get on and you will smell the jasmine every time she turns her head. 

We wandered around the streets for a while just taking it all in. It’s in places like this that I think you see the soul of India. It’s everyday people going about their day. It’s also a place where you see the whole cross section of Indian lives. 

After the markets we headed back to the hotel and had an early night in anticipation of our 6am train tomorrow. S

The sewer in question.

On our tuk tuk drive we came across our first slum. It’s a different level of poor here. This looks bad but I bet the people who live here are grateful for a roof over their head. Many just sleep on the street. No blanket, no cardboard or even newspaper. Just straight on the pavement. It’s raw and confronting but a sight we see everyday and seem to see more and more the further we head north. Cities are definelty worse than the towns.

The mosque.

The milk delivery man.

The napkin, reusable bag street.

The start of the flower street.

Roses anyone?

This guy insisted on a photo.

You can see the lady in the front with the jasmine blooms in her hair.

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