Chennai - Arrival In India

Chennai Travel Blog

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Adam on the bus to Mallapuram

We said our farewells to comfort at Singapore airport and mentally prepared ourselves for our Indian adventure as we boarded our Tiger Airways flight to Chennai. It was almost as if things around us were trying to help out as the check in system at the airport decided to go on the blink and our check in was delayed. Somehow we still managed to get away on time despite the hundreds of tons of excess baggage the Indian visitors to Singapore were importing back to India. We saw some pretty basic things; such as pots, pans, hotplates etc, which if they're not available in India could be a bit worrying!!! The flight itself was made more bearable by some pretty discriminatory action by Tiger who for the second time in two flights with them packed out the emergency exit rows with 90% white westerners.

Chennai, as seen from a moving bus
They are supposed to be premium seats which you pay for but as they were unoccupied a steward came down the plane past dozens of Indians and asked us to move seats into them. Not that we're complaining but I'd love to hear an official explanation of this apparantly blatant racist policy.

The flight itself was uneventful apart from some turbulance and we landed in Chennai bang on time a 22.45. We had taken the precaution of booking a supposed mid-range hotel that offered a free pick up. We'd received an email confirming our booking and that a pick up from the airport had been arranged. We collected our bags and cleared the customs check and confidently walked out through the throng and deluge of shouts offering us the usual 'taxi','autorickshaw' etc and were merrily waving them away searching for our saviour with a sheet of paper with our undoubtably mispelt name.

An autorickshaw seen through the permanently open door of our bus
Nothing!! We gave them another pass, still nothing! We found an ATM and drew out some cash so we could call but none of the stalls would change our cash for coinage even if we bought something!!! Guess they were in the pockets of the taxi mafia!!! Luckily one decent driver appeared and gave us a 1 rupee coin for the phone. We called the hotel who didn't have a clue and after a very frustrating conversation which went nowhere, "Hello, we're at the airport waiting for our pick up. There's noone here!!", "when do you arrive?", "We're already at Chennai airport, we just landed", "You want a reservation?", "No! We've made a reservation our name is Sheffield, we need to be picked up", "When do you come?" So it goes until the money runs out!!! Welcome to India!

Figuring that it would be good kharma we sought out the guy who gave us the rupee and got him to take us to our hotel. We should have said the hotel is called the Hotel Chandra Park. Be warned!!! The drive from the airport was hairraising even by he standards we have become used to. The horn isn't so much used as a warning or even an alert to another vehicles presence. It's basically a statement of intent to hit you. The road was in various stages of being built and you can't help but suspect is constantly that way, maybe they just move parts of it about to give the illusion of a road but most of it was a building site. As we drew closer to the town centre the number of people sleeping rough went through the roof as did the numbers of the roaming packs of dogs. around our hotel there seems to have been a problem with fly-tipping as random piles of rubble forced the driver to swerve his way the last half a mile or so.

Once at the Hotel we enquired what had happened to our pick up and were met with a totally expected stoney silence. We had been warned that this is a frequent response in India when an error is pointed out to someone. We knew there was no point in getting angry but couldn't resist making a point and pressed the receptionist on why there was no pick up. If he could have made the ground open up and swallow him he would've and if we could have made the ground open up and swallow him we would've too!!! Don't get us wrong we understand the importance of observing the cultural conventions of others and fellow tourists who don't usually wind us up but some boundaries need to be pushed a little. A sorry wouldn't have been too hard to say, would it?

It was obviously too late to take our business elsewhere so we settled into our very average and very poor value room. The whole place had a dampness to it that left you feeling slightly dirty.

We awoke the next morning to the chorus of our neighbours hacking up phlegm, spitting, coughing and shouting at each other!! One weirdo fresh from a shower and dressed only in a towel around his waist even banged on our door until we answered and asked to borrow a comb!!!! Talk about optimism!!

One saving grace was the excellent all vegetarian buffet breakfast which we well and truly tucked into before taking a stroll around the vicinity of our hotel. That pretty much made our mind up to forgo viewing any sights in Chennai and head straight to Mamallapuram down the coast. It's not that we didn't like Chennai, more that we hated it. We expected a bit of hassle checking out as we'd booked for two nights but with the same sparkling efficiency of our arrival they'd forgotten we'd made a booking. We headed to the local bus station another 7km autorickshaw ride away and were shocked that it was totally easy to navigate with not a single hawker, tout or other bothersome fool approaching us! Bliss!! The bus itself was not the most celubrious vehicle on the road but most of the side was open to the air, so the breeze was very welcome. The conductor was very helpful and the other passengers, whilst curious, were not intrusive and all in all it was a very pleasant experience. Mind you it was only two hours we wouldn't have wanted to be going any further!!!

sylviandavid says:
Nice blog... I enjoyed it. sylvia
Posted on: Apr 24, 2008
snpontour says:
Hi guys, couldnt stop laughing at your entry, oh how the memories come flooding back! Chennai is a particularly nice place but for real swashbuckling visit New Delhi train station, preferably close to midnight! I still have flashbacks to the autorickshaw rides... Have fun, heard Mallapuram is a lot better.

Steve & Paula
Posted on: Apr 05, 2008
Virginiagoodings says:
Have never been to Chennai, but the similarities with Delhi are clear! It is all an adventure, right???
Mum/Virginia xxoo
Posted on: Mar 30, 2008
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Adam on the bus to Mallapuram
Adam on the bus to Mallapuram
Chennai, as seen from a moving bus
Chennai, as seen from a moving bus
An autorickshaw seen through the p…
An autorickshaw seen through the …
photo by: Marusya