The 7:30 alarm came a lot sooner than it should have this morning. We both got up and went and had breakfast at the hotel. This was a learning experience since all they had was Tamil cuisine which was fine with me but not so much with Erin. Somehow we both left full though so there’s not much to complain about. After breakfast we went and checked out the hotel weight room which will be nice since we have been a little lazy lately and also the hotel pool. The pool was really nice, it is outside on a balcony which over looks around the city. Then we had to go down stairs because Erin’s ride would be there any minute.
Once Erin had left I had to plan my day, so just like Belgium I grabbed my bag and headed out on the town.
As soon as I left the hotel complex I was bombarded by rickshaw (small bike taxi) drivers. I heard they will rip tourist off big time so I stayed away from them, at least until I know the city a little better. Unlike Antwerp, Chennai isn’t the easiest town to walk around. By our hotel there is a main road that goes east and west, this road is extremely busy, cars/mopeds/buses all honking non-stop. I decided to head west towards the market, this decision was a learning experience.
Main intersection infront of our hotel
No vehicle on the road needs to yield to pedestrians or each other, I don’t really think there are any rules except not running into each other. The sides of the streets are very busy filled with street vendors selling everything from clothes to coconuts to cheap rip off toys.
Being the only white person on the whole street, I was the prey and they were the vultures. Everyone wanted to stop me and try and sell me something. On the outside of the streets are little shops and stores that could be anything, literally anything. I think I went into a store that only sold old school Polaroid cameras and another store that I’m not sure what they sold but there was a women sitting on a bench braiding leaves.
My first thing I needed to get done was getting a SIM card for my cell phone so I could get in contact with Erin. I was told people speak English well here but didn’t really find anyone that did so finding a cell phone shop. I found many shops that sold cell phones, shops that sold cases for cell phones but no shops that sold SIM cards.
I also had a lot of people who could tell me where to find SIM cards in Tamil, their native language, now only if I knew Tamil. Well, I finally found a place, the only thing was they said I needed some sort of photo, I couldn’t understand what type of photo but I wasn’t getting a SIM card without one. I came to the conclusion that they wanted a copy of my passport, so I walked about a mile and a half back to the hotel, which on these streets took forever, and got a photo copy of my passport. When arriving back to the phone store the man told me that is NOT what he needed, by this time he found an example and he needed a passport photo. He told me I could get one a few shops down. AHHH back to square one, I had the hardest time finding the photo place, but long story short was that I found it and got back to the phone place and got my phone! All in a couple of hours…
Trash is everywhere
After that fun expedition I was starting to get hungry, I wanted to eat at a street stand until I saw a stand washing their dishes in a bucket behind a wall.
That is another thing I have noticed, it is very filthy, and there is trash everywhere. So instead I found a small…what I guess you could call it a restraint and walked in. I saw people eating at the tables on the inside but as soon as I walked in a man directed me upstairs. I saw a family going up so I figured it was safe. There was a nice restraint upstairs so I took a seat by myself trying to eye what other people had so I could order. This was fun because the waiter spoke a few words in English so there was very little communication. One food that I thought I knew was called dosa. What I thought was a larger meal ended up being an appetizer, so when the waiter came back I pointed to another table at what a lady was eating and he said what it was, then I said “yes” and before I knew it, I had a bigger meal in front of me, all for 120 rupees ($3.
Rickshaw, their everywhere, but usually yellow
Local bike mechanic
By this time my shirt was completely soaking wet so I headed back to the hotel to cool off and ring out my shirt. It isn’t too extremely hot here, about the same as July in Iowa, except its humidity is ten times worse, it’s hard to believe.
I was worried about Erin coming home because I didn’t think that she was going to like the town with it being so dirty and busy, but when she got home we headed out and she ended up having a lot of fun. We went to a few shops which were different because once you walk in the store, employees are on top of you. They literally follow right behind to from the minute you walk in until the minute you leave giving you suggestions on what to buy. After going through a few stores and getting shadowed by a few people, Erin ended up finding something and we ended up heading back to the hotel and eating and going to bed. Not enough sleep the night before.