I’ve finally arrived!
After over 20 hours of transit (bags arrived) we finally made it to Chennai which is a city on the south eastern side of India. We flew in about 12:30am India time which is 10.5 hours ahead of Canada (so it seems, we’re still trying to figure it out exactly). Driving through Chennai in the middle of the night wasn’t as quiet as you would think but it was definitely less busy then the day. We stayed at the Hotel Pandian which had pretty basic rooms. But with the time change and all the travel it was hard to fall asleep. The call to prayer, which came at 5am, actually lulled me to sleep! haha. We had breakfast in the hotel the next morning and then everyone went out exploring the city.
We travelled in a few different groups and mine was fairly large. I was totally overwhelmed with my surroundings that I tried just to focus on where I was walking and what I was walking in (or more specifically what I was trying to avoid). There’s people everywhere. And cars, and rickshaws, and motorbikes. There are very few rules of the road so pedestrians are constantly aware, making sure they aren’t being run over. Its so adventurous. It was very sunny today and probably around 30 degrees. I’ve already started to adjust though and the heat isn’t bothering me. The smells are quite different from Canada – they remind me of South America actually. They don’t bother me at all, but some people are spending some time adjusting =) It’s amazing actually because once you’re in a rickshaw, in a span of a minute you can smell about 10 different scents coming from every direction. My senses were completely overwhelmed but it was exciting at the same time. I love being in an alien world.
Realizing that it was too hot to walk anywhere we wanted to go (and too far) we built up some courage and flagged down some rickshaws to take us to Fort St George. There are hundreds of rickshaws in the city and so it’s always easy to flag one down. We felt very “new york”doing so =) The fact that we have white skin is extremely obvious. All day we were hassled and bothered. Asked to buy things, stalked with rickshaws, and offered to go on grand tours of the city, for “reasonable” prices. We’ve been taking lots of photos so far, and so have the locals – of us. haha. All of this doesn’t really bother me because it comes with being a white tourist in a foreign country. Plus, as a large group we attract more attention.
The people of India so far have been pretty interested in knowing where we were from. In Fort St. George, there are sections which are still in military use and a number of times we were caught wandering around in “forbidden areas” – and once even escorted out. It’s hard because we’re just trying to find our way around and we can’t really read the signs. Besides driving around in the rickshaws, my second favourite aspect of the afternoon was visiting the beach in Chennai. It’s the Indian Ocean on the east side of India – called the Bay of Bengal. Last week a cyclone hit the city and so there was a lot of debris around. And the waves were so big – I loved seeing them crash against our legs.
The guide books said that Chennai wasn’t a very touristy city and not a great introduction to India. But I think everyone enjoyed the day and felt like they got everything out of the day that they desired. And once we loaded the bus this afternoon for our 3 hour drive to Pondicherry everyone fell asleep. It was a great day.