The day I announced that I was leaving for a trip around the world, I promised my co-workers from Orb Networks in Chennai (aka Madras) that I would come visit them. In keeping that promise, I saved the best for last.
We are starting to be used to the pain of finding a semi-clean hotel in India, but Chennai tops it all. Chennai is the second largest technological center in India after Bangalore and because of that, visitors are usually on business trips and can afford western prices. For us, this translates to decent hotels starting at $100. We are able to find hotels in our $15-$20 budget, but they are just crumbling. We spend our first day walking, riding on rickshaws, visiting hotels, pausing for coffee and then finally at night, we give up and go back to the only nice hotel we found that was willing to negotiate a little.
The next day, my former coworker comes to pick me up to bring me to the office. I was wondering if anybody would actually remember me since I left over a year ago, but as soon as I enter the office, it is like everyone is waiting for me and gives me the warmest welcome. It is great to finally meet my colleagues I once worked so closely with: Shami, Deepa, Sanjib, JP, Ram, Pradheep, Suresh and the rest of the great QA team. I catch up with everyone and they take me to a very nice Chinese restaurant in a fancy part of the city. Food is delicious and I have a great time with everyone.
On Saturday, JP and Ram bring us all the way to Puducherry (aka Pondicherry). On the way, we stop at Dakshinachitra where we can observe a village that reconstitutes the traditional living of the different ethnic groups of South India. It is incredible how much of a difference there is between people living in the same country. During our time there, MuiMui gets her future read by a parrot. It looks like she will become financial independent by the end of the year. 😉 I take a shot at making pottery and fail miserably.
Next, we go to Mahabalipuram to see temples that were carved straight out of rock. The magnificent carvings are found all over the temple walls and tell a story of the river Ganges. It is definitely worth a stop if you are going there, but be careful, it can be scorching hot!
Finally, we make our way to Puducherry where we stop at a nice vegetarian restaurant for a well-deserved lunch. The city has a nice mix of French colonial and Indian architecture. A visit to Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a must do. This Ashram was created by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. The story is extremely interesting and I invite you to read more about it on the website of the Ashram.
In front of the Manakula Vinayagar Temple, we stumble upon a blessing elephant. I get blessed once and MuiMui can’t get enough so she gets blessed twice. It is good to have small change with you for donations when visiting temples in India.
On Sunday, we are invited to go with Shami to the Kapaleeshwarar Temple. The temple is gorgeous, but we are more mesmerized by the devotion of the people. Shami explains to us that there is an order in which to pray for the different gods. For some of the gods, we put coloring on our forehead, walk around the statues several times, or even lay on the ground to pray. This looks surreal as we are trying to comply with the customs and observe without disturbing too much.
After the temple, Shami invites us to have lunch at his place. Shami’s wife cooks us a delicious Tamil vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf. I cannot remember everything we ate, but it was all entirely new to us and very delicious. We also had the chance to meet Shami’s son, his mother, and his grandmother (who is visiting). Thank you!
On our last day, we do some last minute shopping. JP brings us to the best shops. Shopping in Chennai turns out to be a lot of fun as we visit a few jewelry shops filled with gold and sari shops with gold-threaded silk saris worth several thousands of dollars. While we do not have a use for a sari, it is still very tempting.
We say goodbye to the Orb India team, and from Chennai, we fly back to France.
We cannot thank each and every one of you enough for making our last stop in India an unforgettable one. We are very grateful for your kind gestures and making us feel so welcomed. In return for your hospitality, we invite you all to visit us in San Francisco or in France.
|What We Paid:||INR||USD||Euro|
|– Jet Airways flight from New Delhi to Chennai||5232/pp||117||80|
|– Train from the airport to Egmore||7/pp||0.16||0.11|
|– Double room @ Hotel New Victoria in Egmore [clean, nice, includes breakfast and Internet, mixed feelings with staff]||2439/double||54.50||37.30|
|– Lunch at Saravanaa Bhavan South India vegetarian restaurant chain||55/pp||1.23||0.84|
|– Take-out food at a local restaurant (chicken, fried rice, Chapathis and parottas, sauces)||30/pp||0.67||0.46|
|– Entrance of Dakshinachitra||200/pp||4.47||3.06|
|– Entrance of Mahabalipuram Temple||250/pp||5.59||3.83|
|– Entrance of Aurobindo Ashram||0||0||0|