Adventures in Chennai, Day Three

We went into the office today for about a half day and then started our journey to Pondicherry. Before leaving Chennai, we drove around for quite awhile and took in a bunch of different sites. Driving seems to be a great way to see a lot of areas and get a sense of the culture without actually getting in it. When you walk around, you stand out like a sore thumb, but observing everything from the car allows you to almost be like a fly on the wall.

One of the places we stopped before leaving Chennai was a mall – the largest shopping center in the city. This proved to be a fruitful stop, because I was able to pick up a couple of nice souvenirs. Then we drove to the beach and drove along the road that lines the beach area. You usually don’t associate goats with beaches, but there were droves of goats all along the beach area and in the streets and around the huts and shanties along the road. A really bizarre sight.

The drive to Pondicherry was supposed to take 3 hours. Our driver took us the scenic route I guess, because it took 7 hours. We made a few pit stops along the way that were pretty interesting.

We visited a Crocodile Farm/Zoo, which was really interesting. There was one big holding area where they had over 450 crocodiles. You could have walked across the whole area stepping on the backs of the crocodiles without ever touching he ground, they were so dense in there. I still have not seen a King Cobra, but seeing those crocodiles was pretty neat. I even got to hold one of the baby crocs.

The next place we stopped was called Tiger Cave. I was pretty excited about this because I thought we’d see some real tigers. They were actually just huge rocks that have tigers engraved in them. It was still neat though because this one area has all these gigantic rock outcroppings. They look really out of place, so it makes for a unique site. The Tiger Cave area was really nicely kept – the only place I have seen grass yet – and it was just on the other side of a small grove of palm trees (and a chain link fence) from the waters of the Bay of Bengal.

A few miles down the road we stopped again at a very large tourist trap attraction. There was a village located right off the highway where there were about 10 historical monuments. We didn’t realize that each monument was about a mile separated from one another, so we just went to two monuments that were within walking distance and left. The noteworthy point about this particular stop was the massive numbers of people selling things to all those coming to the monuments.

As soon as I opened the door on my side, there was a lady offering us beads and bracelets. They are relentless, too. They don’t take no for an answer. The will just follow you and follow you. I think especially us since as westerners they must know we have money. It is really hard to turn down so many people, but you can’t buy everything. In addition to selling merchandise there were dozens of people approaching us offering to be our “guide” to explain all the interesting historical facts about the monuments to us. We were finally able to shed most of the people and make our way to the monument. We actually only stayed about 30 minutes and again were on our way.

After doing all this, we had probably only traveled about 30 of the 165 kilometers and it was starting to get dark. We told the driver no more stops and then settled in for a very long trip. The road from Chennai to Pondicherry is mainly a two lane highway (one lane in each direction) and is actually very busy. Driving during the day can be pretty interesting, but driving at night is actually pretty scary. In addition to the relentless honking, when it gets dark they add in the headlight brights for extra fun. I can’t imagine actually driving in those conditions. You have to be constantly vigilant. The driver was continually doing one of three things – honking, passing a slower vehicle or flashing this brights. I can’t imagine how stressed I would be if I were driving. :) To make matters worse, along this road, they installed speedbumps every half mile or so. So it was a pretty bumpy drive as well.

Well after dark, we finally pull into the “resort”. Sadly, this place was hurt pretty bad from the tsunami 4 years ago. You could tell that this hotel and resort area may have actually been pretty nice at one time. Our waiter told us that the whole first floor of the hotel – from floor up to ceiling – was completely underwater after the tsunami hit. The nice part of the hotel is out back between the hotel and the beach, there is a grassy area with palm trees and banana trees. Hammocks connect all the trees – it seems very quiet and peaceful here. It is far enough away from the main road, so you can’t hearing car honks. The room itself is in pretty bad shape, but you can hear the surf breaking on the beach from the room patio. Take the good with the bad I guess. :)

This has been a crazy full day. I am tired and dirty and I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep on this bed cot, but it has been very interesting and I’ve taken some nice photos.

Off to shower and then bed! G’night.

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