A very quick hour and a half flight and we landed in Chennai airport. We had been warned by books and other travellers that you can’t prepare for India, so we should just stay open minded and embrace all it has to offer. On this advice we felt a little apprehensive but excited to see what awaited us outside of the airport doors.
To our surprise, not once were we hassled by tuk tuk drivers or other local ‘tour guides’. Instead, we got a very cheap taxi from a lovely man who took us to our hotel and showed us some of the sites en route.
After offloading our bags we headed out to the streets of Chennai. Being early evening I fondly remember the amazing reddish/orange light that filled the bustling little side streets. The roads and streets were packed full of people, tuk tuks, cows, fruit vendors, flower sellers and all kind of other quirky little homemade stalls. It was manic, charming and ordered all at the same time, and we loved our first evening taking it all in.
We read online that the Chennai flower bazaar was the photographer’s dream, so it was high on my list of sites to see. After a lengthy walk with a stop off at the old fort museum, we made it to the outskirts of the bazaar. From far away we saw hordes and hordes of people pushing and shoving out of a tiny street with giant bags of flowers on their head... Upon the advice to ‘embrace it’ we followed the crowds and managed to squeeze our way into the flower market traffic.
Lesson number one: personal space is not a thing in India. It was absolute (ordered) mayhem and the only option was to go with the direction of the crowd, how anyone stops to actually buy their flowers I have no idea! With the crazy amount of people it was difficult to even bring my camera to eye level, but i hope some of these pictures give a glimpse into Chennai’s crazy but somehow beautiful flower bazaar.
The following day we went to visit Kapaleeswarar Temple, an elaborately decorated building located partly on water and partly amongst Chennai’s madness. It was fascinating to see the contrast between the busy streets, where flower tradespeople haggle over prices, and the serene meditative atmosphere inside the walls of the temple.
In the late, hazily lit afternoon we wandered along Chennai’s famous Marina Beach. The 6km stretch of wide natural beach attracts around 40,000 visitors a day and it’s tireless commerce replicates the busy streets nearby. With uncountable food stalls, man-powered fairground rides and beachside games covering the huge space it is unlike any beach we have ever seen. It almost felt like we had stepped into some surreal dream or a scene out of Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.
After a long day of walking we headed to ‘Nahir Mess’, a highly rated restaurant in Lonely Planet’s south India guide.
The food lived up to its rave reviews, but little did I know that it was going to bring a sleepless and pretty horrific night spent over a squat loo. Lesson number two: you cannot escape the dreaded Delhi belly.
The next morning, loaded with Imodium, we opted to take an air conned Uber taxi to Mahabalipuram. Despite the previous night's events, I was, and still am, so excited to be in the crazy, surreal, amazing place that is India.