Whenever you mention that you will be traveling to India, someone undoubtedly says, “Oh, that will be difficult.” Between the extreme poverty and the challenges with the food, adventurers to India usually anticipate there will be some kind of hardship along the way. So, we were incredibly grateful to begin our travels in India by staying with our friends in Chennai. We taught with these friends many years ago in Caracas, Venezuela and we try to meet up every two years or so. When we do it seems like we are able to just pick up where we left off! As our time to fly to Chennai drew closer, however, the flooding situation forced us to question our decision. Our friends were without power for a couple of days, but fortunately their house was not directly affected by the flooding so we decided to forge ahead.
Despite a few setbacks (our friend was hit by a motorcycle and had to spend the night in hospital; another day their dogs attacked a very large rat outside our bedroom door which was a wee bit smelly and messy, to say the least!), we were able to settle into a bit of a routine at their home and felt like we could leave our nomadic lifestyle behind for a couple of weeks. It was a great introduction to India. They have a lovely home and we were able to have our own bedroom with an attached bath, while the boys shared a bedroom with attached bath. There was a small grocery store around the corner so we could buy groceries and prepare the evening meal for our friends when they returned home from school. They have a driver and we were able to use his services once he had driven them to school in the morning. Since it was the last week of school before the holidays and since the flooding had caused the school to cancel all after school activities, our friends had a little more free time in the evenings and we were able to sit up and chat and even managed a fun game of Settlers!
While it was tempting to just hang around the house relaxing the whole time, we did manage to fit in some sightseeing! We visited Dashina Chitra. Dakshina Chitra is a small village recreated using replicas of traditional South Indian houses dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries. Visitors get a peek into the lifestyle and customs of different communities of South India and also view artifacts made by the local artisans. Unfortunately the mosquitoes at the place were fierce and kept us moving through at quite a clip! There were a few activities you could do, such as making a clay bowl, or building a puppet but no one spoke English so the boys were a bit intimidated with people jabbering at them and not being able to understand them! They did manage to make a clay bowl but the lady who kept asking for money when we took her picture put them off a little!
Another place we decided to try was Dizzee World and I’ll let you read the boys’ blogs about that one! It was a cultural experience at an amusement park and a lot of fun!
Our friends highly recommended visiting was Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram). Mamallapuram dates back to the Tamil Pallava dynasty in the 7th-9th century. The structures here, mostly carved straight out of granite, are among the oldest existing examples of South Indian architecture.
We spent a couple of hours looking at the impressive sculptures and then cooled off at one of the private beach clubs on our way home. Of course, the beach wasn’t without its excitement too!