The Cynics Guide to Travel – Chennai India
Having now been to over 140 countries worldwide, I would like to call myself an experienced traveller. Today I am starting a series of blogs chronicling some of my adventures in destinations around the world. Its called the Cynics Guide to Travel simply because after 15 years on the move, there are some place that really need to be re-examined as popular tourist destinations. I start the series with a look at Incredible India and the city of Chennai
Chennai a few years ago had a Prince moment, and is now it is the city formerly known as Madras. Ask most Englishmen if they have ever been to Chennai they would say no, ask them if they have ever been to Madras they would also say no but have had a good Chicken Madras at the Bombay curry house (now known as the Mumbai curry house). In Chennai Tania and I encountered perhaps the world most idiotic and bureaucratic immigration service.
We had arrived as crew members on the ship Princess Danae at around 8.00 in the morning. It took the immigration until 4.00pm to clear the ship for the crew. Now bear in mind that there were 40+ officials on board this means each official cleared 5 crew members each over an 8 hour period, nearly one every two hours. The reason for this was plain and simple, whilst examining the passports for the telltale signs of being a terrorist such as occupation – suicide bomber, they were systematically drinking the ship dry of coffee, juice and coke then sauntering off to the bog for an hour to try out this new fangled stuff called toilet paper.
Eventfully we were allowed off and strolled over to the main Port entrance
At the dock gate, we give our immigration forms to the soldier on duty.
“This is not signed by the immigration officer” he said
“ This is what we were given” I replied.
This continued for about 5 minutes, until he demanded that we open our bags.
“Have you got any cigarettes?” He asked
By now we realise he is looking for a bribe, I am totally pissed off and look him straight in the eye
“You know what, fuck your city, I am going back to the ship”
I turn to go but Tania looks at him and says
“What’s your name?”
“Why do you need my name” He is a little unsure.
I look at him, look at the large gun then look at Tania.
I see her game. She is good at this.
“What is your name?” She repeats loudly.
The guard buckles. “Ok you can pass”
And so we enter the city of Madras. Ironically, it is republic day today, millions of Indians are celebrating independence from Britain by not working. Of course the street peddlers, plastic Ganesh salemen, and rickshaw drivers are still working and taking every opportunity to make our stay in the city as uncomfortable as possible but we run the gauntlet and eventually find ourselves at Marina Beach. This is apparently the second longest beach in the world, and despite the tens of thousands of Indians on the beach celebrating “birth of bureaucracy day” there is acres of spare sand to see. It was such an enchanting evening, Tania and I decided to see exactly how long the beach was, we wandered along watching all India at play, eating deep fried banana chips, and other assorted Indian delicacies, a cool breeze tempering the balmy Asian heat. In the distance we were transfixed by a veritable “Times Square” of neon lights, and flashing signs. We decided to make for the biggest and brightest. It simply said MGM, so we naturally assumed it was some sort of cinema complex. When we finally arrived we were confronted with a seedy run down hotel, with the biggest neon sign in India. It said MGM Grand Hotel. Now I have been to the MGM Grand in Vegas and apart from the name, and it had bedrooms, I could see no similarity at all, it did however serve ice cold Kingfisher for less than a Euro and so in my books it beats it’s Nevada namesake in every respect.