Thursday, October 23, 2008

First Day in India

Like most of my travels, this one started out really hectic. It was the 2nd day of our break, and I was working on job applications. We decided to go out for an early dinner, but it took us a while to get our food, and by the time we finished, I had to quickly dash back to school and gather my things.

Arrived at the budget terminal, where I flew Tiger Airways for about US$250 to Chennai. I seem to always pick the wrong lines to checkin, because by the time I got to the counter, the people in the other lines had already cleared out, and they were pretty much closing the desk, despite me arriving 1.5 hrs early!

Apparently, there is a very small limit on carry-on items - 7 kgs or 10 lbs. They didn't check the weight until AFTER I had checked-in my luggage, and my backpack came in at 8kgs. She said I needed to reduce the weight, but I couldn't throw anything out! I only had a laptop, camera, and books from the library. After frantically looking for space and stuffing as much stuff as I could into my pockets, she just waved me on without checking again. Note: some laptops are already 8 lbs, 5-6 kgs!

From Shanthas Wedding - Chennai

When I arrived, it really felt like a foreign land. Lots of people waiting outside, but only a few taxi touts. Made my way to the counter to the prepaid taxi booth, where I got into a taxi that looked like it was from the 1950's. And, in true 1950's style, no seat belts in the back. Apparently, these Ambassador cars are the mainstay of the Indian market, and it's not that they're made in the 50's, they're still made now, but this style has become really popular. Just recently when the market opened up, then you started to see more newer looking cars.

Arrived at the hotel after a little bit of confusion. Prepaid my Rs3000 (US$60), and checked out the room. Not bad for US$25/night! Clean, fan + AC, TV with a kazillion Bollywood movies, and western toilet (important point for a later story).

From Shanthas Wedding - Chennai

Next morning, I had a fantastic breakfast. I felt that all the things I've learned from my Indian coworkers have all prepared me for this day. I went into the hotel restaurant knowing exactly what I wanted... vadas and idli, with a cup of chai, just like what serve at the former Udupi Cafe along Central Ave. In what became a common trend, the waitstaff guy seemed surprised that I wanted to order Indian dishes, and then would follow-up asking me if it was too spicy. My response: Spicy is GOOD! Total cost for breakfast: Rs100, or about US$2. Unfortunately, I was too hungry, and took the photo too late after I finished the vadas and idli, but was still working on a new plate of puri in the background. (upper left corner)

After that, I hit the road with my friendly driver Sagan. (or that at least what his name sounded like... I just kept on thinking Carl Sagan...)

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