Friday June 12, 2015 (Asia, India)
So here we are in India! After deciding to avoid Nepal due to potential issues with the recent earthquakes, we’ve ended up in southern India during peak monsoon season. The Lonely Planet has a section where they talk about what to see in a country during each month of the year. You may see festivals mentioned, religious ceremonies… that kind of thing. June just says something like: “Travel is very uncommon in this month. Rain is almost constant and temperatures are scorching.” The story checks out. Temperatures are pushing forty degrees Celcius, and theoretically it’s raining for the next couple of months all across the country. Luckily, we seem to have avoided the heavy rains up to this point – the temperatures, however, are fairly punishing, especially with the humidity!
On the ride to our hotel from the airport we both recalled (with the obliging aid of our driver) how honk-obsessed the drivers in this country are. I’m realizing I should have counted the number of honks our cabbie dropped during the twenty minute ride, but suffice it to say it’s used less like a “Watch out!” signal and more like an “I’m here world: let’s celebrate life!” kind of deal. There doesn’t seem to be a connection between the honking and any nearby pedestrian or vehicle. One just emits the sound out of habit.
Another thing we’d forgotten about India: moustaches are wayyy in. It’s like living in the midst of a Magnum PI lookalike contest. If you’re an adult male and you don’t have that fuzzy caterpillar atop the lip, you’re definitely doing something wrong. You will be shunned. The stache should be thick and bushy, and you get bonus points if you wax and curl the ends.
We’ve done a lot of catching up on sleep here at the hotel. We got a fairly swank place in Chennai called the Savera Hotel – it has a pool and a fitness area. As a massive bonus, it turns out that the pool does AquaFit on Mondays and Thursdays. So we’re going to try to head into the pool with the old folks on one of those nights and see if we can capture the madness. We’ve noticed that almost all of the people in the pool wear swimming caps here. There’s some kind of ingrained cultural fear of the effects of chlorine on the hair, I suspect. I’m going to look like an idiot swimming around with my luscious locks flowing all over the place.
After spending most of yesterday in bed (excepting a short foray to try to obtain a SIM card), we managed to squeeze in a dinner on the town. I’d read up on a place called Copper Chimney that was nearby and supposedly tasty, but upon arrival we discovered it was closed for another two hours. A passerby quickly herded us upstairs to an alternative restaurant that he appeared to own: Don Pepe’s Mexican Food. India is obviously known for its Mexican food, so we followed along. It wasn’t actually too bad! I quite enjoyed a spicy chicken dish, and Sandra liked her chimichangas. The restaurant was also staffed by a dwarf in a three piece suit wearing a ten gallon cowboy hat. You can’t make this stuff up.
Today we decided to get out a bit and see the sights. Sandra wanted to check out the local mall (the Citi Centre) to see if she could obtain a one-piece swimsuit. She’s decided it’d serve her well, so we wandered around to see if we could find one. No luck there, but we DID locate a “doughnut” store in the mall. India obviously has no Tim Horton’s influence, because they make teeny-tiny-cutesy doughnuts. They won’t sell you just one though – four is the minimum! But hey, it was the equivalent of a dollar to pick ‘em up. Taste? Let’s just say India could use more Tim Horton’s influence.
We also stopped into a pharmacy to pick up a new razor for Sandra. No matter what store you’re in, the upsell is going on in full force. In a department store, every makeup salesperson was bombarding us with suggestions and hand waves to try to get us to purchase their products. You could smell the sweet stench of commission sales. I guess you could expect that in a department store, but a pharmacy? Minutes after walking in, a store employee was encouraging me to buy “body spray”. I think most Canadians would take at least some offence to the idea of a stranger telling them that they definitely need to smell better. So we arrive at the front counter:
“Toothbrush?”, the clerk asks. “Uhh, nope, I think we’re fine thanks.”, I respond. He looks at me. He’s going to try another tactic. “V Wash?” “Uhh…”
I don’t know what he’s referring to. What the heck is "V Wash"? I look at a lineup of product sitting on the counter in front of him that he’s gesturing toward. V Wash: Feminine Intimate Hygiene Wash. Heck, I’ll give the guy credit: he’s straight up trying to sell me Indian Vagisil on my way out the door. Speaking as a male, if I’d made the purchase it would definitely be one of the great impulse buys of history. I smile, shake my head, and we stick with our original purchases. Some day, buddy: it’ll work and it’ll be glorious.
Then we wandered over to the beach. Marina Beach, to be specific. It’s a bit strange because nobody really swims there, but there were certainly a fair number of locals hanging about. There was a nice statue of Gandhi. And a makeshift midway with carney games! And young boys mounted on horses riding around trying to encourage beachgoers to take a ride. We dipped our toes in the Bay of Bengal, spent some time petting a very cute street dog, and wandered back to the hotel. Apologies if the photo quality seems to have diminished somewhat from past outings: we generally don’t wander around cities carrying “the nice camera”.
We went out to the gym before dinner. This is a subplot on our blog that we will return to. Cue mysterious music.
Now dinner! We headed out late enough that Copper Chimney was open this time around. The meal was great! It’s funny though: as much as we love certain Indian food, there are some huge misses that both of us think are pretty nasty. Tonight it was the Jal Jeera. I tried it out after asking the waiter what was in it. “It’s spicy. Traditional.”. It sounded adventurous, so I jumped in. What came to the table was an opaque murky green substance with what appeared to be corn kernels floating on top. On my first sip, it was cold. Nice: it must be some kind of fruity thing that’ll be cold and refreshing and perhaps spicy. Not the case. It just kind of tasted like salt water. Dead Sea salty. And spicy. That drink didn’t get finished. Our main courses were both great, but we got nailed again with the after dinner treat. “Mint Munch”. It was a mixture of seeds and little white beads and it tasted for the life of me like bathroom soap at a senior’s home. Very floral. Suffice it to say it’s not a great taste to leave in your mouth on the way home.
And now we’re off to bed! We hope to explore a local temple tomorrow if all goes according to plan and we manage to wake up before noon. Can we blame it on the time change?