Arriving in Madras during the rainy season
My first impressions after arrival in Madras: it is warm and humid, plus I see puddles everywhere. The rainy season clearly has not ended. My transfer from the airport to the hotel went well, only a 20-minute drive. According to my driver, that is not feasible during the day because of the crowds.
First night in a basic but well-kept room
The hotel should be modern according to my travel guide, but I would instead call it basic but well-kept, in fact, I get a mainstream room. And as I gave the luggage carrier a small tip, three minutes later a mechanic knocks on my door. With a screwdriver in his hand. He comes to fix the air conditioning, which actually already works, so no tip for him. It is late already, so I want to catch some sleep now. After breakfast tomorrow, I am going to arrange transportation to Pondicherry and explore the city of Madras, or Chennai as it is commonly named these days.
Still very cautious about eating local food
Apparently, it is easier to go to Pondicherry by bus than by train; that is what the hotel staff tells me. So I start searching for the bus station, but given my proper orientation, I start walking in the opposite direction, as I will find out soon. Back to the hotel then. As the rain pours down continuously all day, I return fairly wet. I take lunch on the corner of the street from the hotel. These first days in South India, I pay close attention to what I eat, so I order fried vegetarian rice, and finish my meal with delicious tea and milk afterward.
Spending the day searching for the bus station
At the eatery, I started talking to an American, but I want to continue searching for the bus station. And this time, I succeed in finding the place, but there is no information counter. A guy on a motorcycle asks where I want to go. I jump on the back, and we drive to Egmore railway station where he inquires about my intended trip at a local travel agency. At National Travel I can book the trip for 250 rupees. Another somewhat older man approaches me. I explain to him what I am looking for. According to him, this is all money beating, I can go with a regular ECR bus for 37.5 rupees, something he regularly does himself.
Searching for the bus station
The man seems honest, so I invite him to drink a coffee nearby. With a motorized tricycle, a put-put, he shows me the bus station, at my expense of course. But in this way, I get a relatively unbiased view of the prices charged here. My companion appears to trade in silk as a distributor. He is also talking about a sculpture festival that is currently taking place in Madras. We take a local city bus to the market where these images are sold; Shivas, Ganeshas, Vishnus, and so on.
But ending up in a silk shop
There is also a silk shop on the same street, I start to grasp what is going on now. The items are affordable. I find a beautiful silk scarf, to get rid of it, I buy it. Back outside the shop, one of the vendors just not inconspicuously enough puts the commission in the pocket of my guide.
Many good tips on traveling safely in South India
On the way back to the next tricycle, my Indian guide asks if I am satisfied with the two hours we spent together. I confirm that he helped me a lot in my searching for the bus station, and thank him for the useful safety tips for traveling in South India. I decide to return to the hotel, and we say goodbye.