Following a very restless night, I awoke properly around 5am and decided to brave the train toilet. Western style toilets are available but the Indian squat toilets are usually the better choice and it’s just a matter of being brave and getting on with it. A pretty vile experience though at that time in the morning.
We pull into Chennai Central on time at 6.15am; this is a bad time to be arriving anywhere as the hotels often don’t kick their previous guests out until mid- morning and we may not be able to get into our room until later. We fight our way through the station which is absolutely packed and make our way to the pre paid taxi service desk.
Despite it being early it is already hot and really busy, the taxi driver drives like Michael Schumacher and we arrive at The Hotel Himalaya just gone 7am. It looks ok and I’m relieved when the chap on the desk says our rooms will be ready in 10 minutes as we are all tired and need to crash for a few hours. We are informed that there is no restaurant but room service is available. Our initial optimism soon disappears though when we are shown to the rooms, what a dump. The beds look clean and are comfortable but these are the only positive points.
The paint is peeling off the walls in both rooms and the toilet cistern is steadily emptying all over the floor in one of them The windows are barred up and so dirty I can’t see a thing through them. Both rooms smell damp and horrible and as we have to spend at another 4 nights in Chennai we quickly agree we will look for somewhere else later.
By now we are hungry so we order room service, my appetite soon disappears though when 2 cold masala omelettes and 4 toasted jam sandwiches arrive wrapped in newspaper and tied with string.
We crash out for the morning and Maisie and I don’t wake up until 12.30, we have been disturbed twice by men knocking on the door claiming they had the wrong room and although it doesn’t feel unsafe here, I feel that may change tonight and definitely want to leave. We really need a good wash after a night on the train and even though it’s horrible here I’m desperate for a shower, but when I go and find a fella and ask him for towels he shakes his head and tells me not until after 2pm.
We get dressed and jump in a rickshaw, and after a long drive around town we arrive at The Orchard Inn. I ask if there are any rooms available and although it doesn’t look promising Simon intervenes and eventually the fella decides there will be rooms available after 7pm tonight. We check them out and although they could hardly be described as top end they are a big improvement on The Himalaya.
We have lunch in their restaurant and the food is cheapish and good. Maisie and Ali insist on having paneer masala which they love eating with their fingers, they are really getting into Indian food culture and often now eat with their hands like the locals. Eating cheers us up and we decide we will return to the other place, shower and collect our gear. By the time we get back there seems to be a party going on with plenty of whisky and rum being drank and a rowdy crowd of men congregating outside our door. We choose the best room, (which is a difficult choice between horrible and horribler) and all pile into one, it seems good natured enough at the moment but I feel a bit safer all together.
Eventually we manage to get some towels and to my amazement there is a plentiful supply of hot water, despite the notice on the door urging you to use water and electricity sparingly I figure that as we have paid for 2 rooms that we won’t be spending the night in we are entitled to use as much water as we like and we all shower and wash our hair.
The area we are staying in is called Triplicane and seems to be a centre for medical services. A kind of Harley Street for Madras, opposite is The Shifa Jaundice Clinic and Simon suggests I could go and offer my services and do a bit of work ????..
I don’t think so!
We leave The Himalaya at 7pm and transfer to The Orchard Inn which is in the district of Anna Salai. As soon as we have checked in we get in a rickshaw and head for The Galloping Gooseberry American Diner. An hour later and we have had the best burgers, with chicken wings and deep fried mozzarella sticks for starters, a Greek salad and washed down with fresh fruit milkshakes, it was yummy and such a welcome change from Indian food for all of us.
We head back for the hotel around 9pm, make a quick call home and then lie on the bed reading the complimentary Chennai Chronicle. Very informative, it gives us some ideas of things to do, starting with a visit to the circus tomorrow evening, looking forward to that.