Chennai, India

Trip Start Jan 07, 2012
Trip End May 09, 2012

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Flag of India  , Tamil Nadu,
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 1, 2012 – At Sea Enroute to Chennai, India

After leaving our berth in Phuket and into the channel, the pilot disembarked prior to our ship heading in a southerly course.  After clearing the coast of Thailand, we headed north-westerly through the Andaman Sea.  During the course of the day the ship passed between Nicobar Islands and Ten Degree Channel marking our entry into the Bay of Bengal towards our next port of call.

The morning had us going to the port talk, "Chennai – Indian Temples & Tradition" with Debbie.  Once again, this provided good information and, hopefully, will help us decide which tour to take.  Cruise Critic was also held at some of the same time, so we each split the sessions.  Rick went to Cruise Critic for the beginning with meet & greet for passengers who joined in Singapore and the 3rd segment photo contest.  Rick won 2nd place for his photo of Barron Falls at Kuranda in Cairns, Australia!  Way to go, Rick.  The meeting was about Chennai as well, so again more useful information.  Afterwards, we talked with passenger, Sara, about their experiences on an independent overland trip where they missed the ship in Singapore and finally got back onboard in Phuket. Wow, we certainly wouldn't want to have that type of experience!  Then, we went to the Sunday brunch with a group of fellow passengers.

 Most of the afternoon was spent between some reading, composing & uploading for the blog, uploading pictures to the blog and catching up on email.  Tonight was formal night, so it was getting ready for that. We had canapés delivered to our stateroom now that we made Elite status with Princess from Singapore on.  Now we get free laundry service, bar set up, 10% discount in shop, free wine tastings, and special room amenities!

The evening entertainment was “I Got the Music” with the Princess Singers and Dancers.  This was a “one time only” show for the World Cruise and as usual, was quite good.

April 2, 2012 – At Sea 

Through out the day the Pacific Princess continued to transit the Bay of Bengal in very calm waters.

We got up and going a bit earlier than usual for most sea days as much was happening in the morning.  We had another time change, so now we are 13 hours ahead of home (west coast time).  After getting some breakfast, we prepared our Arrival Cards and Shore Pass Forms for the Bureau of Immigration for Chennai Sea Port.  This morning we had an ALL passenger and ALL crew Piracy Drill.  This important anti-piracy exercise is required by Princess as a precautionary measure due to the sporadic pirate activity in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.  Though authorities do NOT anticipate any problems, safety and security are utmost responsibilities followed by staff.  All passengers were required to be in their staterooms, with drapes drawn and by open stateroom door in order to hear instructions and for crew to verify accountability of all passengers. Crew beat the record of 10 minutes on last year’s World Cruise, for a time of 8 minutes, 45 seconds this year.  Immediately following the drill, there was a World Cruise 2012 photo of passengers and crew taken out on the pool deck.

Next event was another port talk; this time “Mumbai – Bombay Dreams. Debbie shared useful information about Mumbai, India for our port of call in 5 days.  Right after the talk, we had to go for a face to passport immigration inspection.  We needed to obtain our passports from passenger services and then meet directly with Indian Immigration officials with our passports and Arrival Cards/Shore Pass.  Here they verified all was in order, stamped our passports and Shore Pass forms, which we will be required to carry with us in Chennai and need to return.  Then we had to turn in our passports to passenger services, which will then be stamped again by Indian Immigration officials for departure.  We then have to fill out a customs form for the items we will take with us for sightseeing and bring them back on the ship.

Rick went to choir and Chris worked on the usual blog information.  Later Chris went to a complimentary seminar in the spa, “Cleanse Yourself Back to Health with Ionithermie” and believe it or not, won a free treatment!  In the afternoon we spent some time at the pool relaxing and reading. We headed back to the room to post on the blog and get ready for dinner.

Dinner tonight had Marcia (and Marcel) join us for the first time this segment, as she had not been feeling well.  However, Pam was a bit under the weather, so she did not come to dinner.  We said goodbye to Jane, Marcel and Marcia for 5 days, as they are going on the overland trip to the Taj Mahal and will rejoin us in Mumbai.  After dinner we decided to do something different and went to “Brett’s Mental Minefield-Useless Information”, which was basically a trivia game.  We joined in with a group for this rather crazy game.  All participants received a small battery powered fan!

Upon returning to our room, we found another form that needed to be filled out for our visit to India, an Indian Customs form that we had to declare what we were bringing ashore.

April 3, 2012 – Chennai, India

Our ship continued a West-North-West heading in the morning, changing to a southern westerly heading, boarding our pilot and then we entered the dredged channel passing the breakwater into the harbor basin for path to our berth at West Quay.  We had a strange change of the clocks for India - a set back of 30 minutes.  We are now are 12 ˝ hours ahead of west coast time.

Chennai formally known as Madras, it is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  The name was changed about 5 years.  Chennai is located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal.  It is a major commercial, cultural, and educational center in South India, while the port of Chennai is the second largest port in India. Although the area has been part of successive South Indian kingdoms through the centuries, the recorded history of the city began in colonial times, specifically with the arrival of the British East India Company and the establishment Fort George, an English settlement, in1644. The British defended several attacks from the French colonial forces, and from the kingdom of Mysore, on Chennai’s way to become a major naval port and presidency city by late eighteenth century.  Development of transportation and industry led to rapid urbanization in nineteenth and twentieth century. Following the independence of India, Chennai became the capital of Tamil Nadu and a hotbed of regional politics that tended to bank on the Dravidian identity of the populace. 

Today’s Tamil culture exhibits strongly Hindu architecture, with intricate detail in sculptures and paintings, and very little meat in the diet.  The rich language and literature of the region is carried on today in Madras (Chennai).  Local people are hard working, but also tend to be relaxed and welcoming.  Some are unhappy with the decision to declare Hindi the national language; as they felt English was more “neutral”.  Hindi is the primary language for about 30% of the population In India, along with 14 other languages.  Today, Chennai is the 4th most populated city in India, with about 6 million people as of 2011.  The local currency is the Indian rupee, with limited acceptance of US dollars in some places.  The climate is known at hot; averaging around 90 degrees.  Monsoon rain season is mid October to mid December with about 55 inches of rain during that time. 

The area is known for Marina Beach, known for being the largest beach in the world.  Unfortunately, we did not see this place.  Buckingham Canal runs through the city, which was totally unbelievable with being extremely dirty and loaded with rubbish.  The port is the second largest in India, with 61.5 tons of cargo per year going through.  Automobiles and software are important exports, with Hyundai and Dell being major ones.  The area has dozens of medical and engineering colleges, which are quite populated with students.  Children start school at 6 years of age and attend for 12 years.  Then college is 3 years with an entrance exam required.  Most students follow with either an engineering college for 4 more years or a medical college for 5 more years plus 1 year of an internship.  Engineering students pay about 413,000 rupees ($1 US dollar=50 rupees) or about $8300 per year.  Medical students have to pay capitation fees to cover the lab costs, which vary depending on which school they attend.  India also has English style of driving, which seems to be the most common way in the places we have seen.

For our tour, we chose “Kanchipuram: City of a 1,000 Temples”, which was for the whole day.  It took us about 2 hours to reach our first destination.  As we first drove through the very crowded city, of which we had to take detours due to many places of construction for a new subway system, we noted the many signs of poverty, rubbish, dirty, tons of people, many cars, trucks, auto rickshaws and cattle wandering in the streets.  The conditions of the people are just plain deplorable.  Once we got out of the main city areas, it really was amazing how many colleges and universities we saw along the way.   Also amazing was how many different hospitals we noted in the cities and communities.  Once we reached the “village of 1,000 temples” Kanchipuram, the bus driver had to literally maneuver the motorcoach through narrow dirt roads to arrive at the Ekambareswar Temple sight.

Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities of India, known for its 6th and 8th century temples and was once the headquarters of the Pallava Empire.  Kanchipuram today has immense historical and religious significance. We got off the bus and had an experience not to remember with the restroom facilities!  Then, we all had to remove our shoes and walk on extremely hot dirt and some cement to reach the actual temple. (Custom is that no shoes are worn in temples).

As we walked through one area that was covered, there were many vendor booths set up.  There were also many beggars, including small children tugging at you. In addition, there were a few cattle just walking around in the area.  Cattle are considered very sacred to many people in India.  Once we went through this area, there was another hot open area that we had to cross before reaching the temple.  Everyone was complaining about his or her burning feet!  It was a relief to get to the actual temple, which was completely enclosed so the floor, though still dirty, was much cooler.  Inside were so many people sitting, some lying down, some vendors, and many praying at various locations. 

The Panguni Peruvizha Festival was going on, so there were thousands of people there with lots of families all dressed up for the event.  This was nice to see with all the colorful attire.  Many of the people wanted to take our pictures and have us take their pictures as well.

The breath-taking temple has a 200 foot gopuram (monumental tower) and ten magnificent levels of intricate sculpture.  Inside, we visited a sacred shrine where some of our tour group received a special blessing where we were given an opportunity to take pictures, which normally is not allowed.  A mango tree, said to be 3,500 years old, stands inside the courtyard.  Legend has it that each of the four main branches bears fruit with a different taste, depicting the four Hindu Vedas. 

The next part of our tour took us to the Kailashnatha Temple, which is made of limestone and dates back to the late 7th century A.D.  Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it was built by the Pallava King Rayasimha and reflects the simplicity of the early Dravidian style of architecture.  We again had to take our shoes off as we went through the temple.  Fortunately, here we took them off at the entrance and there were some shady spots as we walked along on the hot stone surfaces.

On the ride back, we stopped for a tour of a local silk factory, Sreenivas Silk House, showing how the silk is hand woven on the looms.  It is quite an intricate process and certainly takes a long time. Of course, this was followed by some time in the silk store offering sarees, shawls, wraps, scarves, table runners, place mats, pillow covers and material.  Kanchipuran is known to be world famous for its silk.  Here, we also were given a drink and cookies!

Our last stop was to a local hotel, GRT Regency, in Kanchipuram.  Here, we had some snacks of mini pizzas, some sweets, a drink and coffee or tea.  It was nice to have an air-conditioned rest stop with clean western style restroom facilities!  Our return trip to Chennai took over two hours with all the traffic congestion, thus arriving later than the scheduled time.  We were the last bus to get back to the ship, so thankful it was a ship sponsored tour because the ship will not leave without us.

After all passengers were accounted for immigration was cleared, we attended sail away up on the open deck.  It was a beautiful evening weather wise and enjoyed time chatting with some passengers and crew.  We had some free time to relax and get cleaned up before dinner.  Dinner was much quieter with 3 tablemates on the overland trip and Pam not there, as she is still not feeling well.  The after dinner entertainment was the “Encore Showtime” with Whyte, the brothers’ duo from England.  This time their songs focused on the 50’s & 60’s era, which was quite good as well.

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