Trip Start Sep 02, 2012
Trip End Oct 10, 2012

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Where I stayed
Emerald Park Hotel Chennai (Madras)
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
The Tomb of St Thomas

Flag of India  , Tamil Nadu,
Sunday, September 23, 2012

 Arrived in Chennai about 1.30pm after a 2 hr flight from Calcutta.  Hotel looks fine except for the railway line running adjacent to our bedroom window.  Met our new team leader Santo, and 3 of the other 4 people who will be joining us on the southern leg of this trip.  At 4pm Santo suggested we take a train ride to the beach.  Apparently it is the 2nd largest urban beach in the world, 25k's long.  The train ride was yet another experience.  I think we hit rush hour because we had to let the first train go - literally you could not have fitted a sardine on that train, let alone another person.  It was sheer madness as people struggled to get off the train, while others were struggling to get on, and to make matters worse, it hardly slowed at the station before taking off again.  I could barely watch as several young men with a death wish took a flying leap at the train, managed to get hold of the hand rail then sort of dangled, as there wasn't enough room for them to put their feet down!  After quite a long wait we were finally able to board a train without the risk of being trampled to death. 

  It was quite dark by the time we reached the beach - doesn't seem like such a good idea now.  However, there was plenty of stalls all lit up selling all manner of things from food to religious carvings and beads.  If you are a local in Chennai, then this is the place to go on a Sunday night, the children play games on the sand, while the adults chat amongst themselves, celebrate their faith, and enjoy the cool evening breezes. We walked quite a way down the road which ran alongside the beach, and I knew before I saw it, that we had reached the fish market. Their were lots of stalls set up each side of the road displaying their catch although it didn't smell like catch of the day, more like catch of yesterday.  I don't think there is any such thing in India as health and safety regarding the storing or preparing of food.  I don't think I'll be having fish tonight. 
  Next stop was a visit to the tomb of St Thomas the patron saint of courage.  Thomas was sent by Jesus to India in 52 AD, his mission was to spread the word and convert the masses.  He was much revered in Chennai for what was regarded as a miracle - he was able to prevent the city from flooding by removing some tightly wedged wood that was stopping the water from flowing away.  Many had tried to remove the wood and failed.  It was Thomas who saved the city from disaster.  That piece of wood or part of it is embedded in a monument just outside where his tomb is kept. In the Boxing day tsunami of 2006, Chennai lost thousands of people who had gathered for their usual Sunday festivities.  Out of the blue the wave struck, and swept these poor soles away, however the water only went as far as St Thomas's monument, then receded. .Spooky! 
It was quite late by the time we ate dinner.  The restaurant was very big and very busy, it took up 3 floors.  The 5 of us who had travelled from Calcutta were feeling very tired, it had been a big day and a much bigger night than anticipated.  I for one was very glad to get back to the hotel and go to bed.  I really don't think the trains are going to bother me tonight.

PS  I have since learned that the Syrians claim that Saint Thomas lived and died in Edessa 73 AD.   What is clear is that every early Christian community wanted it's own martyr, which makes it very difficult to know which claim is true and which one is false.   
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Mads on

Hello dear friends!!! Oh how long it seems. Glad to hear you arrived safe and sound in chennai and found your new group, seems you didn't need me as your tour guide after all :). I arrived in kathmandu this arvo and have found a great hotel. It's so much cooler here but already my nose is chockers with dust. Sitting down to a ginger tea and veggie pizza (with yak milk cheese) before hitting the sack. Love to all. Mads xoxo

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