Crocs and Retail Therapy in Chennai

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2013

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Flag of India  , Tamil Nadu,
Thursday, January 31, 2013

Making our way to Chennai which was a really short 1.5hr drive, we stopped off at the Crocodile Bank ( set up in 1976 by an American zoologist to protect and breed indigenous crocodiles. In the first fifteen years the bank has gone from fifteen to over five thousand crocodiles of varies species. They now focus on saving other endangered species such as lizards, tortoises and my favourite  - turtles.  You are able to walk around the compound and peer over the low walled enclosures of the various species of crocodiles and a few alligators.  One pen had hundreds of them all climbing on top of each seeking space and sun outside the pond.  Our timing seemed impeccable as when we approached a couple of the pens we caught some crocs mating.  You can only imagine the commentary we had going on while the act was taking place.  

Unfortunately just as we were in the outskirts of Chennai about 13kms from our hotel, Josh lost his ability to shift gears.  Amanda managed to coast in first gear off the main roads onto a side street where we off loaded our bags and caught a bunch of tuk-tuks to the hotel.  I hadn't been in tuk-tuk in a while and was quickly reminded of how scary it can actually be.  I was in one with as many of our bags as we could fit; trying to hang on to all of them to make sure none of them fell out as we went around corners.  I was quite sure I was going to be involved in some type of accident but was proven wrong making it safely to the hotel slightly shaken.

Our hotel, Hotel Pandian was near the Egmore train station in Chennai but not near much else.  The hotel was also not much to write home about either.  Claiming they are a third time winner of the National Tourism Award for the "best two star Hotel in India", we all agreed to differ as we have stayed in much nicer two star places.  The place reminded me of being in a cross between a hospital and college dorm.  Not wanting to stay in our rooms and not really having any destination we thought we’d start with finding some lunch.  Just down the street was a place mentioned in the Rough Guide, but some were dubious about the place when we got in and decide to go elsewhere.  Elsewhere ended up being Spencer Plaza , where we found a food court and seeked comfort in ordering from KFC.  After a wander in the mall which was more like an indoor market and finding a UV filter lens for my camera and a iPOD shuffle for Joel which Tanya put on hold, we took a tuk tuk back to the hotel

Sitting in the lobby we learned there was another mall and for lack of nothing else to do, Mike, Zahra and I decided to check it out.  Express Mall was indeed a proper mall with name brand stores and coffee shops.  The only thing missing was a directory of all the stores in the mall which would have been really helpful.  I was on the hunt for a camera bag and was at first disappointed when the security guard directed us to this little kiosk on the lower floor which sold only point and shoot cameras and SD cards.  I asked there if there was another camera store in the mall and got a “no”. Giving up my quest we then went looking for a t-shirt for Mike which he ended up getting at the Levi’s store.  The guy serving Mike was very friendly and spoke well enough English that we asked him if there was a luggage store (thinking they’d sell camera bags).  He personally escorted us to the luggage store and asked about camera bags of which they had none but asked us to follow him up to the third floor to,  where low and below there was a full-fledge Canon store.   So in the end I got a very nice camera bag and learned that in India you need to keep asking until you get what you want.  Killing a little more time we stopped and had a Café Latte at Café Coffee Day and then headed back to the hotel as Zahra and Mike had to head off to the airport as Chennai was their last stop with us.

In the meantime Amanda was able to get Josh fixed and arrived back at the hotel in time to join us for dinner at a Mexican place called Don Pepe.  I know you are thinking “Mexican in India that can’t be good”.  But you would be wrong.   It was actually very good, tasted like Mexican food and they even had salsa, sour cream and jalapeno peppers.  The only down side is that they didn’t serve beer and the margaritas were non-alcoholic.  I ordered a margarita anyways think it would be fine but it was more like lime sherbet in soda.  One strange thing about this place is that they had a dwarf dressed in a suit wearing a pseudo sombrero standing at the top of the stairs with his only job being to greet us. The entire time we were there, and we were the only ones in the place, he remained standing by the stairs.  It is worth going here for the food and to see the dwarf.  Also worth it because downstairs was a bakery called Hot Breads, were most of us indulged in buying our next morning’s breakfast.
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Jason on

Hi Molly, glad to see the trip is going well. I loved Chennai and especially the South Indian food. If you get the chance for a bit of luxury I recommend the Taj Fisherman's Cove - an amazing hotel and you have to try the Ayurvedic massage!

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