My mum and grandma had been planning and packing since days. However, I was commanded to pack my stuff only on the night before we were leaving..
So, on 24th December, at evening, as the birds were returning to their nests, we left ours.
We spent Christmas on the train and reached Chennai on 26th December afternoon.
On the way, we met other families who were going with the same tourist company. It seemed that I was the only young person in the group. However, there were many who were as young in heart as me 😉
A tourist bus was waiting for our arrival at the Chennai station, and soon we set off for sightseeing.
First we went to Marina Beach, opposite the famous ‘Madras University’. It was a pretty wide and empty then, since it was little after noon. You have to walk some distance from the parking area to reach the shore. If you’ve been to other beaches, its not quite worth it. We collected some colourful sea shells there.
In the meantime, the aunties division found out a shop selling huge conch shells. The seller initially priced them at Rs. 800 (~US$ 13) each. But, we bengalis are known for our ‘power of bargaining’. After a session of intense bargaining, the seller was running behind us with a revised cost of Rs. 500 (~US$ 8) for two !!!
Then we went to ‘Snake Park’. Complete waste of time and energy. Probably because I’m not too enthusiastic about snakes and reptiles.
Our third and last stop was ‘Kapaleshwari’ Temple. It was pretty big temple, with enormous numbers of perfectly sculpted statuettes adorning the temple and its gateways.
The temples of South India have their unique flair, in terms of architecture and design.
Kapaleshwari Temple was just a trailer of the film.
We rested in a hotel near the Chennai Central Station. (There are two stations for Chennai City)
After a quick lunch, we set off for the revered temple of Tirupati. Everyday lacs of god-fearing followers line-up for visiting Tirupati, which is over a hill called ‘Tirumala’. The queue is so long, it takes more than 24 hours for the general visit (called ‘Free Dharshan‘). However, you can pay Rs. 300 for joining a special queue. Even that one takes 7-8 hours at minimum !
We reached Tirupati Railway Station in the evening of 27th, after 3-4 hours journey. Jeeps and buses are available, to take you to the top of Tirumala, where the temple is situated. However, many devotees choose to take the foot road. After a quick dinner comprising of the local dishes (Idli and Vada), we boarded on the Jeep and it ran towards Tirumala. There is a very stringent checking at a check point. No leather objects are allowed, including belts and wallets !!
Once our Jeep crossed the checkpoint, it ran at a frighteningly high speed over the one-way mountainous road, taking lots of sharp turns. It was really chilly over the hills, a striking contrast to the temperature in the plains.
After we safely got off the Jeep, and after some wanderings, we came to learn that the queues had been closed due to overcrowding. The special queue was to be reopened the next morning. But in that case, we’d be missing our trains that were reserved for the next day.
Everybody was disgruntled since visiting Tirupati was a main attraction of the tour. Our tour guide, not daring to talk to the elders, chose me to for ranting about his problems.
Anyway, we went back to Tirupati Station to look for a train back to Chennai, but there weren’t any. So, we started looking for hotels. The hotels there have a policy of taking half the rent of one night in advance. My father didn’t agree to it at first. He relented later, however at a reduced rent. (Power of Bargaining, told you 😛 )
After breakfast, we boarded on the train back to Chennai.
We had no plans for the evening, so we browsed the local market near Chennai station.
Chennai is famous for its steel utensils and the silk produced there (‘Chennai Silk’). Coincidentally, we found a Sari shop owned by a bengali. Needless to say, my mum and grandma got their feets clamped in there, and bought 3-4 saris !!!