Fight the Sun and Bugs
both sandles and sneakers pleanty of toilet paper for your day-trips
your anti-malaria meds
a pepto-bismol or two sun screen is no where to be found in the city and the locals didn't seem to know what it is, however no one in my group got any tanner or burnt in the city. i did when we went to the beach.
budg spray could be useful for around your bed.
You are at the right place
let me describe some "hot" food outlets...
Soth indian food is ofcourse the typical food of this region. they come in great color and varieties. this is something you shouldn't miss.
Hotel chains like saravana bhavan are highly rated there. There are loads of such restaurants in places like T.nagar and mount road. Dont forget to check out the strong southie coffee.
Although the north indian food is not said to be as good as whats there in the north...there are some places as good as it gets. Outlets like dhabba express, the dhaba provide authentic northie food.
There are cool hang out and fast food joints like planet yum, shakes and creams, spencers etc.
yeah yeah..u getthe pizzas and the burgers as well..you have all major international vendors like mcdonalds and pizza hut. You get other continental types as well. for instance..."Rice bowl" is a chinse restaurant.
SANTHOME CATHEDRAL-man made; not to attract
The cathedral at Santhome was built by the Portuguese between 14th and 15th century A.D. The cathedral has been built in a typical neo Gothic style. The shrines included in the cathedral is a small hand bone and the lance that was used to end the life of the apostle in this world. The 50 metres high building has been constantly renovated, following the ravages made by the time. An important fact regarding the cathedral is that, it is the second only church in the world that has been erected over the burial place of an apostle. The cathedral holds a 3 feet high statue of Virgin Mary, believed to be imported from Portugal in the year 1543 A.D. The reaching spire goes as high as 50 metres and the width of the nave is about 10 metres. The cathedral is provided with stained glass and 14 wood plaques that depict St. Thomas' encountered with the resurrected Christ.
Southern Capital of the British Raj
Chennai, formerly Madras until it was changed in 1996, is the fifth most populous city in India and the gateway to the south. The name Chennai is a shortened form of Chennapattinam, the name of the town that grew around Fort St. George, which was built by the British in 1640. The city's former name, Madras, is derived from Madraspattinam, a fishing village north of Fort St. George.
The region around Chennai has served as an important administrative, military, and economic centre since the 1st century AD. It has been ruled by various South Indian dynasties, notably the Pallava, the Chera Dynasty, the Chola, the Pandya, and Vijaynagar. The town of Mylapore, now part of Chennai, was once a major Pallavan port. The Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century and built a port called São Tomé after the Christian apostle, St Thomas, who is believed to have preached in the area between 52 and 70 AD. In 1612, the Dutch established themselves near Pulicat, just north of the city. But it was the British who founded the city from Fort St George and they ruled here until independence in 1948, although the French captured the fort, briefly, in 1746.
Even though the city's history doesn't trace back that far, there are loads of historical places to see such as Fort St George with the oldest Anglican church in India - St Mary's, countless colonial British Raj buildings such as the High Court, Egmore and Central Stations, St Andrew's Church, St George's Cathedral and the superb Government Museum, plus some good Hindu temples and a Portuguese church built in 1516. For me, it was the last stop on my four month long tour around India before I flew back to Delhi and then home. The city is bustling and chaotic, like most places in India, with crowds of people, mess, pollution etc but it's also changing with large I.T. software parks, shopping malls and top-end hotels being built. This place is going somewhere...
So, they built a big store next to my previous apartment building, increasing traffic and honking horns at all hours. They chopped down the trees between my building and the one next door, eliminating all shade and privacy. In the building, there was an instance of something I can’t quite bring myself to call xenophobia, but it made things uncomfortable enough that between it all, when the lease was up, I was happy to leave.
The search was harrowing, but enlightening.
"Things I Learned"
(As with everything in India, both what follows and its opposite are true.)
Foreigners are welcome. Foreigners are also mostly not welcome. Reasons for this vary, from unpredictability of length of stay (see below), to perceived promiscuity, to the pollution of non-veg diets, to God knows what else. We are a bad lot, us foreigners. Or we’re an upgrade, since we’re all rich and tend not to trash where we live. I’ve heard seven different stories from six different people, and can’t figure out whether we’re desirable or not, let alone understand why.
If you’re not planning to stay at least ten months, nobody wants you. There’s up to ten months rent advance required for most places. The money is taken and invested, which means the owner makes out like a bandit and you pay him for it.
Accommodation is not set up for unmarried people. Finding a 1-bedroom place is tough. Singles are not warmly welcome anyway – either they will wreck the place, introduce loose morals, or something might happen to them and owners don’t want the responsibility.
Most buildings are not made all that well (although they are all concrete, so they are solid). Most of Chennai has no view. Aside from issues of proximity to transportation, there is no reason to pay current prices for what you get. But you don't have a choice.
Brokers can be unpleasant to deal with (commissions, and the point about advances above), but they are the best option for finding a place. Other methods are the – phenomenal – word of mouth system, or advertising what you want (landlords will call you). Whatever your method, make sure you have a strong negotiator on your side.
You will likely also need someone established in the local community to vouch for you.
Movers are a guy with a truck and whoever he picks up from the ready supply of day-laborers. No insurance, no safety regulations, no guarantee that your stuff won’t be put down upside-down or stacked and crushed unless you watch carefully. (They wouldn’t let me ride on top of my stuff, though, so they’re not completely without caution.)
Fire ants are drawn in floods to incense ash.
We in the west have it good. We in America have it really, really good. The tiny, ramshackle place I had while I was starving at grad school was better made, proportionally bigger per intended inhabitant, relatively cheaper, and had better light and ventilation.
"Where I Ended Up"
Not too far from where I was, actually, but the difference is huge. A colleague found a 2-bedroom, third-floor (fourth floor for the US folks) walkup in the same (good) neighborhood at a relatively good price. It’s on a side street, and the length of the flat faces inside the block, so I have that rare and precious thing in Chennai – near quiet.
The owner suggested it would please him and his family if I did a pooja on an auspicious day before moving in, the result of which is what’s in the photo on the left. After lots of advice from friends and assistance from my neighbor, what you see is: the Tamil trinity (Lakshmi – goddess of wealth; Ganesh – god of new beginnings; Saraswati – goddess of wisdom and knowledge) draped in fresh flowers; salt, rice, and sugar overflowing their vessels (symbols of plenty); an oil lamp; incense stuck in a banana; ghee; coins (for Lakshmi); and a coconut we cracked on the counter. Unseen is a pot of milk (boiled over [also a symbol of plenty] but to my good luck not curdled or burned). It took over an hour to assemble the materials the day before, plus a half hour’s instruction and practice on breaking a coconut on a counter; that morning, half an hour to set up, and five minutes to complete. Completion was, as required, before 6:30am.
So far I’m happier here, though, so maybe there’s something to it.
This is a typical middle-class flat: two decent-sized bedrooms off a larger main room, a tiny kitchen, a tiny full-bathroom; one of the bedrooms also has a very tiny Indian-style toilet attached – I’ve put the washing machine in there. A family of three lived here before me, and the neighbors have the same size place for four.
Why is the fridge placed to be so prominently visible from the front door? According to a friend, putting appliances in visible places is a status thing. Practically, between the available space, the outlets, and because you can’t flip the doors on an Indian fridge, there wasn’t anywhere else to put it. (The previous family had theirs in one of the bedrooms, but then theirs wasn’t as pretty as mine.)
If you’re wondering, the ominous overhanging shelf with the pipe and tube coming from it is a reserve water tank, in case of water shortages. There’s another one in the bathroom. They kind of freak me out, and make me glad to see the unseasonable rains this spring.
Both the kitchen and the bathroom were designed for people under 5 feet tall.
In the end, I took this flat because it has that even rarer and more precious thing in Chennai – a garden view. I wake up to the rustling of coconut palms instead of the blaring horns of traffic.
(The bars keep the monkeys out, and it looks fuzzy because of the bug screen.)
(to be completed soon)
In case you’re planning to move to Chennai… I’ll add to these as I find more.
This can be frustrating for the reasons mentioned above and others. If you don’t speak Tamil, half the people you call will hang up on you. Some combination of foreign/single/female (if you are any of those) will cause half of those who didn’t immediately hang up to hang up. A percentage of the remaining will try to show you places you didn’t call about.
Per the bit above about deposits: ten months down is the norm, so do your research and set your monthly budget and have at least ten times that on hand.
And I do mean immediately on hand, for the very day you find a place – an apartment listed in the Saturday paper is usually filled by Sunday morning.
Brokers ask at least a month’s rent as a fee, so factor that into your cash-on-hand.
Unless you’re renting a service apartment, you are moving into walls and a floor and absolutely nothing else. No refrigerator, nothing resembling a stove, no water heater for the shower (if there’s even a showerhead left), no nails where things once hung. If you’re lucky there might be a phone jack or a cable hookup. The only things that seem to stay are sinks and toilets, and I think that’s only because they’re sealed down.
The good news: rent is due at the end of the month rather than the beginning, and you get your deposit back when you move out.