It sounds stupid, but the first Europeans who died here for stupid reasons died of heat- and sun-related causes, and it's as bad now (or worse, with global warming and loss of ozone). I’ve been here nearly two years, and have been paying attention, and have still suffered heat exhaustion a half-dozen times, twice from just walking a kilometer to the market during the late-afternoon hours.
It’s mostly due to dehydration. Don't let it happen: carry (and drink lots of) water, more than you think you need, and remember that if you're aware of thirst you're already dehydrated. This is exacerbated dramatically if you've been drinking alcohol or anything containing caffeine.
Akin to begging, but more odious in tactics. It’s not just a problem for non-Indians, either.
A person approaches you and starts talking very fast - sometimes they’ve met you before and are only running into you because they have a relative/child in a hospital/school in the area; sometimes they’re a social worker or a good Samaritan paying for a good cause out of their own pocket; sometimes they’re from the north and just got robbed/mugged. It varies. (Use your imagination, because they do.) In all cases there’s a shortfall of some kind, and you look like a kind person, can you help? Can you spare 100, 150, 500 rupees? Think of the children (because there are almost always children).
If you really do feel for the person and would be willing to help, ask for the name and phone number of the hospital/store/school where the shortfall is and offer to pay the bill or make a donation there yourself. Chances are the story will change a little and you won’t get any useable information. If you do, check the story. As an example, one shortfall started at a store where a good Samaritan social worker had prepaid for milk for poor children out of his own pocket – when I asked for the name of the store, it turned out he was really buying the milk directly from individual farmers with cows; I asked for their names, and gee, you’ll never be able to find them, give me your phone number; no, give me their names and general locations, I’ll hire a local driver and find them; and he left. Never, ever give out your contact information.
Of the two dozen or so people who have tried one of these on me, only one gave a legitimate address, and that school had no idea what I was talking about.
Worse, these scams can be done using kids in pressed clothes or uniforms doing the asking, nominally on behalf of a school. Ask for an address, phone number, or card: likely there isn’t one. Ask for their name. Follow up, including names.
Airport customs - beware
I know I must have been unlucky but I must not be the only one....
On the flight Singapore Airline Chennai-Singapore, I arrived at Chennai airport with 2 suitcase. Got them both scanned through customs, had them checked at the counter.
Arriving in Singapore, only my "clothes" suitcase came out. The one with souvenirs never appeared...
I think that those who scanned it found what's inside pretty interesting and wanted a closer look...
Update June 03: They were very very interested in the content of my suitcase again, even took note of the electronics inside...be careful !!!
This is the actual common name of one of the three seasons in Chennai. It's roughly the month of May, and temperatures can top 110F (43?C) with humidity so bad it feels like breathing through a boiling sponge. Schools usually close during this period, that's how bad it gets. If you're not from a hot and humid climate already and you have to be here during hottest, be very aware of how the heat is affecting you.
The disparity of wealth is almost beyond comprehension. I work in a new, modern, high-tech building where the air conditioning never fails. A family of perhaps six lives under the overpass 12 feet outside the main gates, with a mat and a plastic water jug as their sole joint possession. That scenario is not unusual.
It's heartbreaking to pass beggars by, especially when you see someone elderly sitting silently with head bowed, or watch a mother send an unsteady toddler your way through the chaos that is Chennai streets. Note, though, that as a foreigner you are extra-specially targeted. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve heard one of the “silent elders” call after me (loudly) or watched kids skipping and singing happily down the street who notice me and become suddenly wretched, with broken voices and hands outstretched and sad, sad eyes. Both while there are dozens of other people around who haven’t been either approached or called.
You're doing better service by donating to local organizations than by giving money to individuals. For practical purposes, if you give anyone money once you will be mobbed wherever you go, for a long time thereafter. (Trust me, I tried. Twice.)
Women and children often grab at my arms and wrists, or occasionally touch my feet. I've been told that physical contact is absolutely unacceptable, and you are in the right to get aggressive back. It isn't always easy to do, but it is effective.
The good news: the actual number of people you're likely to encounter begging in Chennai is lower than in other major cities in India.
The weird news: there are stories of "beggars" worth thousands of lakhs - that they choose to beg and earn a much better living than you or I do. I have no idea whether these stories are true.
Rainy season in Madras
The period of October to December is the monsoon season in the south. When it rains in Madras, it slows down everything considerably as the roads get waterlogged and there are puddles of water all over the place. October normally gets the heaviest of rains followed by November and December with a little less.
Mind your food and your valuables, and make sure you close windows and doors before heading out - there are more of them outside Chennai, but even in the more urban of the suburbs of the city monkeys abound. It's mostly little Bonnet Macaques (named for their hairstyle); the females are about the size of cats, the males rather larger. The babies are adorable, in a wrinkled, hairless kind of way. They're smart, fast, fearless of humans, and are a common carrier of rabies. They are more troublesome as thieves, but can get very aggressive if cornered.
There's actually a job of "monkey catcher" in Chennai.
Crossing the Road
Think of roads as obstacle courses and make a sport out of it. Otherwise 1) you'll end up annoyed and frustrated, and 2) you might never actually get across. There are amazingly few accidents for the number of vehicles and people, probably because everyone has developed lightening reflexes and can adjust course without thinking. The flip side is that if you start crossing and then stop you throw everyone out of sync and risk causing a major pile up.
The photo is at a stopped stop light (enforced by the bus turning left from the far inside lane). There are at least two lanes of motorbikes hidden by the auto on the right, and there are an equivalent number of lanes heading the other direction, which makes something like at least 10 lanes of moving vehicles, plus pedestrians. If the bus weren’t there at least three of the lanes on this side would be moving. This is an average main road.
Remember that driving is on the English (left) side of the road but follows Indian rules. Which means if there are rules at all they may or may not be:
1) If my vehicle physically fits in a space, I’m occupying it.
2) If my vehicle doesn’t physically fit in a space, you have to move.
3) If you don’t move, I’ll honk my horn at you until you do, and maybe I’ll run over your toes if you don’t.
Look in every direction before crossing. If you’re in doubt, stay put. Once you start, don’t stop. If you’re really in doubt, hire a vehicle and assume the fetal position in the back seat until you get where you’re going.
auto accidents and lepto
* Look both ways when you cross the street. And then look again. Not only is the traffic extremely disorganized, as a foreigner you're bound to get stared at by motorists which can itself lead to accidents.
* Don't step barefoot into puddles which can harbor leptosporosis. Better yet, take Doxycycline as your anti-malarial because it will take care of lepto as well as malaria
* Drink only bottled water and don't drink beverages that are served with ice.
While in Madras, avoid drinking water from the taps directly in any public areas. Bottled water is the best bet for travelers and tourists alike while in Madras.
Also avoid sugarcane juice from roadside vendors. As tasty as it is, its also not very healthy since the canes are crushed in the open in the presence of flies and bugs. But if you can get sugarcane juice from a nice shop, dont miss it. It indeed is really tasty !!!
Dogs are not often kept as pets, and the vast majority of the dogs you'll see are feral. Some are friendlier than others, some associate themselves with humans - at a particular food stall, or near an apartment where someone feeds one, or at least where they aren't chased away. Sometimes they are de facto pets of a community or a family, even if they live on the streets. It's best to be cautious, because even though the dogs usually don't pay much attention to people they can come after you if they feel threatened. And most of them carry bugs of one kind or another, some look pretty bad.
If you're an animal lover it can be very hard to see the way animals are treated here generally. There are some organizations devoted to animal welfare, which accept donations (the website of the largest of them is below). These organizations sometimes round up the dogs in a particular area, spay/neuter, innoculate, and then release them back in their home turf (so other not-fixed and innoculated dogs don't move in).
Sea Bathing at Marina Beach.
Bathing at Marina Beach is not at all advisable as it is very rough not safe enough for taking a swim. Many people die every year for venturing out in the sea even if some are expert swimmer. There is not life saving society/ agency is operating at Marina Beach. It may look attractive but please stay away from swimming.
Chennai Drinking Water.
Please never ever drink water from tap in Chennai. Even the locals buy water in pet jars or in pouches, they come cheap. The ground water of Chennai is salty. The Chennai corporation has not been able to provide potent drinking water to their citizen.
The local brands are also process water with reverse osmosis technology, they are safe enough for any European.
Water - But Not What You'd Think...
Yes, the water is no good to drink, but it also wrecks havoc on your hair. If you're going to be in town for more than a few days, invest in an extra bottle of mineral water to do a final rinse. (Even the locals do it.)
BE CAREFUL AT MADRAS CROCODILE FARM
well visiting madras crocodile farm is like a dream come true. who hasne dreamt of crocodile dundee?
apart from all the plus points of the farm there are a few points to remember.
the crocs appear docile but a small amt of smell of flesh and they will rip it apart.
dont venture into the pits even if you drop something in them.the pits are quite shallow. in the larger pits the crocs can lunge forward as much as 6 feet see the pic in my travelogue on croc farm.
when i visited the croc farm there was a school trip with naughty children trying to play mischief and standing precariously on the edge of the boundary wall.
if you have a small child dont leave him alone!!!!!!!!
otherwise its an experience you will never forget.
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