Just before midnight on the 26th of November 2009, my parents, my sister and I touched down IN INDIA!

Now, let me try to explain exactly how excited I was: SO EXCITED!!! See, India is a nation of beautiful silks, amazing architecture and most importantly, my favourite kind of food: Indian. All I could think about was all the curries, the dosas, the samosas, the bahji that was calling my name: “Eat me Georgia, we are delicious!” they exclaimed. I was truly ready to eat nothing but curry for the ten days I was in this amazing country of spectacular food… And I wanted to buy some nice silks and see some temples whilst I was at it.

We arrived in Chennai, formerly Madras, on the south-east coast of the brilliant subcontinent, and despite it being so late at night, the city was ready and waiting to assault our senses the moment we stepped out of the airport.
Men and women in colourful saris lined the barricades outside the arrival terminals (see, in India you can’t even ENTER an airport without a ticket, so the crowds wait outside). Many of the men were holding up signs with names, we were supposed to find ours… amongst what seemed like half the population just outside the airport!

Immediately we were hit by a wall of smells: India smelt funny, but not half as bad as I was warned it would be. The faint smell of spices filled the air, mixed with sweat, dust and that disgusting summer-day humidity smell that didn’t seem to care that it was the middle of the night!

We were under the assumption that Chennai was small-ish. We were wrong. Chennai has like several MILLION people, it’s like the Melbourne of Australia… but with like a zillion times the population, and that’s not even counting all the “extras” in the slums. (Not that there appeared to really be many slums happening, which surprised me – although I was later informed that this was really only a problem in Mumbai, and most other cities had very little in the way of slums.) But Chennai was not only big, it was also busy: all day and all night. A city that never sleeps AND IT’S NOT EVEN A MAJOR INTERNATIONAL ONE!

I was so excited that when we finally arrived at our hotel, I had alot of trouble falling asleep (despite my severe jetlag due to the never-ending stop over in Bangkok airport), but awoke the next morning with so much energy and excitement, I was ready to go before my parents had even rolled out of bed!

Then it was time for breakfast: a good Indian breakfast was clearly the only way to start the day! (My family did not agree.) I couldn’t help myside, it was so tasty.

When we FINALLY went outside, it was hard not to be a little nervous, our hotel was on a major highway and there was like zero sidewalk (what sidewalk did exist was mostly crumbled or occupied by a cart or similar). The Indians on foot happily risked their lives walking up and down the side of the ACTUAL ROAD, going about their business like having a car driving at you 100kms an hour was nothing at all! So we followed suite, and headed down the road, trying not to become roadkill.

We headed down the first “side street” we came along. Apparently every Indian in the area was staring at me, Chennai isn’t exactly a big tourist city, white people are almost unheard of, and my particularly-pale complexion really stood out. (My family are luckily all quite tanned, and except for mum’s blue eyes, they all found it much easier to blend in than I did.) I was also apparently offending them with my almost-knee length shorts and a tshirt… I was told that would be fine (BY AN INDIAN!), clearly that advice was wrong.
So I made a future effort to cover up more… which was easier said than done in a country that has 35 degree days in the middle of winter, I couldn’t think of anything worse than covering up.
Of course, for India I’d do anything and it wasn’t an issue of modesty, but it was humid and that’s gross. (Next time I visit India, I will invest in many long, linen things… And not have to wear funny mismatched clothing in order to try and blend in.)

Interesting fact about lovely Chennai: The St Thomas Basilica is located in the city, and is one of the only three apostles world wide. (The other two are in Rome, Italy and Santiago, Spain.) That’s pretty cool.

We only had that morning in Chennai, but already I could tell that I was going to love every part of India. There were so many exciting things to photograph and for some reason we didn’t appear to have any culture shock… So it was off to the airport to go to Madurai and visit Mani and his family for his wedding.

To be continued…