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Monday, July 10, 2006

My last day in India

Now that I look back, one of the things I should have done more frequently while in India is swim in the ocean. A group of us decided that we would head to a beach resort about 1.5 hours drive from the hotel. We were told that this was a fantastic place, with a great beach, exclusivity and more. We jumped into a hotel provided SUV and a second group jumped into another, and we headed off. Since Louis and I were leaving at 1h00 the following day, we had packed our bags the night before in anticipation of our last day.

The drive to the resort was quite long, and at some points, almost harrowing, but we eventually arrived at a small gate, crossed and arrived at the resort. Without any neighbours, the resort is a collection of several small units, with multiple floors, balconies and more. I should have rented one of these for a weekend while I was here, but there is use crying over spilled milk. After paying our beach access fee (a cash grab if I've ever seen one!), we headed over to find ourselves a spot.

The resort had several palm-roofed shelters on the beach to provide some much needed shade in the hot India sun. About ten seconds later, several of us were already running across the burning hot sand to get to the water! The Bay of Bengal has fairly rough water, so we had a fantastic time playing in the surf, dodging the waves and more. After playing for a few hours, it was time for some refreshments, and the resort had an excellent beach bar and grill, which we all ordered from gladly. During that time, a goat herder walked her goats across the beach, much to our enjoyment. After lunch, we decided to hit the water again, as we all knew that we would have to leave quite in the late afternoon.

As with every time you have fun, the end of the afternoon arrived much too quickly, and it was time for us to head back to the hotel. Of course, later afternoon traffic made our return trip about 45 minutes longer than the original drive. Once back at the hotel, Louis and I headed to our rooms to make sure that all of our packing was done, and that we had distributed the things we would not be bringing back with us, including toiletries and more. Then we headed down to the hotel restaurant for a last supper with the various people that had stayed at the hotel with us.

After dinner, Louis and I said our goodbyes to the different people we wanted to see, settled our final bill at the hotel and loaded up one of the hotel's taxis with our luggage. Since it was about midnight at this point, the city was quiet and our drive to the airport was quick and uneventful. We checked our luggage, and headed to the business lounge to wait for our flight. At this point, I think that both Louis and I were looking forward to returning home, and we were both in very jovial spirits.

We finally boarded our flight (with only 30 minutes delay) and took off to Frankfurt, Germany. We had a two hour stopover there, but a much longer four hour stopover in Toronto. Personally, I thought that it was the hardest part of the return trip, as we were practically home, but not quite. On top of that, my checked luggage never made it to Toronto, so I had to fill out some paperwork with Air Canada in order to claim my luggage when it would arrive. The trip to Ottawa was also uneventful, and since we were sitting near the front of the airplane, we disembarked first. Since I had no luggage to pick up, I went with Louis to luggage claim to help him find his suitcases. As soon as we walked into the passenger pickup area, Nathalie was there waiting for me, and within seconds, Louis's parents arrived to greet him.

After a 24 hour return trip, I was finally home.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Our first visit to Velachery...

We had the incredible opportunity to visit the main office in Velachery, and let me tell you, I was really impressed... I think that the picture below says it all:

It was really a most impressive experience, and really demonstrated the commitment from our new friends... I had the very pleasurable experience of eating some Indian sweets when we were there, and I got this picture, thinking that it might bring a smile to a few people:

For your information, chats are Indian sweets!!!

Of course, we spend the majority of our time in Perungudi, so I thought that I would include a picture of Renaud, Martin and Alex, hard at work, of course:

We have made several friends, and they were really happy to pose in a few pictures with us:

I will add a little more when I get a chance later on!

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Shopping at Spencer's

As we have discovered, Chennai is one of the textile hotbeds of India, and as such, clothing is available in every shape, style and price you can imagine. On our first guided visit, we were brought to a custom tailor, and both Louis and Renaud had some suits made. On the other hand, I only selected a handful of shirts and a pair of pants, as I actually enjoy the shopping process and wanted to see what was available before I made a decision on having a suit made. For some odd reason, I got the definite impression that our guide was getting a kickback from the store we were brought to, and the obvious nature of it made me feel like a bit of a sucker.

Right next to our hotel is a local shopping mall known as Spencer's. It is spread out over 4 floors of shops, with the larger, more known brands located in all of the choice areas on the first and second floor, while every other conceivable space is taken over by small stores all the way down to portable stalls. Brands such as Nike, Reebok, Gap, Guess and more are sold everywhere, and although it is possible to get the real deal, it is also possible to purchase counterfeits of almost any item you might think of. Pirated music and movies is available in several very open stores, and home made food and remedies are available in several others. And did I mention that the mall is just a little bit crowded; there is no way to walk down the halls without literally rubbing shoulders with a thousand strangers.

Fantastic shopping experience to say the least. The prices are beyond believable for practically every item on sale. Only some specific name brands are still unattainably priced, but otherwise, it's a shopping bonanza. Dress shirts for five dollars, pants for ten, belts for three, watches for twenty and the list goes on. There are also several jewellers who sell merchandise of every conceivable type. Over the course of several shopping trips, I purchased several stones to have made into jewellery once I am back home. Although it took quite a sharp eye, and some decent negotiation skills, I have been satisfied with my experience so far.