Had a great sleep and leisurely made our way down to breakfast.
Had fruit and an omelette and a drink of lassi and some Marsala tea. Chatted to a couple of guys at breakfast who live in London, but one was Argentinan and the other was Sri Lankan. They had been travelling around north west India for a few weeks and Len, the Sri Lankan had ended up in hospital for four days with a tummy bug. Yipes! It was a good reminder to us to be careful. Last night, I forgot where I was and cleaned my teeth under tap water. Won't do that again!
Wandered around the grounds and took some photos. It is a very nice hotel. The weather is warmish, about 30 degrees and a bit humid, but it's not too bad. Phil is feeling it, but what's new? Group meeting at 2.00 pm.
We were supposed to meet the tour director, Paula at 2.00pm today, but there was no one to be seen at the designated meeting place. We checked with reception and they told us that the group was running late and just then Paula was on the phone and told us to meet at 3.30 pm in the foyer for our tour of the Chennai markets. We made contact with Fiona and Malcolm, another couple who were already in the hotel and as we were chatting in their room, Paula arrived and told us to meet at 3.15 pm for our tour.
The group consists of a family of nine, celebrating the mother's 80th birthday, one couple from Melbourne, one couple from Toowoomba, one couple from Bemboka and female cousins from Sydney. They have all been travelling in the north on different trips. One group with Paula and one with Clare.
We headed off in a very nice bus to visit the Chennai food markets. It is so nice to be back in the hustle and bustle of India.
We transferred to motorised rickshaws and weaved in and out of the traffic until we got to the markets.
Our first port of call was an Armenian Church which is quite unusual in India. The Armenians arrived in India in the 1600s, trading in spices and pepper. Today, the Armenian population of Chennai is nil.
This man started the first printing press in Armenian.
Our group divided into two and we wandered through the markets, tasting as we went. Sundria was our guide.
She was very knowledgeable and told us heaps about all the different vegetables and their medicinal qualities. She is getting married on 12 February and it is a love match not an arranged marriage. We are breaking all our rules. We would never normally eat things in markets but we tasted tamerind, jaggery, citrus tasting leaves, ghee and smelt snuff. I started to sneeze as all these different smells and the dust stirred up my rhinitis. It was a very interesting afternoon, learning about all the different vegetables on offer. But the key thing is that every thing is fresh. People shop every day for their vegetables. The shop keepers have been here for many generations. And as usual, rubbish lying everywhere, but no smell.
Our group attracted a lot of attention as we were the only Europeans in the market.
One man was hanging around Phil a lot and Phil asked our guide how to say "I don't have any money", as he thought the man was after some money. He went away and next thing he was back with some money for Phil! How special was that. He looked like he didn't have a penny to bless himself with, yet he found some to give to Phil. That's India for you!
Phil gave this guy a gold kangaroo. He was in charge of organising our auto rickshaws and felt very important with this responsibility.
We all met at 7.30 pm for our Welcome Dinner in the Rain Tree Restaurant. It was very nice. All the ladies were given a bracelet of fresh Jasmine flowers. The perfume was lovely. We had lots of different south Indian delicacies served to us, some a bit wierd, but on the whole it was very nice. Paula has requested it not to be too hot and it wasn't, though some things were quite spicy. Beer and soft drinks were provided and I had a couple of beers which had a cooling effect on my mouth. They served yoghurt at the end of the meal which would have been better during the meal but all in all it was a nice evening with good food and nice company.
There are mosquitoes EVERYWHERE. This is the first trip where we haven't taken Malaria medication. On other trips when we were taking Malaria medication, we didn't see one mosquito, and of course, now that we are not taking it, they are everywhere! That's Murphy's Law for us!
We are learning a totally new language in the south. I didn't have much trouble understanding the people in the north, but southerners speak a lot faster. And there is a lot of head wagginv down here too. We don't say "namaste" anymore. We say "vannakum" for hello. Thankyou up north was "tannebar", but now it is "nandri". We have yet to learn how to say good morning and good evening, hello will have to suffice for the moment.
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