The Pondi Experience
Trip Start Jul 03, 2008
19Trip End Dec 07, 2008
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Where I stayed
So many people out so early! Even as early as 5:30am there were people milling about the town, so different from America. We finally got checked into the Hotel Suguru, and it was so refreshing to finally have a base camp to work from. The shower had a typical showerhead but also a bucket if you wanted to take the more traditional Indian shower, and it all emptied into a big drain in the floor. The hotel seems very into energy conservation as well; every power outlet must be powered on by its own switch, and attached to the room key it is a plastic tool that is inserted into a slot upon entering the room, allowing power to the room, so every time you leave and take the key, all power to the room is cut off. In a country where rolling brownouts are common, it is important to conserve as much as possible. But hey, a two-bed room with private bathroom cost 3200 Rupees for two nights- so ~$15 USD per night each
After fortifying ourselves with breakfast in the all-vegetarian restaurant at the hotel (two entrees and drinks=$4) we set off to explore this town. We wound our way through some of the local neighborhoods, and then took a rickshaw to the old French quarter of town. Here the streets are wide and uncrowded, labeled with both Tamil and French. The architecture is beautiful, and bougainvilleas are seen garnishing many of the entryways, it's quite beautiful. We stopped in at one of the local French joints to have a couple beers and some water, and then continued on.
India is nothing if not a huge juxtaposition. Mere blocks away from the French quarter we ran into Mahatma Gandhi (MG for short) Road, a huge end-to-end experience across Pondi. Here we saw what most would consider the India that doesn't make it to the brochures; insane traffic, child beggars, sketchy-looking businesses, drainage canals with liquid that resembled water, you name it. We even had the unfortunate experience of seeing a child lying on the sidewalk, most likely dead.
Even with all of these factors, the typical Tamil seems happy and kind, and although we (myself in particular) stood out like obvious tourists, we were never heckled or cheated, even though some gawking was obvious J) After around 10 miles of walking (remember we still haven't slept this whole time), we retired to the hotel and fell asleep around 2 p.m. and slept until Saturday morning, an incredibly satisfying feeling. Overall we are loving the experience and can't wait to meet our fellow students and see the university! More to come soon!