The past two weeks I have been traveling in the south of India during the Christmas and New Years holiday. While the general plan was somewhat mapped out, we were in for a surprise when our plane leaving Jaipur was delayed. After traveling to Jaipur from Jodhpur at 5 a.m. in order to get a flight in the afternoon, the airline delayed out flight, for no reason that they could explain to us. This put a damper on our first leg of the trip since we were supposed to get into Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and go to our night train that would take us to the hill stations. Well, needless to say, we missed our train due to the 5-hour delay that was so unconfidently placed on our flight plans. And so the adventure begins…
We arrived in Chennai and knew that we would we would be stranded there for the night with no idea of what to do for travel on the following day. I had called ahead while waiting in Jaipur for a hotel, but once we arrived in Chennai they informed me they had given our room away earlier that evening… Thank you so much! Now we were starting to scramble. After an early morning train, laying around an airport for 5 hours, then an plane ride with a stop on the way in Hyderabad, we just wanted to sleep for a while, especially since it was almost midnight. Well, one of my companions decided in frustration that she would just ask the pre-paid taxi gentleman (if you can call him that) to take us somewhere with openings since everywhere I was calling was full. Bad Idea! After driving about two miles from the airport the taxi pulls off on the side and starts going down dark alleyways where all we see are groups of men and trash, which is not a good start. Once we pulled in front of the so called “hotel” we already had a Hell NO attitude… There were two 20-something year old guys with us going there who were also skeptical. The place was amiably named Shiv Transit Accommodation so it really wasn’t a hotel and we felt we were coming straight into the movie “Taken.” Need I even say that we made them take us back to the airport for us to find out own accommodation?
The place we found was too much better but we felt a bit better about it. After waking up in the morning, and feeling like we had been beaten with sticks from the stiff travels, we ventured out into the unknown. We decided on going to the Theosophical Society, but once we arrived we noticed the sign on the gate saying they had closed that day for the Christmas and New Years break. So the next stop ended up being the government museum of Chennai. Well, once there they were also closed, and we found out they were closed on all Fridays. After our first two failures, our rickshaw driver, who I haggled with for a good 10 minutes before our first ride, told us he would take us to the main spots of Chennai then drop us at our night bus later in the evening. So Madison, Emily, and myself rented the rickshaw driver for the day and explored Chennai that ended up being a hidden gem.
Our first stop and most surprising was the St. Thomas Basilica. In case you don’t know (because we didn’t) there are only three Basilicas in the world that were built for Apostles of Jesus. Who would have known that one would be in Chennai, India?
Apparently, Thomas migrated over to India and ended up in Chennai in 52 A.D. and started preaching the gospel to the Indian population in Tamil Nadu. He stayed and spread the news of Jesus while performing unfathomable acts in front of the Indians, also known as miracles. St. Thomas taught until his death in 72 A.D. when he was martyred in Chennai.
All three of us had been to private school growing up and attended Christian colleges in the U.S. and none of us had ever heard of St. Thomas going to and be martyred in Chennai! This was one of the highlights of our trip, along with our wonderful driver who sat with our bags all day, which was worth the fair in itself. After leaving the Basilica, and paying our homage to the tomb of St. Thomas, we headed to the beach and dipped our feet in the Indian Ocean while avoiding the glass scattering the Chennai beaches threatening to cut of a toe or cause some serious damage to a fallen hand… The driver also took us to the see the main temple of Chennai and for a cheap south Indian dinner.