Chennai was the setting for the final scenes of Chennai Express, the first Bollywood film we watched in India and we arrived early morning in to the train station that looked as if it could have been the one used in Slum Dog Millionaire. We stayed in another plush hotel and had a driver to show us the sights that began at St Thomas Basilica which had been built over the tomb of Apostle St. Thomas. We took a drive to the naval museum on the site of Fort St George that overlooks the Bay of Bengal, when we left we passed a convoy carrying Jayalalithaa the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu which has a population greater than the UK. It was another holiday of some sort and after visiting a couple of monuments on the beach we walked across the sand and through a market to the ocean which was typical of Indian seas and too rough to swim in. This didn't stop others from bathing fully clothed, our driver told us it was common for bodies to be found almost on a weekly occurrence washed up shore.
We found ourselves eating at the most western restaurant in town after our driver failed to understand our requests for a good local place to eat but we assumed he received a kick back so enjoyed a plate of burger and chips! The next day we visited a snake and alligator park then headed to the best zoo in India outside of the city where we were photographed as much as the animals. There were mostly families but also lots of groups of young men who walked around holding hands or linking fingers.
Our flight on to Varanasi was early and we nearly didn't make it as our driver was late picking us up, when we arrived at the airport there was a queue outside as security guards checked people's tickets and passports for no obvious benefit. We had just 5 minutes before our check-in was due to close and this led us to do the one thing that comes so unnaturally to us as Brits, we queue jumped! This had been the only formal queue we had come across in 6 weeks in India and our jumping didn't go without protests which we just endured and tried to get through the doors as quickly as possible, thankfully the security guards just smiled and waved us through. Next came the bag scanning which we had to do before getting to the desks, this had no formal queue so we jumped straight in and had the necessary sticker placed on all our bags. We rushed through check-in and were told to get to our gate within the next 10 minutes, only security to get through! We made it through in record time with shoes and belts already off and with trousers dropping we were at the gate ready to board but that's where Leanne broke down as we were told to go back to the beginning and have one of our hand baggage bags rescanned as it was missing a sticker! I left Leanne sobbing due to exhaustion from lack of sleep, travel fatigue and the disbelief of India's relentless bureaucracy. I made it back to the beginning of the process and made a scene like a child who has just been denied any sweets for that all important sticker.