The start of any Indian holiday is always a bit breathless. A long flight – always, in my case, sleepless as I can never join the happy dozers around me- body clock on 3 am and there we are whooshed out of Chennai airport and into the buzzing, humming throng of early morning, rush hour Chennai- but not as quickly as usual.
Did we take advantage of the new online very quick visa system, indeed we did. However, sadly that did not translate to a super new quick system once landed. We felt rather pleased as the huge queue on our left snaked towards the visa control, only seven in our queue, hurrah. Smugness rapidly turned to glumness as the head of the queue seemed rooted to the spot in front of the young man charged with approving our visas. A lot of stamping was heard, not from impatient feet but from a variety of inky manually applied rubber stamps, and then, the necessity to have fingerprints taken. This might have been ok if the fingerprint machine worked, it didn’t. Didgets were pressed, rolled and cajoled to no avail and so our’ fast’ queue rapidly became the only queue as everyone else disappeared into the luggage hall and the airport became strangely quiet apart from the sound of stamping. Eventually we were processed and wandered into baggage reclaim where our two lonely suitcases circled.
Our meeter and greeter from Kuoni was on hand to shepherd us and our luggage to our waiting car and driver for our two week stay. Meeting the driver is always a key moment as we share a lot, and rely on them totally and we were charmed by Mithul who was warm and engaging from the start – and a really great driver. His presence of mind and fortitude were tested hugely by a variety of challenges throughout our journey – and if I say that not once in those two weeks did he use the horn, if you know anything about Indian roads, that says it all!
Off to our first hotel the rather wonderful Vivanta by Taj Connemara – an historic hotel which we know and love. No time for a quick kip – that just delays acclimatization – so off to the pool for some relaxation and, if I am honest, maybe just a five minute doze!