Travel to India

Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 12:02 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 16
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Travel to India

Any fun things to see and do around Chennai, India that does not require overnight travel? I will be visiting for two weeks with two kids and would love to have them experience the culture and yet stay safe and healthy through the entire time we are there. Any other tips that can help make the trip truly enjoyable will be much appreciated.
GRevahs is offline  
Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 02:02 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 2,927
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What are the ages of your kids?
Jaya is offline  
Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 08:50 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,689
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I agree that knowing the age of your children and the time of year you are going would be helpful. I would also suggest getting something like the Lonely Planet book for India which covers India in good depth (sorry to say better than Fodors). Rough Guides are also good.

I can see that Fodors has listed the Crocodile Bank as an activity, see http://www.madrascrocodilebank.org/ and they have a summer camp, so that might be something you want to look into. I have never been. (As a general matter, I find zoos in Asia, other than in Singapore, to be quite depressing places with the animals kept in less than ideal conditions. A zoo in Asia would be fairly far down my list of places to take children to be frank.)

For other suggestions, there are some very nice beaches in Chennai (i.e. Marina beach) which would make a good outing for an afternoon or more. If they like museums, there are several museums like the Government Museum and the National Art Gallery. There are many temples, including the 8th-century Sri Parthasarathy and the ancient Shiva temple of Kapaleeshwarar. Explore the “raj” history at Fort St George and the High Court Building. I believe, but don’t know for sure, that you can take tours of the MGR Film City studios where the Tamil-language movies are made.

Chennai is also known for the classical Indian dance, Bharatanatyam, which is also the official dance of Tamil Nadu. An important cultural centre for Bharatanatyam is Kalakshetra, located on the beach in the south of the city, see www.kalakshetra.net/. They sometimes have performances during the day or you may be able to tour and see students during classes. A few miles south of that is Cholamandalam, a cooperative artists' colony where they offer modern art and open-air theatre (http://www.cholamandalartvillage.com/). South of that is an arts and crafts cooperative village called Daksinachitra, developed by the government where artisans live and work which is also interesting and you can buy local handicrafts.

Chennai is also known for its music, both classical India and then things like Jazz and other Western music. There are often music festivals, check listings for when you are there. Look esp for a gentleman named Sivamani, a fantastic, percussionist. He has performed with many famous Western artists.

You also could easily do a day trip to the temples at Mahabalipuram, which would be about 2 hours each way. It might also be possible to include Kanchipuram in that trip, or do that as a separate trip; that would depend on your kids’ tolerance for sitting in a car (and sitting in a car on Indian roads). But either would be quite interesting.

A place I have not been but would like to go is Kanchipuran, the “city of 1,000 temples”. It is only about 40 miles from Chennai, so should be doable as a day trip. (My guess based on that mileage, is that it is something over 2 hours each way.) You might look into that.

Pondicherry is a very interesting old French colonial city, but I think really requires an overnight, as it is about a 3+ hour drive each way. However it is quite charming and the coastal drive is pretty, so if you were looking for an overnight, that might be a good place. The amazing temple complex at Madurai would be another, but again an overnight is required.

Finally, although I don’t know your kids ages or their interests, you might consider doing some sort of volunteer work while you are there. There is the Rising Star outreach program, which supports children with leprosy in the Chennai area, see http://www.risingstaroutreach.org/. They have a volunteer program, but I think you have to commit to at least a week; but look at the site if this interests you. I am going on a Habitat for Humanity project in Pondicherry in July, and I know that they have a Chennai office, you might see if they have day volunteer programs there, see http://www.habitatindia.in/volunteer_habitat.html. I think you would find other options as well, perhaps check through your church or synagogue, etc.

Please do not get overly alarmed by health concerns when traveling to India. The "issues" in India are really vastly overrated, IMO. I would make sure that both you and your children have updated tetanus, measles, Rubella and polio shots (polio is bit of an issue in India). Hepatitis A and B shots are a good idea as well (as you can get Hep anywhere, including the US, but I believe there are rules about these shots for very young children). You may want to consider malaria medication, some of this would depend on where you are planning to go in India and where you are staying. If you are living in an air-conditioned hotel, it is unlikely that you are going to encounter malarial misquotes, and therefore putting yourself and your children on malarial meds may not be necessary. See something like the Scottish NHS, which has very useful travel health website at http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/home.aspx (see esp their Malaria page). Chennai and south India is considered a low to no risk zone according to the NHS, and malaria meds are not advised.

A mild stomach upset is probably the only health "issue" you are going to encounter, so a supply of Imodium and Pepto Bismol bought with you from home is probably a good idea just in case, as you don’t want to be out looking for it when you need it. If you are going in summer, then make sure your kids (and you) drink enough water. You might consider bringing rehydration salts with you just in case. (You can buy them at outdoor/hiking shops, you just drop one into a bottle of water.) Children tend to get dehydrated before adults.

Some other health issues would be that the children cannot drink water from the tap, some would say this includes not brushing their teeth with it (although in many good hotels the water is potable from the tap) and you would have to monitor this. You need to be careful of fruit that they eat, ice, and ice cream. Taking children to India is not quite like taking a vacation elsewhere. While you have to be a bit vigilant, I would not be afraid of everything they put in their mouths. (I would also say that some of this is psychological, esp with kids, and if you tell them that they will get sick if they drink the water, then voila! they will feel sick if they “slip” and brush their teeth with the water once by mistake. So you may want to avoid putting too much fear into them.) The most important thing, IMO, is to make sure you and they wash their hands before eating --- our mothers were so right about this!

Finally, having travelled in India with children, assuming your children are not Indian, they most likely will be an enormous source of curiosity to Indians, and your children may find this a bit overwhelming at first. They may be stopped on the street and at sights and asked questions. People may ask to have their photograph taken with them. All of this will be done in the most polite and well-intentioned manner, but I have found that even older children get annoyed after a while at being such a constant source of attention. Young children who are not used to strangers approaching them may not like it at all. You may need to give them some “down time” each day at your hotel to let them have a break from the attention.
Cicerone is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 02:10 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 16
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My kids (both girls) are ages 7 and 11 respectively. They have never traveled to the far east. We are traveling to India in the last week of July for a couple of weeks.

Cicerone, thank you for all the great information. My girls will definitely enjoy the dances and a visit to the dance school sounds like a great idea. I am also intending to visit the temples on the shores. I am not completely opposed to an overnight trip provided I can find a safe resort/hotel with safe travel arrangements between Chennai and either Pondicherry or Kanchipuram.
GRevahs is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 04:39 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 2,927
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I personally have studied bharatnatyam (also spelled bharat natyam, or bharatanatyam) dancing and it is steeped in rich Indian history. The various poses of this dance style are found carved inside many temples.

Do take the girls to see a performance, preferably of a professional caliber. Tamil Nadu is the home of this style of dancing. Just a few inquiries should direct you to high quality performances while you are there.

My favorite saris are those woven in the Kanchipuram style. The girls might enjoy learning about saris. The weave and prints vary by region around India.

Also, south India is considered the true India because it had the least amount of outside influence by other cultures.

Have a great time!

P.S. Do they know it will be very hot and humid in July? Keep your schedule flexible so you can be in an A/C area during the mid afternoon heat each day.
Jaya is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 08:26 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,689
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the information on your children, that is helpful. I think with girls, you have a few more options. Getting them saris would be a fun outing, going to the local flower market, picking out bangles from the hundreds of styles and colours available, getting perfume made, getting their hands and feet painted with henna, all these are fun ways to learn about a culture. Not to be too sexist, but cooking lessons are also an easy thing to do with girls (and fun for you too!) and south Indian cuisine is fantastic.

In terms of “safety” it is hard for me to think of a safer place than India as far as crime, which is an infrequent occurrence, esp. with regard to tourists. I would have more concerns in many US and European cities than I would in any city or village in India. (You of course take normal precautions with purse and wallet as you would any place.) I travel alone in India frequently, and safety is just something I never worry or think about.

As far as road or other transport safety, well Indian roads can be an issue. You certainly don’t want to drive yourself. Hiring a driver is quite inexpensive, which is good news because they have the skill to handle the task. Indian road traffic does take some getting used to. It’s better not to look directly ahead, as you will only spend time worrying that you can’t possibly pass those two trucks by driving in the dirt on the shoulder, but your driver knows he can – and he will. Just look at the scenery and the passing pageantry of Indian life.

You could take a train to Pondicherry, the fastest ones are under 3 hours, and that might be a fun experience for you and the children. For train schedules look at www.indianrail.gov.in. But for some of the other trips, trains are not going to go where you want to go, or may take a very long time to get there. And there are no airports in Pondicherry or most of the places you want to go in south India. So you will have to use a car. So perhaps you can see how you feel about the roads once you get there and then decide. I personally have been on Indian roads for 17 years without incident. However, I generally do not like to spend more then 4-6 hours a day on an Indian road, no matter how good, if for nothing else than that is the longest amount of time I can stand to hear my own driver honk the car’s horn. (Not to mention all the other horns you will hear, the almost constant swerving for animals and people, and the generally poor condition of many roads.) I also avoid driving at night except within a city or to and from an airport.

If you want go to Madurai, which is a just fantastic series of huge, brightly coloured Hindu temples (Google for a look), you can fly there from Chennai in about an hour on Jet or Kingfisher, both great local carriers. (The drive does not make it doable for a day trip, and is quite a drive for just an overnight; the train is about 8-10 hours although overnight trains are available.) However, with a flight, it would work for an overnight, the Jet schedule in particular sees to work very well for an overnight, as there is an early morning flight out, and a late evening return. (It might even be possible to do this as a day trip, but I would not recommend it.) Not sure if your girls would like the temples or not, you would know best. It is certainly something they would remember, like the Grand Canyon. There is an OK, but not outstanding Taj hotel there that is fine for an overnight. You might find others by looking at the sources below.

For overnight trips, there are hotels in all budget ranges in India. A very useful website for hotels in India is http://sawdays.co.uk/, click on the book for India. You can also buy the book, Special Places to Stay India, but the website will give you a very long list of hotels to start with. Two good operators generally in India are the Oberoi group (http://www.oberoihotels.com) and the Taj group (www.tajhotels.com. ). Taj has a few hotels in the Chennai area, including Fisherman’s Cove which might work for a trip to Kanchipuram. There is a small Indian chain called Neemrama which operates a number of unique hotels in palaces and other old buildings and could be something to consider if you want a different experience. Go to http://www.neemranahotels.com. They have a hotel in Pondicherry which is quite charming, see http://www.neemranahotels.com/pondi/index.html.htm. For my Habitat trip to Pondicherry we are staying in the Hotel Athithi, which I have not seen, but must say appears to be quite decent and gets some good reviews on tripadvisor, see http://www.atithipondicherry.com/front/index.php. Sheraton and Marriott run a number of good hotels in India as well, generally in the major cities, so they probably won’t work for overnight trips south of Chennai.

I just want to mention that going someplace like Agra to see the Taj Mahal really does not work for an overnight. The only flights are via Delhi or Mumbai and even those are quite limited, otherwise you have to drive or train down from Delhi. So you have to commit some time to making a trip there. It is also going to be very, very hot and rather rainy in July there. So while memorable, it could also be almost unbearable, esp with kids. Think a bit before committing to a trip there in July. (That being said, there is a great Oberoi hotel there if you can commit to spending some money.) As Jaya has said, most of India will be really hot in July and quite rainy. The Chennai area will be much drier than most of the rest of India, as they get heavy rain later in the year. But it will be quite hot. If you want cooler and drier weather, consider Ladakh. But again, this does not work for an overnight.

There are books for children about India, I may have some names somewhere, I can hunt around. Of course something like the Jungle Book by Kipling is a classic, although won’t teach much abut modern Indian. I love The Post Office by Rabindranath Tagore, who is better known in India for his poetry. I think you, and perhaps your 11-year old, might enjoy any novel by R.K. Narayan, like The English Teacher; Malgudi Days, or any the 12 novels based in a town he created called Malgudi, which he places somewhere south of Chennai.
Cicerone is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2010, 04:35 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 56
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cicerone

All the information you gave GRevahs was fantastic!
I'm planing my second trip to the South of India in 2011, so I read it with great interest.
Last year, in Jan, we went to the North of India for one month. Will you help me again,please, when I post my schedule for my second trip?
You did help me with my first trip...Thanks.
nalijo is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2010, 11:51 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,860
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The road from Chennai to Pondicherry is the best road i've ever experienced in India...Straight , well paved, and very light traffic. It travels along the coast, so you get nice ocean views, as well as interesting rural life.

I was there in early June last year and it was brutally hot and humid. 110'F -118'F. We had planned to travel by train in the region, but found that none of the trains or buses were air conditioned. I happen to like Indian train travel, but even I knew that would be sheer torture.

I've traveled to India in the summer before, which is why I thought the heat wouldn't be too problematic, but after 6 days in Chennai and Pondicherry, we threw in the towel. We drove back to Chennai and flew up to Shimla and Dharamsal in the north.

BTW, Cicerone- My daughter and I spent several hours at the Athithi's swimming pool. The hotel lobby and restaurant looked very nice and the staff were quite friendly to us. We could see much of the city and the ocean from the 3rd (?) floor pool deck. I'm guessing the rooms would have nice views as well.
lcuy is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2010, 09:48 AM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 16
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cicerone,

Thank you for all the wonderful information you have provided. My 11 year old loves to read books on India and I will be sure to get her the ones you have mentioned. I am looking into making travel arrangements to Pondicherry and plan to spend couple of days there.
Also, what is the easiest way to obtain a mobile phone for use while I am in India?

Thanks again.
GRevahs is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2010, 10:55 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,860
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The easiest way is to take your own multiband phone and have your service provider turn on international roaming. This will run you about $2.50- $3 a minute, but it requires no tech savey and you will be using your own phone number.

A cheaper way is to take your unlocked multiband phone and buy a pre-paidSIM card in India. Insert it in the phone and you essentially have a new, indian phone with an hour or so of talk time for about $20.

Another way is to go to one of the indian phone companies (such as Airtel) and get a prepaid indian phone. Initial outlay will be about $60, including the basic phone and maybe 20 minutes.
lcuy is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2010, 09:18 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 16
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you, lcuy. The pre-paid SIM card sounds great. Would I be able to find a place to purchase the SIM card at Chennai airport?
GRevahs is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2010, 10:55 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,860
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I don't remember. We arrived very late at night and I bought mine the next morning. There is a bit of paperwork, so allow some time. Also (important detail, sorry!),you need one or two visa type photos to get a SIM card anywhere in India.

BTW, did you see my report from last summer? It covers our brief stays in Chennai and Pondicherry:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...y-may-2009.cfm
lcuy is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2010, 12:24 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 4,121
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Be aware that since the Mumbai attacks there are increased security checks on this stuff, lest you detonate something with your foreigner's mobile phone, or get instructions on how to from a man in Pakistan. You may need a local with an Indian address, certainly if you want to purchase a phone or an internet plugin.
dogster is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2010, 02:11 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 27,601
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
If that's a concern, you could try buying a "global" SIM from telestial or ekit before you go. Although last time mine didn't work in any of the Middle East countries..
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2010, 12:48 PM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 16
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Sorry to have been non responsive last few days.

lcuy, thanks for the link to your report - will definitely take a look through it.

Thanks also to others on the info regarding the mobile phone - sounds like turning on international roaming on my iphone would be the prudent thing to do.
GRevahs is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2010, 01:31 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 27,601
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
"turning on international roaming on my iphone would be the prudent thing to do." - did you mean "off"? You should check the cost first.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2010, 04:21 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 16
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I did mean "on". I will be looking into the cost but although cost is a concern, I do not want to run the risk of not having a phone that works. Perhaps I am being a bit over cautious. I will bring along photos to be prepared for obtaining a local phone or sim card, but in case all else fails, I want to have the back up of my own phone working.
GRevahs is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2010, 04:31 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 27,601
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Are you traveling with a laptop? If so, skype would be much cheaper.
thursdaysd is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
JillianV
Asia
60
Jun 9th, 2011 03:10 PM
famtraveler
Asia
5
Feb 13th, 2007 07:30 AM
veracity
Asia
10
Dec 4th, 2006 05:47 PM
dabsjad
Asia
4
Nov 11th, 2004 02:36 AM
JandaO
Asia
6
Jul 15th, 2003 10:39 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -