Just landed at Chennai (formerly known as Madras), safe and sound. First time in Indian soil.
Did a reading on Chennai in Wikipedia before i came .. and surprisingly, the name, Chennai, was originated from the British, who named it "Chennapatnam ", before been gradually shortened to Chennai. It's former name Madras, was a Portugis name. Surprise, surprise; i have always thought Madras was a British name, and it was renamed to it's traditional Indian name of Chennai.
Upon landed at Chennai international airport, my first experience, which is quite different from the rest of the place i've visited, is the immigration. There's not different lane for local, or foreigners. The only have a different lane for Diplomats/disable/infant traveling parties. The queue at the immigration counters is long, but the clearance was a breeze; no questions asked as to the purpose of the visit.
While waiting one of our colleague, who happened to came from Chennai, to get us a van; we were greeted with the sound of car honking everywhere. I think while standing there for some 15 minutes or so, i have heard more honking than i've in Penang for over a couple of months. Not to mention if to compare to California; it will be a life-time worth of honking. ;)
After awhile on the van, we came to realize that the road user 'communicate' through honking. I figure that .. one honk means "look out .. i'm coming, please try to get out of my way." ... double honking means "get out of my way ... ". multiple/continuous honking means "darn it, this is my road! Get Lost!". It's indeed an experience. :) I have heard that driving in Jakarta, you need to put one palm on the steering wheel, another on the honk; i guess i can witness this first-time in Chennai. :)
Another thing is that, i cannot figure out how the traffic is flowing. At one point i was wondering to myself " is the driver driving in the opposite direction of the traffic?!" .. cos the driver should always be nearer to the central divider of the road .. and ... he's NOT!!. Oh well .. after some distance, i realize some of the Tut-tut car also driving in the opposite direction (or the road is a two way road, without divider)... so .. i guess this is the 'norm'.
At times, i can't wonder how the folks can survive the stress of driving here, not to mention you have to be very alert; they can squeeze between the tightest spot, and zig-zag through the traffic; you can see more overtaking here than in any F1 races. With the way the folks are driving here, i wonder why we are not seeing india producing quality F1 or Indy car drivers; maybe if they put a honk in F1 cars, we can see a different domination in the F1 circuits.
Nevertheless, we manage to reach our hotel after 30 minutes of go-kart-like commute.
The Asiana Hotel is quite nice; at least my first impression, i would give it a thumbs-up.
Here's a picture i took coming out from the arrival hall at the airport: