There is one thing everyone needs to know about flying around India. The schedules may look extremely comprehensive but you, the global traveller, must build in plenty of time. The gal was all set for a quick overnight back at the comfortable, friendly and efficient Taj Coromandel Chennai but even perfect service in a luxury hotel environment could not extend an already short stay that was squeezed by an appalling late incoming flight on Spice Jet. Once at the hotel, however, a superb performance set in, which included Club Manager Stanley Palmer personally wheeling in a late-hour room service dinner, above (please note the salad – it rightly gets full marks).
In the morning the usual array of daily newspapers crammed into a jute bag was hanging outside end suite 638. Breakfast arrived and then I was off, back to the airport for a flight to Port Blair, to pick up the ferry to Havelock Island, to see again, and this time stay at, Taj Exotica Resort and Spa Havelock Island, Andamans. But Chennai, this morning, was cloaked in dense, almost-choking, smog. Today, it turns out, is Bhogi, the first day of Pongal, celebrating bringing in the harvest, and Bhogi is the ideal opportunity, it unfortunately turns out, to burn all your garbage plus old rugs and mats and mattresses and old clothes. The result is this pollution, with visibility down to 45 feet.
You can imagine what this does to the airport. It closed completely for hours. When we arrived flights that were listed to leave 0545 were now delayed beyond 1100 – those poor people, up so early and all to no purpose. Not surprisingly the airport could not cope. Every square inch of available seating was taken and outside the Priority Plus lounge foreign tourists were sleeping, with eye masks, on the marble floor. Inside the lounge people hovered when they sensed someone might leave, and give up a chair (just like finding carpark spaces, but that chore may lessen as travellers migrate to Uber and leave their own vehicles at home). Talking of Uber, I find it fascinating that at Indian airports Uber and other lift companies are not only allowed but have extremely strong, and official, presence.
After three hours of this, and knowing we had now already missed the last ferry to Havelock Island, we gave up, and after a bit of a commotion retreated landside. Plan B was hatched on the spur of the moment. Having already taken just the few items needed for an overnight from my lovely Taj Coromandel home, where I was able to keep my room, Pramod Ranjan, who owns it, swung into action and suggested another of his luxury hotels, the beach-set Vivanta Fishermans Cove, half an hour away from Chennai on the Bay of Bengal. This, therefore, suddenly became the next stop on this whirlwind tour. SEE VIDEOS OF BREAKFAST AND, BELOW, OF SUITE 638 AT TAJ COROMANDEL