A vacation from vacation

casa grand apartment complex, chennai, india

Happy New Year and winter warmings!

Strange as it sounds, we are currently on a vacation from our permanent vacation.

Yep, after knocking around India for months – and surviving a bout with dengue fever – I desired some ‘down time’. A holiday getaway; somewhere comfortable, care free, relaxing, quiet.

Since early September we’d been enjoying all aspects of our first adventure in India. But as we knew at the start, slow travel in India requires some extra effort, patience, and flexibility. Combined with the dengue experience, it was time for a break.

A vacation from vacation

We decided upend our original plans and travel south to Chennai, the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu. It’s the sixth largest city in India (metro population: 12 million) and located on the southeast coast along the Bay of Bengal. Chennai was an attractive destination for a few reasons. 

Why Chennai?

ecr 14 casa grand rental in chennai
Casa Grand apartment rental in Chennai, India.

First, it is a tropical beach location. We’ve been comfortable in the decreasing temperatures throughout our first three months in India. But jackets and pants were becoming a necessity. Plus, colder weather is assured in early 2023 when we spend more months further north in India and Nepal. As I laid recovering from dengue fever in noisy, dusty Jaipur, Rajasthan, the thought of some fresh, balmy beach time was appealing.

Secondly, a search of potential Airbnbs in warmer Indian regions produced what seemed to be an extraordinary accommodation option. Offered under $600 per month, a 2-bedroom, newly-constructed, amenity-laden apartment in a gated community (pool, workout room, sauna, hot tub, game room, lounges), close to the beach. Other similar units in the same area were easily double the price. Obviously, our host was motivated to get the unit rented.

Next, Chennai itself was a draw. Unlike the very popular ‘tourist’ beaches of Goa, Kerala, and the Andaman Islands, Chennai is a major commercial and shipping center with world-class medical facilities. In fact, we considered cancer specialists in Chennai when Ellen (my wife) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 while in Europe. Now, with ebola and COVID concerns growing worldwide, and a few nagging health issues to address, it seemed a wise place to locate for a month or more of R & R.

Lastly, the ‘detour’ from our originally planned time in the highly air-polluted Delhi area would not cost extra. Airfare was under $100 per person and tickets for the 32-hour sleeper train trip  – which we ended up taking – were only $35 each.*

Besides our housing, Chennai costs in general are lower than Delhi. Totaling up and comparing the north vs. south options was basically a wash. Why not explore the Chennai ‘vacation’ possibility?

Out of the chaos

So we’ve now been here a couple weeks. Takin’ it easy. Relaxing. Enjoying the holiday season. It’s pretty much been as expected. To be clear, we are about 12 miles south of the center of Chennai city just off the ‘ECR’ (East Coast Road). Think of it as the suburbs – Indian style; something new for us. The best part – inside our complex, we are ‘removed’ from the chaos. Inside our apartment – silence. It’s exactly what I needed and hoped.

amenities at casa grand complex made tedly feel like he's on a vacation from vacation
Amenities at the Casa Grand complex south of the center of Chennai, India.

We are making regular use of the complex amenities – often alone, despite the hundreds of total units. The weather is hot (80+) and humid, occasional showers. The AC & ceiling fans, smart TV with Netflix, clothes washer, drinking water filter, fully equipped kitchen and furnishings make our compact, 10th-floor apartment a comfy and quiet escape from the ‘real’ India just outside our security gate. Wandering cows, packs of dogs, mad traffic with honking horns, and plenty of dung and dust can be found there. It’s nice to choose our ‘level of exposure’.

The neighborhood

There is a small mall with multiplex theater at the nearest street corner. We watched Avatar in English the other night. Small groceries, food stalls, other stores and businesses and restaurants abound too — all an easy walk. The beach is a kilometer away. Buses and rickshaws (tuk tuks) ply the busy coastal road.

We’ve taken buses and Uber rides into the city and further down the coast. On Christmas Day we went to mass at the historic Catholic basilica where St. Thomas the Apostle is said to be buried. We also did some sightseeing and had a great ‘meat platter’ dinner. We do walk the beach and our neighborhood most every day, too. We’ve made a few friends and are certainly a curiosity here. We’ve only seen a handful of other Caucasians. English is hardly spoken. Tamil is the local language.

The 'ECR' neighborhood and beach near Casa Grand in the southern metro area of Chennai, India.
The ‘ECR’ neighborhood and beach near Casa Grand in the southern metro area of Chennai, India.

Next up…

Coming soon, I’ll record and post a ‘Kortan’s Crib’ video of our environs. And in the coming weeks I will continue my book writing efforts while Ellen plans to attend a meditation retreat.

Bottom line, we will continue to relax and recharge in this ‘curated’ area before heading back north to Delhi where we will meet up with my mom, Diane, who’s coming for her winter getaway from Cleveland, Ohio, USA. With mom we will spend the winter months exploring more of incomparable, ‘real’ India.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

(*Editor’s note: the price for the train trip from Agra to Chennai was $35 each, not the lesser amount originally reported.)

Thanks for reading, “A vacation from vacation.”

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