Hot Hotttt Chennai
1. Backpack 1. Sandals.
5. Light cotton T-shirts 1. Shaving Kit 1. Camera
3. Additional discs, tapes, films 1. Bottled water
2. Mosquito repellant
3. Sunscreen lotion 1. Avoid full-sleeve shirts during summer.
2. Shoes would feel rough on the feet during summer heat.
Lots of good eateries at...
Lots of good eateries at hotels but for a posh meal try the Residence at the Park Sheraton Hotel or at the other end try Tikka Time for an excellent value take-away indian meal. Benjarong, the Thai restaurant near the Park Sheraton, is good. But remember south India is dry so no alcohol except in hotels. Chicken butter masala or Aloo gobi from Tikka Time.
Anything at the Residence but watch out as they are large portions.
Fort Saint George
Fort St. George - Fort St. George occupies a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. The British East India Company under the direct supervision of Francis Day and Andrew Cogon built it in 1640 AD. This bastion achieved name from St. George, the patron saint of England. The fort houses St. Mary's Church and fort museum. St. Mary's Church the oldest Anglican Church in India built in 1680 and the tombstones in its courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. This ancient prayer house solemnized the marriages of Robert Clive and Governor Elinu-Yale, who later founded the Yale University in the States. The Fort Museum is the repository of rare exhibits of weapons, uniforms, coins, costumes, medals and some other artifacts dating back to the British period. The flagstaff at Fort St. George is still the tallest in India. South of the Fort is the War Memorial, a graceful monument built in 1939 in memory of the warriors who sacrificed their lives during the First World War. The Island Grounds, the biggest lung space in the city is situated on an island formed by the river Cooum. This ground is the eventful venue of Trade and the Tourist Fairs held periodically which are seasonal attractions. The High Court with the decorative domes and corridors reminiscent of Indo/Saracenic architecture and the adjacent Parry's corner are the important landmarks of Chennai. This area is always crowded and active. Built in 1892, the High Court of Chennai is believed to be the second largest judicial complex in the world.
"I Waited 30 Years to Get Here"
When I first started travelling in the '70's, I only got to the northern areas of Bombay, Delhi, Agra and Calcutta. I always wished I had gotten south and toured the beautiful areas and beaches and experienced the foods of the south. I'm not sure I missed anything at all...........Chennai is another very large city with horrible air pollution, much due to the diesel exhaust of the voluminous number of vehicles.
Granted, the beach is special, being so wide and long, and so I have now added another body of water that my feet at least, have been immersed into. But the number of very aggressive, persistent beggars made the short time I had there quite difficult, even though I was with local friends. There were 2 young girls with a monkey who were not about to be told no to their pleas of "money", and the filthy monkey was difficult to keep from climbing onto us.
My time in the center of the city was limited, but it was much more comfortable than the suburb I was staying in, as the streets were all clean of garbage! I cannot fathom how the people in the suburbs contend with the depth and stench of the garbage.............
(missing photos make this page still under construction)
Chennai has a variety, quality, sheer experience of food a lot of people in “developed-world” cities would die for.
Vegetarian South Indian cooking in Tamil Nadu is based on rice (as the staples rice, idli, or dosa, and about a million kinds of fried snacks), lentils (in semi-liquid, solid, or fried form), curd (unsweetened yogurt with a variety of things mixed in, of varying consistency), and seasonal fruits and vegetables. It’s all well seasoned with chilies and a dazzling variety of pickles, pepper, and “masala” (mix of spices). An awful lot of it is oily. Non-veg tends to be all that, but with some chunks of light (chicken or fish) or dark (mutton, other?) meat mixed in.
Foreign cooking is usually adjusted for a south Indian palate. That means that sweet and sour sauce is more spicy than either sweet or sour, and regular pizza sauce can make you cry even before adding the pepper available on every table. If you mistake a chili for a green bean, well, best of luck to you. The adjustments aren’t across the board, though.
American fast food chains are represented, true to the spirit of the originals even if the menus are different. Among the rest of the international offerings, there are many faithful to their origins, and which I suspect would rank as world class if I knew how to assess that. Keeping with the pace of Indian adoption of things western, experimental Indian fusion cuisine pops up in strange places, which are all in the process of changing and will be different tomorrow.
Most of us from the west (and many from elsewhere) have lost the hands-on experience of food. We learn not to “play with” our food. We are missing out on experiencing food through touch, a huge loss. It’s a part of the subtle sensuality of India that goes deeper than we from the outside sometimes can understand.
Once you try it as a grownup you might never go back.
Not that people here roll around wantonly in food (although I’m sure that in Chennai you can find those restaurants too). The deepest anyone gets into their food literally is about to the wrist, of the right hand only.
Before I came to India I thought most of the country was vegetarian. According to Indian friends probably 50% of the people in the south are vegetarian (and the south is more traditionally Hindu than the rest of the country). And you know the mindset is different, because where else would a restaurant serving meat dishes be called “non-vegetarian”?
Beef and pork are rare, but you can find it here and there. “Mutton” can mean a lot of things. It’s supposed to be lamb, but is more likely to be goat, and I’ve been told that young castrated bulls are sometimes sold as mutton because meat-that’s-not-beef gets a better price per pound. By that logic, there are a lot of other creatures that would get a better price per pound as mutton than they would as what they actually are.
I’ve seen how meat is sold here, and yikes. Outside of the better restaurants, stick with veg.
I have never before in my life been dumbfounded by vegetables, but I just don’t get the vegetables here. Who looked at these things and decided they could be eaten? How did they figure out that this one thing that looks like a split-pea needs to be boiled for 32 hours in garlic paste, while this other thing that looks like a split-pea tastes best after 20 minutes sautéed in saffron oil and three slices from a single chili?
And why is cauliflower so popular?
Really good vegetables are available only seasonally. This means that as soon as you learn what to do with a few of the 23 varieties of vaguely cucumberish-vegetables (which are mostly squashes), they’re out of season, and now it’s 26 varieties of something in a leatherish leafy green. If you’re eating out, though, vegetables are all cooked to mush, or pureed, or so heavily spiced you won’t taste them anyway. Just hope you’re getting some and make sure to take a multi-vitamin on the side.
Note: potatoes are counted as a vegetable. A meal can actually consist of rice or roti (wheat flat bread) and a potato dish and nothing else.
I rarely gush, but by all means eat fruit here, and indulge in fresh-squeezed juices whenever possible. I know you’re not supposed to eat skins or drink anything made with local water. Find a way around it.
Fruit is available everywhere. I’ve never seen so much fruit available anywhere. People sell apples, oranges, grapes, pomegranates, sweet limes, and several kinds of bananas year round, on every corner and at several points between corners, from carts, bicycles, sheets on the ground. There’s no excuse for not getting your 3 daily servings. Some are seasonal – jackfruit, mangoes (some 350 varieties), papaya, pomolo, and watermelon appear at different times during the year.
"Wine and Other (Regulated) Libations"
“Wine Shops” will leave you depressed. A few years ago, the distribution of alcoholic beverages in Tamil Nadu became state-controlled, which means that for practical purposes you can only buy alcoholic beverages in licensed restaurants, clubs, or in wine shops. These last are usually open to the street, sometimes with extra-tough chicken wire across the counter window, sometimes with a hundredth-tier dive-room-as-a-bar next door. They’re everywhere, open to all hours. I’ve been told that ladies do NOT go to wine shops.
Available product is variable, and if you are a foreigner you will most likely be overcharged for any of it. Hint: the price is listed somewhere on the label, usually on the back, the only numbers in the midst of a sea of Tamil script, besides the volume of the contents. Note: “full” means 750 mL; “half” is half of that; “quarter,” likewise; and there’s a gesture tipping back a shot that means either a quarter, or, generally, “let’s go have a drink.” (Also used to indicate let’s go have tea/coffee, so know your audience.)
If you know wine, abstain in Tamil Nadu. If you’re a beer connoisseur, Sandpiper (light and slightly bitter) and Golden Eagle (marginally heavier and bitterer) are decent enough, and the most readily available beer, Kingfisher, is okay, if a little sweet.
Tikka (“spicy” in Hindi) is a northern style – usually Tandoor. In southern India tikka means anything that will take the paint off the walls at ten paces. Anything served tikka usually comes with a fluorescent green sauce and a raw onion chaser. If something you can’t otherwise identify is an orange or red not found in nature, it’s too tikka for you.
For food with meat, unless you ask for, and pay for, “boneless,” there will be bones. Even boneless might have shards. Fish are usually whole, as are their skeletons.
Much of the food here is either round or is presented in a round container. Haven’t figured out what that’s about yet.
Brand names are great. Be on the lookout for Joy ice cream, Yummy cookies, and Knock Out beer.