Light as you will probably have to walk a bit Comfy shoes, the roads are dusty and crowded Any toiletry you can think of. I was creative in buying a lot of micro size bottles. Unless you are lucky, a close-by convenient store won't be easy to find or reach without taking a cab A must, but be careful to put your batteries in your check in luggage, they could confiscate your lithium battery ($$$) at the airport/ Very light clothes as it easily reach 40 Celcius there in the summer.
One of the best Middle Eastern Food Joints in Town
My friend who lived in the Middle East for quite a chunk of her life said that this was the closest to what she'd eaten back in Kuwait and Dubai. Love their grilled stuff and shawarmas.
The place is not too big and has a lot tables and chairs crammed in there. It has been busy every time i've been there. The staff are friendly. The food is tasty. The energy is high.
But please stick only to Middle Eastern food on the menu. The Indian cusine is okay.
There are two branches of this joint in Chennai. One on Greams Road and another in Anna Nagar. They have branches in the Middle East as well. So, they must be authentic, eh? Barbacue chicken
Chicken and mutton shawarmas
Beside the Children’s Park, but separate from it: you have to buy a ticket here too. It’s also shady, compact, and has some interesting creatures that don’t move much, so it’s worth bringing a camera. There’s a “Spot the Chameleon” exhibit that’s a challenge.
Entrance fee is also Rs5 for adults, additional for cameras or video cameras.
The name Chennai is an eponym, etymologically derived from Chennapattinam or Chennapattanam, the name of the town that grew up around Fort St. George, built by the British in 1640. There are different versions about the origin of the name. When the British landed here in 1639 A.D. it was said to be part of the empire of the Raja of Chandragiri. The British named it Chennapatnam after they acquired it from Chennappa Nayaka, a Vijayanagar chieftain. Gradually, the name was shortened to Chennai. The first instance of the use of the name Chennai is said to be in a sale deed dated August 1639 to Francis Day, an agent for the British where there is a reference to Chennaipattinam.
The region around Chennai has served as an important administrative, military, and economic centre since the 1st century. It has been ruled by various South Indian dynasties, notably the Pallava, the Chola, the Pandya, and Vijaynagar. The town of Mylapore, now part of Chennai, was once a major Pallavan port. The Portuguese arrived in 1522 and built a port called São Tomé after the Christian apostle, St Thomas, who is believed to have preached in the area between 52 and 70 CE. In 1612, the Dutch established themselves near Pulicat, just north of the city.
On 22 August 1639, Francis Day of the British East India Company bought a small strip of land on the Coromandel Coast from the Vijayanagara King, Peda Venkata Raya in Chandragiri. The region was ruled by Damerla Venkatapathy, the Nayak of Vandavasi. He granted the British permission to build a factory and warehouse for their trading enterprises. A year later, the British built Fort St George, which became the nucleus of the growing colonial city. In 1746, Fort St. George and Madras were captured by the French under General La Bourdonnais, the Governor of Mauritius, who plundered the town and its outlying villages. The British regained control in 1749 through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and fortified the town's fortress wall to withstand further attacks from the French and another looming threat, Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. By the late 18th century, the British had conquered most of the region around Tamil Nadu and the northern modern-day states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, establishing the Madras Presidency with Madras as the capital. Under British rule, the city grew into a major urban centre and naval base.
Victoria Public Hall at Park Town, Chennai - one of the finest examples of British architecture in the cityWith the advent of railways in India in the late 19th century, the thriving urban centre was connected to other important cities such as Bombay and Calcutta, promoting increased communication and trade with the hinterland. Madras was briefly under Portuguese and French rule during 16th & 18th century.
Madras was the only Indian city to be attacked by the Central Powers during World War I, when an oil depot was shelled by the German light cruiser SMS Emden on September 22, 1914, as it raided shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, causing disruption to shipping. After India gained its independence in 1947, the city became the capital of Madras State, renamed the state of Tamil Nadu in 1969. The violent agitations of 1965 against the imposition of Hindi as the national language, marked a major shift in the political dynamics of the city and the whole state.
In 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami lashed the shores of Chennai, killing many and permanently altering the coastline.
A resident of Chennai is called a Chennaiite. As of 2001, Chennai city had a population of 4.34 million, while the total metropolitan population was 7.04 million. The estimated metropolitan population in 2006 is 4.5 million. In 2001, the population density in the city was 24,682 per km² (9,534 per mi²), while the population density of the metropolitan area was 5,922 per km² (2,287 mi²), making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The sex ratio is 951 females for every 1,000 males, slightly higher than the national average of 934. The average literacy rate is 80.14%, much higher than the national average of 64.5%. The city has the fourth highest population of slum dwellers among major cities in India, with about 820,000 people (18.6% of its population) living in slum conditions. This number represents about 5% of the total slum population of India. In 2005, the crime rate in the city was 313.3 per 100,000 people, accounting for 6.2% of all crimes reported in major cities in India. The number of crimes in the city showed a significant increase of 61.8% from 2004.
The majority of the population in Chennai are Tamilians and Tamil is the primary language spoken in Chennai. English is widely spoken especially in business, education and white collar professions. Sizeable Telugu and Malayalee communities live in the city. Chennai also has a large migrant population, who come from other parts of Tamil Nadu and the rest of the country. As of 2001, out of the 937,000 migrants (21.57% of its population) in the city, 74.5% were from other parts of the state, 23.8% were from rest of India and 1.7% were from outside the country. According to the 2001 census, Hindus constitute about 82.27% of the city's population, and Muslims (8.37%), Christians (7.63%) and Jains (1.05%) are other major religious groups.
I’ve never lived in a place this urban where animals are so much a part of day to day life. There’s very little fear of humans. Monkeys, squirrels, and crows will come right into your house and eat off your table if you let them, and I imagine if you live on the ground floor the guests would include goats, cows, street dogs, and any of a huge number of other creatures.
Dogs are not often kept as pets, and the vast majority of the dogs you'll see are feral. Some are friendlier than others, some associate themselves with humans - at a particular food stall, or near an apartment where someone feeds them, or at least where they aren't chased away. Sometimes they are de facto parts of a community or a family.
I’m a dog lover and have ranted about the general treatment, neglect, and sometimes abuse of street dogs elsewhere, so I won’t do it here. I will say that the street dogs here are tough, smart, and know good people from bad. (Although, like a lot of other animals here, they seem to think foreigners smell weird.)
The dog in this photo hangs out at the Theosophical Society, and she’s very friendly.
A lot of things are still transported by bullock cart well into the city, although they’ve become rarer even in the few years I’ve been here. I like them, but am a little freaked out by them. They’re the most passive, most expressionless, least ambitious creatures I’ve ever seen, but they’re so huge you just know that if they could be bothered they would take us all down.
Painting the horns green, blue, or red is common; during festivals they are also often decorated with flowers, and bells.
I like crows generally, so I started leaving crumbs out for them (okay, also to give the red ants more of a reason to stay out than come in). I found out later that this is a common practice here, and that the intricate patterns of rice flour women draw on doorsteps are in part for the same purpose.
It started small enough – a few swooping in and leaving just as fast. After a couple of weeks of leaving crumbs out, though, it was attracting a small murder. Then the murder started arriving promptly, sitting on the railing and staring inside until I brought out something more substantial. And now if I’m late, well, I try not to be late.
The one in the photo, and her offspring, and some of her friends, and a few distant acquaintances, eat from my hand, whether or not I'm offering.
They’re quite small, perhaps four inches without the tail, and can climb just about anything, include up the side of an apartment building. I saw one leap about 10 feet from my balcony to a tree, and saw another one face down a crow three times its size and win. To hide they flatten themselves out rather remarkably – like a miniature squirrel-skin rug. I’ve also had one in my apartment, and it takes a lot of effort to get them back out again.
Along those lines, apparently chasing them with a broom is taboo. Something about Lord Rama giving the squirrels their stripes and brooms being disrespectful. It’s okay to chase them with a stick, though. (Note, this was told to me by someone from Kerala, so any part may or may not apply in Chennai.)
These guys are a little more skittish, though they come around to the porch when the crows are done, usually in pairs. They have a funny high-kick stepping walk (reminiscent of a scene from a movie called Bennie and Joon, cornbread on a fork...). Anyway, when they skitter off it’s in a flurry of unexpected white-and-brown with a sweet warbling sound. Their call while sitting around is much, much louder and more piercing than you’d expect for a bird this size.
This one wasn’t taken on my balcony, but it’s the same kind that stole one of my socks off my drying rack. This one has stolen some food off someone else’s balcony. Note that bars don’t keep them out. If bars keep the bigger ones out they send a smaller monkey in to do the thieving while the bigger ones wait just outside and glower at you.
True story: I once got into a tug-of-war with a monkey over a loaf of bread. The monkey grabbed the bag – my bag – and then I was yelling at the monkey, the monkey was yelling at me, and about 50 people were standing around laughing. The monkey won, and I had to go back to the store. I’ve grown to really dislike monkeys.
You’re not supposed to chase them with brooms either (Hanuman this time); but, again, sticks are okay.
I like geckos. This is not a common sentiment. I understand the dislike – just the idea of a good-sized lizard running around on the walls is a little creepy, and they appear and disappear quite fast. But any animal that eats the insects here is a friend of mine, and they’re kind of cool: their wriggling running looks like a happy dance, and they have that wonderful reptilian grin.
I’ve hemm’ed and haw’ed about adding cockroaches to this travelog simply for the yeuch-eeee-argh factor. But if you’re in Chennai for any length of time you’re going to have to come to some kind of peace with these guys or you’ll go mad, regardless of how many geckos are on your walls eating them. The babies can survive a minute+ on high in the microwave let alone any of the insect poisons available. The nearly-mouse-size adults will actually stare you down and leap-fly at you if you leave them no mutually-agreeable escape route.
Their one redeeming quality: they are as freaked out by you as you are by them, and will usually sense you and scurry away faster than you can yelp, because insects are fast and humans are slow. Seal your food and garbage and they’ll stay away, as far as you'll ever know. Don’t look too hard into cupboards or under shelves, and if there's a grate on a drain, leave it there. Weight it down if you can. No, they don’t whisper in your ear or stick things up your nose while you’re asleep, whatever Bloom County might have suggested.
I should add, I’m not at all squeamish about bugs, and actually respect cockroaches tremendously for their perfect adaptation and resilience to everything Earth can throw at them. In theory. In practice, I’d still rather not share living space with them.