Nearly everything is enclosed with walls - many, many of those walls are topped with barbed wire or, more disturbingly, big shards of glass. Government buildings, okay, but also schools, private homes, or the Theosophical Society (pictured). I haven't figured this one out yet.
It's a shame, since a lot of the things behind the walls are very pretty (parks, gardens, architecture). Incidentally, in many places the flora and fauna appear to be winning, like the banyon tree in the picture.
Great Snacks and Mithai (Sweets)
Shree Mithai has great snacks --- bhel puri, pau bhaji, dahi puri, even sandwiches (Indian style --- try 'em out). The mithai is also terrific. Potato, cucumber, Tomato and Chutney Sandwich and Pau Bhaji.
Have fun in the beaches
Chennai marina beach is supposed to be the world's second larges t beach,but it is pathetic to see it filled with memorials for leaders.
instead of the main beach area that is marina,go to elliots beach in besant nagar or better still go further towards mahabalipuram and enjoy the uncrowded beaches that are cleaner and beautiful.if you go to places like uthandi,thiruporur etc. you will enjoy the beaches
Trip to Mahabalipram 52.18 KM SW of Chennai
"Marina Beach Chennai"
After returning from Mahabalipuram I thought of spending some time at Marina Beach, Chennai as my Bus to Bangalore was scheduled late night of 6th Jan 2010.
Marina is a beach in the city of Chennai along the Bay of Bengal. The Marina is primarily sandy, with a distance of about 12 kms.
On the beach one don't find people swimming or any kind of water sports activities, Bathing/swimming is illegal at Marina beach and there are no lifeguards stationed here. One can find food stalls of ice creams, snacks and local eatables, which is there until 10-11 pm. There are fisherman boats and one can see their boats in the sea. The beach is not so clean but can be visited. Late evening mostly one can see couples on the beach.
Some interesting parts are to fly a kite or ride the horse on the beach.
This beach is easily accessible through rail, bus and auto
Every month I used to visit Chennai for official meetings this time I took one day off to visit Mahabalipuram (now called as Mamallapuram). Its about 52 KM SW of Chennai through ECR Road, the drive is pleasant as it goes along the sea with boating place, crocodile park and resorts on the way.
I took a cab from the hotel and then took a local guide who showed me all the places with its history.
Its a must see place, sad part is that lots of architecture was unfinished during 7th century due to the war. To add worst to it is that all the text related to this great site was taken away the British and its still not with India, even the gold, silver, jewels etc used to decorate many temples and Shiva lingam was taken and looted by the British.
Shore temple is marvelous and it’s said 6 temples lie under the sea now; the archeological department every year give the acid wash to the shore temple but still its getting eroded due to sea and salt.
The stories in temples and architecture are mostly having Mahabharata and the king also took inspiration from Ajanta and Elora caves for the construction of this magnificent site.
There is mark of Buddhism, Chinese and Egyptian showing that era trade with those countries and travel of Huient Sang to India.
Chennai, First Visit
I’ve been told you either love India or hate it. I fall squarely into the “love it” category. Except when I hate it.
I came to Chennai for work for 3 months in January, 2005, and that trip extended to May, 2008. I was living in Adyar, which is a fairly well-off area in the southern part of the city, so my comments are bound to be skewed. I’m no longer a tourist in Chennai, but I’m still absolutely foreign, and I think that would be true were I to live here the rest of my life.
The photo above is from the tallest building in Adyar (10 floors) looking south, but it could be just about anywhere except the city center. It’s flat. It’s jumbled. It’s colorful. There’s a surprising amount of greenery for an urban area this densely populated. Things are being built and ripped down everywhere – three months after this photo was taken, the vacant lot in the lower right corner was a 4-story building. Indian friends have told me it’s hard for Chennai natives to find their way around because landmarks keep changing and “establishments” keep moving. Streets all look the same to me – gajillions of small shops you can’t believe are shops, with contents difficult to determine until you enter. There’s a lot of yellow.
Chennai is experiencing much of the same technology boom as Bangalore. It’s the fourth largest city in India, and has grown very fast in the last 20-15-10 years, leading to the kinds of urban problems you’d expect when mass of people exceeds capabilities of the available infrastructure. I’ll spare you the details, but consider services like water, electricity, roadway capacity and traffic flow, and garbage removal; and think hard about where you’d sleep if there was no available housing within your means in a place where “cold” means 70F, and “wet” is 20 days out of 365. (Hint: The answer is “wherever.”)
Apparently, ten years ago there was very little outside the city center besides rice paddies, scrub brush, and ([even then] fetid) rivers. Adyar used to be all low, single-family suburban-ish bungalows; it’s now almost all rebuilt as 4-5 story buildings of 16+ flats each. (And I’ve been told that my little 2-bedroom 1 1/2-bath flat would usually house a family of at least six, sometimes three generations.) One neighborhood just north of Adyar looks like it has been literally engulfed by the city – abutting the roads are thatch-roof village houses and shops, built onto, into, and I think through, by modern buildings. It’s fascinating, often jolting, and not always pretty. The colors and patterns of the sheer quantities of stuff are amazing, though. It looks like you could peel away layers of stuff for years before hitting a solid neutral color. That weight of stuff makes everything seem normal, even when in another context it would be a surprise. Five people on a moped just doesn’t seem strange.
This is not a city for tourists. It’s a working city, and there are few tourist sights, although there are plenty of things to do and experience, if you can find them, before heading off to the more tourist-oriented sites in southern India. It isn’t easy to get things done, although English is spoken pretty well in places where more educated people are and in places where it is expected money will be spent. Especially as a fair-skinned foreigner, you will get great service – phenomenal service. Unto stalking service. On the other hand you will be taken advantage of pretty much any time someone can get away with it. Learn current prices. Learn to argue for them, to the point of walking away to the next guy. Get used to crowds gathering as you argue, because everyone here likes sport, and note that if the seller’s eyes are bright and part of the crowd is grinning you’re still paying too much. Learn that anything worth doing takes time, and has to be done in public, and repeat walking away and arguing and crowd negotiation as needed.
Okay, that’s cynical, and not all of it is entirely true. I’m in a hate it moment. Give me a few minutes and that will change. (But learn the lesson, because you’ll need it sooner or later.)
I haven’t found Chennai to be photogenic. The areas that look interesting to me aren’t places it’s advised to hang out in alone let alone pull out a camera – they tend to be areas of economic deprivation. I’ve heard that close to 1/3 of the population of the city lives at or below the poverty line, which in India is mighty low. It’s hard to find overview images, street scenes, that make sense – when taken as a whole a street scene is the incoherent chaos of too much-too many. I think you have to make sense of Chennai from the millions and millions of details, although I’m still not sure what kind of sense you end up with.
On that note, and in response to repeated questions along the lines of “yes, but what’s it like,” I took a lot of random pictures of Chennai during auto rides and have posted them to another site. (If you come back here wondering where all the evidence of the high-tech boom and wealth are, it’s behind the walls topped with glass and barbed wire, or in enclaves sealed from the roads.)
From the details I’ve seen, and some I have been forced to bear witness to (which I am not going to describe), I’ve ended up harder, harsher for being here. I haven’t yet decided whether this is a bad thing. Every once in a while, though, someone says hello or smiles without wanting anything in return, and I just don’t know anymore.
Chennai is not always an easy place to be. The day-to-day frustrations; the disparity of wealth and crushing poverty; the way people treat each other, animals, and the environment; and because the scope of the problems is overwhelming - they all take their toll. Physically, the heat is brutal, and the quantity of particulate matter in the air doesn’t help. Try not to have asthma or wear contact lenses here. If you don’t like saunas, a lot, don’t be here between early March and late November.
Note, though: if you “just don’t like” something (for me, coffee and coconut; maybe for you, saunas), try it here anyway. You will probably be surprised. Also note: if you plan to practice your Hindi, plan again. It isn’t spoken in Chennai, and won’t earn you any appreciation for your effort. People here are staunchly pro-Tamil. (Tamil is very hard, by the way. I’ll write about learning it someday when it’s less traumatic.)
Chennai will show you what culture shock is and what it means to have no clue what’s going on. It will show you what it means to be really, truly foreign, even as it adopts things you think are quintessentially western. “Western” will always have a south Indian spin, an adjustment to taste. This is an up-and-coming global city with nothing quaint or precious about it, regardless of a very long history and a culture unlike anywhere else in the world. You will find no apologies here. You will also find no explanations: like why the water is cut off in the kitchen, but still works pakka one wall over in the bathroom. It’s brilliant.
In my pre-living-here days I had envisioned India as information overload, and that has certainly proven to be true of Chennai. The colors, heat, noise, flavors, quantities of everything, are extreme. There’s a richness of subtleties to it all, though, if you can attune yourself to them.
See? A few minutes later and I’m back in a “love it” moment. I think. What happened to the water in the kitchen again?
A comment on food, from a long-gone comment: The food is great. There’s a lot of food available. But there are also likely to be more food comments from me because eating out is a major part of social life, and there simply isn’t much else for single people in their 30s to do here. This is partly because most people are married by the age of 28, and usually have at least one kid by the age of 30. There’s also not a culture of the casual social contact – simply striking up a conversation with a stranger – you find in the US, for example.
There aren’t a lot of venues for social contact, either. Contemporary arts aren’t supported much, so theater is almost all either traditional (focused during the Dec/Jan festival season), or amateur (which isn’t to say it’s not good, and often very good). Bands playing anything other than movie-type music can’t get places to play. There are some bars, but you don’t go to them alone. There are few museums, and if there are galleries I don’t know where they are. I’ll add those kinds of tips as I find them, though, try to balance out the food.