Thursday 3 January 2013

24 Hours in Chennai

For the last day of our Pondicherry Christmas vacation, we visited the Tamil city of Chennai (formerly know as Madras), a three hour drive from the French enclave. Quite a few people had told me not to bother visiting Chennai (apparently nothing to do there)...but I am glad that we did as it is definitely one of the nicest and most fascinating cities I have been to in India so far.

Shivaite worshippers at Kapaleeswarar Temple (Sumo Style!)
For the first 12 hours of our stay, we were confined to our hotel due to very heavy rain.  Thankfully the ITC Grand Chola is a self-contained city in itself, so we whiled away some hours having a long lunch and I also got my hair cut at the in-house salon.  We also managed to waste time fiddling with the Ipad that operated our room - a (somewhat useless) novelty giving you the ability to switch the lights on and off, order room service directly from the menu, change TV channels and even open the door without having to leave one's bed. I did remark to the reception staff upon check-out that traditional light switches have always worked well for me!

Fantastic bathroom in our room at the ITC Grand Chola
Thankfully the next day was clear of rain, giving us enough time to do a whirlwind tour of the city before leaving for our evening flight.

Here are the photos/commentary:

The Museum building at Fort St George. (now the site of state government). 
Fort St George was the original seat of the British Raj (in 1762).  The Museum showcases a rather dowdy but interesting selection of relics from the Raj era - uniforms, dinner sets, photographs and canvas portraits (see below)
A portrait of the famous Clive of India in the Fort Museum
At the Fort site is the fascinating St Mary's Church.  This is where Governor Elihu Yale (of University fame) and Clive of India were both married.  I love the colonial style pews!

A memorial to Malcolm McNeill, a colonel of the Madras Light Cavalry who died in Rangoon in 1852 neither from war wounds or disease - but from 'Coup De Soleil' - a case of sunstroke.  From reading some of the other plaques, many Raj-era British soldiers seem to have shared the same fate.

Marina Beach (just seen in the distance) is one of the longest urban beaches in the world. 
Certainly it did seem to go on for ever and from afar, looked relatively clean.  But as with all urban beaches in India, it is not for sunbathing (for both religious and sanitary reasons!)
The 40m high gateway (gopuram) to the 16th century Siva Kapaleeswarar Temple,
sacred to Tamil Shaivites

An auto rickshaw waiting outside the Basilica of San Thomas in the Mylapore district.
Amazingly, the apostle St Thomas Didymus (Doubting Thomas) is believed to have come to India in AD52, living and preaching in Mylapore (City of Peacocks).  The church is built over his tomb, which apparently contains relics consisting of a few bones, a lance head and some bloodstained earth. But I doubt it ;-)

A photo through some wire mesh of turtles looking up at me at the Snake Park in the Guindy National Park. Hilarious!

Crocodiles in the Snake Park.  Not impressed by their surroundings or the large number of crocs in this small enclosure.

Nature loving Mr Jules was most excited by these Gharial crocodiles
Chennai Eating & Shopping

Due to time constraints and it being a Sunday the day we visited, I was not able to check out the shopping scene too thoroughly (sigh of relief from Mr Jules), however we did find Amethyst - a wonderful boutique store in a garden setting which also has its own terrace restaurant.  I checked out the clothes and jewellery and there were some absolutely beautiful designs - all Indian influenced but unusual and designer-ish (and a bit pricey).

The food on the terrace restaurant was a good standard - I had a very tasty burger. I would say this is the place to come at weekends for the great and good of Chennai...the place was buzzing. And the setting is both calm and relaxing.

Entrance, Next to Corporation Bank,
Whites Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600 014

We thought that Chennai was really quite an impressively clean and organised city with leafy suburbs, few signs of any slums and better traffic conditions than Mumbai.  What is does not have going in its favour is the climate - even in winter it was incredibly hot and humid on the day we visited. We could only imagine what it must be like in the summer months! Mr Jules and I still intend to go back and investigate the national parks and bird sanctuaries that are dotted around the city - now that we have been, we have realised that Chennai still has a lot more to offer visitors.

 Thanks for reading.


  1. Thank you so much! That did the trick, you saved me more endless hours of searching for a fix.

    Best Restaurants in Chennai

  2. Appreciate the amount of time that you take researching all the information for each blog post and the wonderful photographs included. Was interested to read about Elihu Yale after whom Yale University was named.

    1. Thank you for following - I am glad you enjoyed the post



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