6 ways to enhance your Chennai experience
Chennai is a popular arrival point for international travellers for South India itineraries. It is also one of the metropolis of India and a major manufacturing and IT / ITES services industry hub. For a traveller, there is more to Chennai than what meets the eyes. Let me give you some ideas to enhance your Chennai experience.
1. Heritage Walk
Chennai offers a number of heritage walks that offer a glimpse of its markets, culture and heritage. A popular walk involves exploring the old market of Georgetown, which has evolved from an “Indian settlement” during the colonial regime to wholesale market selling everything under the sun now. The 2 hour walk captures the history and heritage along with current buzz and character. Those who have already had old city market walks elsewhere can opt for the Dancer’s trail that takes a peek inside revered institutions of dance and performing arts of South India as experts walk you through the basic elements of some local dance forms. Craft enthusiasts can take a walk that takes one through the making of hand crafted jewellery.
2. Pulicat Lake Excursion
Pulicat lake (55 kms – 1.5 hours) is the second largest brackish lake in India (after Chilika lake in Orissa), renowned for its birdlife and views. There is a boat ride here that takes one closer to birdlife. Pulicat gets large flocks of migratory birds in winter (October – March) including Greater and Lesser Flamingos. The Pulicat Lake excursion is recommended for nature lovers and bird watchers.
DakshinaChitra (30 kms towards Mahabalipuram) is a cross cultural living museum of art, architecture, lifestyles, crafts and performing arts of South India. Excursion to Dakshinachitra offers one of the most beautiful showcases of South Indian craft Heritage. The museum has 18 heritage houses representing the living styles of South India such as those from different regions of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, North Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana. DakshinaChitra is a popular stopover enroute Mahabalipuram and recommended for an excursion ex-Chennai for heritage travellers.
Sculpting Unit near DakshinaChitra
4. Mylapore – Old City Exploration
Mylapore is the Old City of Chennai. Here, everything under the sun is available at very reasonable rates and in the most authentic form. Be it handwoven sarees, brassware, incense sticks or hundreds of other items typical of Tamil Nadu, all are available here. Mylapore is renowned for authentic coffee, the best South Indian breakfast (known as “Tiffin”) and ethnic Tamil cuisine meals. Mylapore is home to the ancient Kapaleeshwarar Temple, a popular Lord Shiva temple that depicts Lord Shiva in the form of a peacock. Mylapore exploration is good for those who love old city exploration for shopping, walks through crowded markets, street photography and authentic down to earth cuisine.
Kanchipuram (62 kms from Chennai) is home to some of the most renowned temples (Kailasnathar Temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, (Panchabhoota Shiva Temple) etc.) and the renowned Kanjivaram sarees. It is common for pilgrim and heritage travellers to undertake a day excursion to Kanchipuram from Chennai exploring temples, local cuisine and shopping.
6. Ethnic Cuisine
Chennai is renowned for its wide ranging local Tamil cuisine restaurants such as Ananda Bhavan, Vasantha Bhawan, Murugan Idli Shop, Woodlands, Saravana Bhawan, Balajee Bhawan and many more. There are wide ranging snack items that are available during breakfast time, a most comprehensive 4 or 5 course rice meal that is a feature of every restaurant during lunch hours and a different dinner time meal featuring parantha and curry. During festival dates, these restaurants serve a festive meal that can often have as many as 30 items. Besides Tamil cuisine, Chennai is home to speciality restaurants serving cuisine from other regions of South India such as Kerala cuisine, Chettinad cuisine and Andhra cuisine.