Chennai is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located far down on the map of India as one of the country’s southern-most tips. Having visited this colourful city two years ago, for a short while, there is much to tell about its charms. (When you’re looking at flights, I’d advise you to book a round trip to avail the best deals – certainly check out the Chennai to Mumbai flights section, as well.) From the Mumbai to Chennai flights I was looking at, I’d opted for an early morning trip and so when I boarded a taxi from the airport to where I was to go (at 5 in the morning), I was completely surprised to see the city so alive!
My taxi driver was telling me that offices opened early there, and usually, there are traffic jams at 7:00 AM. For some reason, that was very interesting for me to know. Another thing that struck me about Chennai that I appreciated (as a solo traveller, then) is that the locals are fluent in English as they are in their native language, Tamil. Commuting to and fro within the city is quite safe whether you take a local bus or rickshaw; the folks there are non-intrusive and mostly keep to themselves.
Places to See
A few of the must-visit places are Birla Planetarium, Chennai Rail Museum, Covelong (should you happen to swim, sign up for a surfing lesson here), Marina Beach (take pictures of the lighthouse, go up to the top and soak in the view of the people at the beach) and St. Thomas Mount (I went there on my last day, and the view of Chennai from this hillock is truly scenic). Some quaint settlements and towns that are few hours away from the city that you should visit if you like art, culture and spiritual structures are: Auroville, Mahabalipuram and Velankanni.
What to Drink and Eat
Filter kaapi, of course! South Indian coffee is delicious and frothy owing to the unique way in which it is filtered and prepared. Watching it being made only adds to the experience of enjoying the concoction. If you like simple, hearty fare, please indulge in the city’s staples – dosas (a savoury Indian pancake of sorts), idlis (rice cakes served with chutney) and vadas (my favourite!). For those with a sweet tooth, try some Mysore Pak, a melt-in-your-mouth Indian fudge-like sweetmeat made out of ghee, gram flour and sugar.
What to Take Home
Experiences are souvenirs in themselves, and I would hope that you leave Chennai with a happy heart! Should you prefer to have more tangible mementos, pick up bars of organic chocolate, packaged coffee from the local shops (to make your own filter kaapi at home), silk saris and traditional jhumkas. Fragrance sachets and incense sticks make for reasonable gifts to carry back home. There’s always something to find in the most nondescript places from fragrant hand-made soaps to exquisite journals crafted from recycled paper.