Hot, humid, polluted and congested. That's the impression that greets you when you meet Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. With its teeming mass of humanity threatening to explode at the seams, India's fifth most populous city is not the final destination on the list of most tourists. It's simply a gateway to more interesting attractions like Kanchipuram and Pondicherry, a few hours away. For most, Chennai is simply a businessman's destination--a fast-growing city that is home to many automobile and computer companies. But unknown to most visitors who just whiz in and out of the city once called Madras, it holds charms and attractions worthy of a visit.
While not ideal for swimming, Marina Beach is a lovely place for a stroll or a picnic. Because of its popularity, however, it can get crowded, so if you want a quieter place for a walk, head to Edward Elliot's Beach or the even more tranquil Breezy Beach. For the religiously inclined, the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Thomas stands over the burial ground of St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ. St. Thomas Mount is another place to contemplate. The imposing structure of the Wallajah Mosque, popularly known as the Big Mosque, is a marvelous example of stone architecture. Of the many Hindu temples, the 8th-century Sri Parthasarathy Temple and the Sri Ramakrishna Math Universal Temple are also worth a tour. For those interested in numismatics, geology, zoology, botany, bronze and archaeology, the Government Museum holds many artifacts and exhibits in its 46 galleries. It also houses a Children's Museum. Other great places to take restless kids are Arignar Anna Zoological Park, also known as the Vandalur Zoo, Guindy National Park, Guindy Snake Park and Birla Planetarium.
From vegetarian to Indian to Mexican to Chinese cuisine and cakes and pastries, there are street stalls, bakeries, fast-food centers and restaurants that will cater to your hunger pangs. For fine dining, the restaurants along the beaches offer great menus. More eateries can be found along Nungambakkan High Road and the GST Road in St. Thomas Mount.
Shopping What Chennai lacks in tourist charm, it certainly makes up for fabulous shopping. There are shopping plazas all over the city where you can splurge. These include Chennai Citi Center, Spencer Plaza, Prince Plaza, Ampa Skywalk (the "mall for all") and the Express Avenue Mall. For natural-dyed and hand-loomed textiles, head to Fabindia at its Ilford House location. For street shopping, stroll around the maze of George Town, where traders sell all sorts of goods.
102 Rajiv Gandhi Salai Sholing
Express Avenue Mall, Whites Rd, Express Estate, Thousand Lights, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
CASA Major Rd
1/74 East Coast Road, Chengai Mgr Dist