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Things To Do In Chennai (Madras)
Chennai is one of India's foremost metro cities, and a gem of the south. There are so many fun things Chennai has in store for the tourists. Visit the temples, go for a quite walk on the beaches at sunset or hop on to a bus and travel through the city. Go shopping, hit the malls or the nondescript streets where you might find tiny souvenirs to take home to remember Chennai by. Go for a long weekend drive to touristy places near Chennai. Go on an aimless ride on the metro. Explore the city for the half forgotten monuments that remain mute remnants of history, like the memorial in Elliots Beach for the European sailor Karl Schmidt who died in 1930 trying to save a little girl from drowning. Discover the vibrant night life of Chennai. We have listed out some of the things that you can do while in Chennai.
Right from Marina Beach, the world’s second longest, to the Elliots Beach, the East Coast Road Beaches that lead all the way to Mahabalipuram, to the smaller Pebble, Breezy and Tiruvanmayur beaches, Chennai has them all. The city’s beaches are some of the favourite destinations of the locals and tourists alike. Spend a quiet evening at any of these beaches, walking along the waterline, riding a horse or flying a kite. One of the beach-goers’ passions, apart from the sunrise and sunset, are the food carts. You get delicious seafood, piping hot batter dipped chillis and toasted corn on the cob.
If you are yearning for some of that real solitude, hustle into undiluted nature in the midst of a bustling metro city. The Theosophical Society in Adyar was established on the south bank of the Adyar River in 1886 after the first Society founded by Russian Helena Blavatsky in New York in 1875, moved to Chennai. The Adyar Theosophical Society has temples built for different faiths, the Adyar Library and Research Centre which has about 20,000 palm leaf manuscripts and a Book Shop. Check out the 450 year old Banyan Tree in the campus. It is said to be the second largest Banyan in the country and one of the largest in the world.
Spend a day at the Society, take a walk on the Huddleston Gardens, home to a number of birds, snakes, and mongoose and wild cats. Accommodation is provided in the Society Campus and you can connect to the Accommodations Officer.
Once upon a time when the British were in India, the Thalankuppam Pier had been used as the best place to buy the best fish, straight off the sea. The Pier is now abandoned and has broken off all connections with the mainland and is all the more mysteriously beautiful. The Pier is now a tourist place that offers a great view of the sunrise. Take an early morning trip to this seaside, which is one of the best and quietest places for photographing a sunrise.
Boating on Pulicat Lake
Go on a boating trip in the Pulicat Lake. Pulicat lies at the borders of Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu and Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. The Pulicat Lake is India’s second largest brackish water Lake after Orissa’s Chilka Lake and is separated from the Bay of Bengal by the island of Sriharikota. The Pulicat Lake is a favourite haunt of birds migrating for winter. You’d find flamingos, kingfishers, pelicans, ducks, spoonbills and painted storks. Keep your camera handy while on a boat ride.
Visit the Dutch Fort and cemetery in Pulicat, which had been a Dutch occupied colony in the 16th century. Pulicat is about 54 km from Chennai. You could drive to Pulicat or take a bus.
Take a break from solitude or from sightseeing. Flex up your arms and jump right into the action. It’s fun time at Chennai. Get into a paintballing match with your kids at ECR, go for a Catamaran ride and a dive into the cold waters at Fishermen’s Cove Kanchipuram, go on an indoor radio controlled car race at India Radio Control Racers Association, zip off to jet-skiing, shore fishing and floater rides at ECR on summer days, fly over the Bay of Bengal with the Madras Flying Club, go Zorbing, Ziplining with The Wild Tribe Ranch. That’s not all! Go rifle shooting with the Chennai Rifle Club or sailing with the Royal Madras Yacht Club.
Refresh your body and spirit with yoga and meditation. Visit the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Chennai or attend yoga classes in Mahabalipuram. The Sri Ramakrishna Math, Universal Temple which has been built on the models of architecture from various world religions is a beautiful place where you can meditate, or spend hours browsing through the books on theology and philosophy in the math’s library.
Listen to a musical concert at The Music Academy or Kalakshetra. Lounge around in the comfort of your car and watch a late night movie at the Prarthana Drive-In Theatre at ECR road, or the latest movies at the Open Air Theatre (OAT) at the Hostel Avenue in Indian Institute of Technology. Go for a breezy drive on the ECR or drive over to the beach and watch the waves from your car. Set off, camera in hand to shoot the nightlights of some places like the Phoenix City Mall and Sri Ramakrishna Math. You will not be allowed into the Math at night, but the colourful lights over the pink building looks ethereal. Chennai has some of the best pubs you can unwind at with rocking DJs, good music and good food. Find rooftop lounges like The Raintree and chill out under a starry sky.
Shopping is something every Chennaite loves to do and the tourist in you would soon be infected with the shopaholic fever. You could buy real silk saris, cotton and handloom clothes, bronze idols and lamps, traditional South Indian sweets and savouries, Thanjavur paintings and handicrafts, glass bangles and organic produce. Explore the shopping avenues of Chennai and you might discover more fascinating stuff to buy.
Chennai’s cuisine is as cosmopolitan as its culture. Though its staple dishes are rice, with rasam (lentil soup), sambar and poriyal (vegetable curry) you would find plenty of dishes from the other states incorporated into the culinary specialities of Chennai. If you are in Chennai, try the varieties of dosas, medu vada and idli, Idiyaapam or string hoppers, upma along with Kuzhi Paniyaaram, Poori Masal and Pongal.
Traditionally, meals are served on banana leaf and you would find that some hotels too serve food on a banana leaf sliced into a clean circle to fit on a porcelain plate. Some of Chennai’s special summer drinks like panneer soda, Rose milk and buttermilk must also be sampled. All hotels and even roadside eateries serve delicious Continental, Italian and Chinese food, too!