- Encounters with locals
- Place or Religious Monument
- Castle and fortress
- Place or Historical Monument
The capital of Tamil Nadu is not seductive; you have to look past its terrible traffic, its endless noise, and the crowd that never stops, without forgetting its year-long overwhelming heat,to be able to appreciate it.
However, there is a lot to do in Chennai, one of the Indian cities that is home to the most Western expats with outsourced companies. Its urban waterfront, Marina Beach, claims to be the second longest in the world. It takes a little more than 15 minutes to reach the sea, where Indians bathe fully dressed. I love to go there in the evenings, when the temperature drops, when it's a gathering place for friends and families. People picnic there in happiness and good spirits, and you can get food, sweets, and trinkets from street vendors.
You'll also find Chennai's most interesting monuments along the waterfront, notably the Memorial of War and the MGR Memorial, dedicated to Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran, a famous Chennai actor. Moreover, if Bollywood is the most famous for Indian cinema, it knows Chennai is its direct competitor with Collywood, the Indian action film studio.
India's fourth biggest city, Chennai, is the industrial and economic powerhouse of southern India. The first time I came to Chennai, the city seemed ugly, dirty, and noisy to me. I didn't find any of the charm or captivating atmosphere that I'd felt in Calcutta and Bombay.
Chennai does, however, have beautiful beaches, which are great places to take long walks in the evening. Make sure you take a look at the second biggest beach in the world, Marina Beach.
A memory from my stay in India ? Once your feet hit the sand, do like the Indians do and buy a kite, a glass of chai, and a dish of kebabs or vegetables from one of the many street sellers, and watch the sun set over the ocean.
For my trip to India, I'd chosen Chennai – err no, Madras – as my arrival destination. It was going to be the departure point for a two-month complete tour of the whole country. I have been left with only one memory from the time I spent there: it was distressing.
Let me describe it to you. By the way, is it Chennai or Madras? It has been Chennai since 1996. Madras was the name used during the time of colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch and English.
The trip from the airport to the hotel was a real shock. Scenes of the kind of misery it would be difficult to describe passed before my eyes. The pavements along the sides of the road were "inhabited" by thousands of people. In the space of just a view minutes, I saw more misery than I'd seen in my whole life up to that point. There were rows of dozens of Indians, backsides in the air, going to the toilet in full view of the passing vehicles. There were crippled people, amputees, lepers and handicapped people too numerous to count. There were whole families together there. When sitting in traffic at one point, I saw a child defecate on the pavement and a dog then come and lick the child's backside. I'm still sometimes haunted by this scene, and I'm simply unable to describe the rest of that journey.
I next went for a little tour around Marina Beach, next to the Indian Ocean. There are families in their hundreds strolling around the fish and fruit stands there. Some of them eat picnics, others get kites out to fly. Very few go bathing. I left the ocean's edge to go and visit Fort St George I had my second shock of the day on the way there. Passing the bridge that crosses the Cooum River, I found myself assaulted by the most pestilential smell in the world. It was unbelievable. It was a stink that invaded my nostrils and got me in the throat. I felt sick and it seemed if each intake of breath was poisoning me. There's also the visual horror to add to this odor. The river is full of filth. Effluent flows into the thick, grey water and children paddle in it. Men wash themselves there, and women do their laundry in it. What a first day! Chennai does not hold any good memories for me. Perhaps you'll manage to discover a more favorable side to it.