Though often monikered as the commercial soul of South India, Chennai is a city that has got much more to offer to its visitants. Chennai is a multi-cuisine buffet that gives multi options to the out-of-towners stretching from the romantic day outs to the rich cultural glories to shopping extravaganzas to the luscious eateries. However, it requisites a handful of days to explore the city in depth. But still, if you are on a tight time budget like me, this blog might help you.
I landed at the Chennai Central Railway Station like most of the train rovers who destine Chennai. The first eye-catcher for everyone who lands in the station is Chennai’s rich architecture. The Chennai Central area along with the Dr. MG Ramachandran Chennai Central Railway Station houses a huge number of buildings having a colonial legacy, starting from the station itself.
It was in Madras that the country’s first rail track was laid for “demonstration purposes” in 1836. The original Central Station began operations in 1873. Puratchi Thalaivar Dr M.G. Ramachandran Central Railway Station, commonly known as Chennai Central, is the main railway terminus in the city of Chennai. The century-old building of the railway station, designed by architect George Harding, is one of the most prominent landmarks of Chennai. The station was renamed twice; first, to reflect the name change of the city from Madras to Chennai in 1996 it was renamed from Madras Central to Chennai Central, and then to honour the AIADMK founder and the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. G. Ramachandran, it was renamed as Puratchi Thalaivar Dr M.G. Ramachandran Central Railway Station on 5 April 2019.
Neighbouring Chennai Central is one of the finest examples of the neoclassical style of architecture, the Rippon building. Built-in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, the Ripon Building serves as the headquarters of the Corporation of Chennai, the oldest municipal body of the Commonwealth outside Great Britain. The highlight of the structure is the 8-foot (2.5-meter) clock, known as the Westminster Chiming Clock, on the building’s central tower. One can take a stroll around the green gardens in the early morning, before the hustle and bustle of the corporation office kicks in.
Conjoining the Rippon building is the bygone Victoria Public hall. was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria. The building is located on EVR Periyar Salai near Moore Market and between Ripon Building and Chennai Central Railway Station. Unlike the all-white Rippon building, Victoria Hall is constructed with red brick and painted with lime mortar. These are some of the many momentous architectures in the Central area.
To explore the bustling city, you can choose between metro rail, suburbs, bus, taxi or rental two-wheeler or four-wheeler. To cruise the Chennai traffic with ease, I opted to go with a rental bike. From my bike rental hub in Guindy, my first destination was St. Thomas Mount. St Thomas Mount is a Holy place of international prominence, historical eminence, religious glory, and tourist attraction. The mount is 11 km south of Madras and is traditionally held to be the site of the martyrdom of the apostle St Thomas. Getting to the shrine is a 5-minute walk up from the parking yard.
The ancient Church on the top of St. Thomas Mount has served as the lighthouse for the Portuguese and Armenian ships and vessels in the Bay of Bengal in the 16th and 17th centuries. In addition to the religious glory, this place gives a birds-eye view of Chennai city. However, the USP of the place is the abutting view of the Chennai Airport Runway. One can have a glimpse of the landing and takeoff of flights from the airport with ease.
Around 4 km from St. Thomas Mount lies the Madras War Cemetry. It was created to receive Second World War graves from civil and cantonment cemeteries in the south and east of India where their permanent maintenance could not be assured. The cemetery is spread over an area of 2.75 acres and contains 856 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. The place is well maintained and is an odd calm spot in the noisy city.
After a quick stroll through the cemetery, one can visit the Guindy National Park. Unlike most of the National Parks, which are located away from the city, Guindy lies right in the heart of the city and serves as the green lungs to the great metropolitan city. The frondescence not only purifies the air but also acts as a habitat for a wide number of faunal species. A large portion of the area is under the mixed dry deciduous scrub jungle.
From Guindy, one can move towards the Beachside. Though Chennai Beaches are synonymous with Marina, let’s first explore the Eliots Beach in Besant Nagar. Named after famed colonial-era social activist Annie Besant, Besant Nagar is an upscale, coastal neighborhood with a lively vibe. Eliot’s Beach forms the end-point of the Marina Beach shore. The beach is famed for its cheap and sumptuous street food as well as the posh multi-cuisine eateries.
After having a stroll at the Besant Nagar Beach, one can opt to visit the cultural & cosmopolitan hub of Chennai, Mylapore. The place is famed for the Kapaleeswar temple, which is one of the finest examples of 7th-century Dravidian architecture. The age-old temple is not only a cultural center but is also an architectural marvel, featuring a 40m tall gopuram that is for all intents and purposes. However, Mylapore has much more to offer to the grockles. Traversing from the palatable vegetarian South Indian delicacies to a walk through the old agraharams, the list is extensive.
Half a mile sight from the Kapaleeswar Temple stands the Santhome Church aka St. Thomas Cathedral. Built by the Portuguese in the 16th-century, Santhome Church stands majestically with the all-white outer facade featuring large windows with coloured panes. The church is a stunning piece of architecture steeped in religious history. Another attraction of the church is its close proximity to the beach.
One can wind up the day-long city tour at one of the most visited botanical gardens in all of Chennai, Semmozhi Poonga. The place gives relief to the visitors seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. More than 500 species of plants are being grown in the area, in addition to the 80 trees that were already in existence during the development of the park, some of them being more than 100 years old. The garden houses some of the popular exotic flora and rare plant species, medicinal and aromatic herbs.
Chennai is a multi-faceted city that contents the taste of all visitors. Exploring Chennai shouldn’t be a matter of hours. However, if you are on a tight budget this might satisfy your travel taste buds to know a glimpse of the city.
To know more about the trip, have a look at this video