A chauvinistic land known for the Tamil pride is an enigma for us Delhiites. So when I decided to visit this quaint capital, little did I know that a cultural shock eagerly awaited me.
The common thing that I observed at all the three locations was the general laid back attitude – we are used to the swiftness of life and such places offer a relaxed pace – snail’s pace I shall say.
Our stay was at South Chennai, so we decided to visit the nearby places. First in line was the Covelong beach which is a fishermen’s one located on the outskirts of Chennai. The netted boats of the hardworking fishermen adorn the length of this beach of brown sand. This beach is a lovely place to visit but the vegetarians amongst us won’t be too keen on it considering the strong aroma of the fresh catch and the way some bits and pieces of fishes touch your feet as the water caresses your feet.
Fish lovers can also spot some street vendors selling the local delicacies – I did not dare to try these one though!
If you love colours and classy French architecture and cuisine, then Pondicherry should be on your go to list. The adorable French colony situated about 150km from Chennai can be reached in a four hour road trip along the East Coast road with a running sea view on the left side. My journey was a peaceful one with occasional rests along the tree lined road and snacking on pineapple chaat and coconut water.
Paradise beach here is one of the major attractions for the beach lovers. Fashioned out of brown sand, it is clean and well maintained. The ferocious waves of the Bay of Bengal keep washing this beach and you can have a gala time drenching yourself in the playful waters. Additionally, there are various local cuisine stalls available here and I was fortunate enough to taste a freshly prepared fish snack – it was okay though.
If you are going on a long weekend like we went, you are bound to find it too crowded. Too congested to even move and visit the authentic French cuisine based restaurants.
But you will definitely fancy a walk along the pavement lining the Promenade beach. The late night stroll is relaxing here though the sunrise in the wee hours of the morning should not be overlooked. Promenade is a rocky beach, so the slippery rocks should be treated with caution. There are a host of cafes and hotels along this beach and it is better to book/throng them during your stay there.
The colourful homes of the French settlers here will leave you spellbound. Yellow, pink, white, mustard, red – you name them, they have it. The classic French architecture is the added icing on the cake. Young girls riding their bicycles to school and guiding you to your destination is another experience in itself.
Since it is a sleepy little town with a laid back attitude, you would not get the special French breakfast in any of the cafes here before 9am. We thronged the whole white town to look for bakeries and restaurants opening up at 8am and after much hard work, we were able to find the Indian Kaffe Express which serves French breakfast but not before 8:30am. Pretty late ha?
Mahabalipuram can be visited through the same East Coast Road and is about 50 km from Chennai. It was initially called Mammalapuram and was the capital of the Pallava king Narsimhavarman during the early medieval period. The famous Ratha or chariot temples dedicated to the five Pandavas are the major attractions here – the impressive rock cut architecture with inlaid relief is a sight to behold. There are huge boulders depicting Arjuna’s penance and Descent of the Ganges – ancient folklore hewn on these giants.
The Shore temple is another attraction here but unfortunately, we were not able to visit this one.
Best time to visit: October to January
Hotels should be taken on the outskirts of Chennai so as to save time on travelling to the East Coast road.
Better to avoid on long weekends