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Chennai, India

Day 177: Country #20

Chennai, aka Madras, is the capital of Tamil Nadu state in India. The region’s isolation in south India, elaborate shrines and Tamil culture supposedly distinguishes it from other parts of India. I also read about a group called the Tamil Tigers many years ago and was curious about Tamil Nadu’s connection to Sri Lanka.

But without sufficient context for comparisons, I simply wanted to explore. I planned to make a second attempt to reach the beach by local train, but I didn’t want to make the same mistake of visiting an empty beach during the day like I did in Vizag, India, so I decided to catch it along my return trip.

This meant that I would need to head further south by foot or bus to avoid back tracking. From Central Station I set different way points, each further and further south.

I passed by various neighborhood mosques and shrines until I reached Chennai Citi Center mall, which was practically empty, then I crossed under a bridge and was surprised to see semi permanent rural village style huts underneath it. Out of all the cities I’ve visited, this was a very unique sight.

By this point, I was a little fatigued, but I had deviated too far the train stations, so I kept walking to Kapaleeswarar Koil, a Tamil style temple. According to a guy who tried to be my tour guide, the temple was closed for an afternoon break, but I couldn’t stand around and wait, so I walked around to the water tank (a large artificial pool), which gave me a good view of the area.

From the main road on the other side of the temple’s tank, I pushed south to Tholkappier Ecological Park, crossed a bridge over a small river, which made for a nice, but short break from the city noise, then stopped at Ambedkar Memorial at the other end of the park to give my feet a rest.

Then I stopped by a small music college to look for Brodie Castle, which didn’t look much like one, but it was located in another quieter area and had a view of the Adyar river, which I then crossed and continued walking until I finally reached the train station near Tidel Park, Chennai’s modern tech office center. However, there were security guards posted at all entrances so my super long urban trek felt incomplete.

Luckily, I was able to hop on the train and enjoy the breeze on my face as I (watched kids) hold onto the side of the train in full motion.

In some ways the elevated metro train gave me a better view of the city than on foot, but I wouldn’t have been able to stop at so many curious locations. Before I knew it, I was walking alongside Marina beach toward the University of Madras.

The campus’ red bricks and spires reminded me of Dhaka University in Bangladesh, but more elegant. I explored the auditorium, library, cafeteria, classrooms and other open spaces, admiring the architecture.

Once I stepped off campus, I noticed an even more elegant attraction across the street. The Annadurai memorial park featured well placed arches and obelisks leading up to a memorial for a famous female politician. As the sun set reflected off the marble floor and memorial structures, the whole area glowed slightly.

Tip:

If you plan for a long day of walking, make sure to pace yourself and take occasional short breaks, but do not stop for too long or else you might lose momentum and motivation as lactic acid build up. Technically, walking produces lactic acid, while simultaneously using energy also burns some of it, so the key is to keep your body’s production and use in equilibrium. A long break disrupts the flow.

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