Apr 15, 2011

Chembarambakkam Lake Chennai

This is Chembarambakkam Lake, one of two big reservoirs that supply the city of Chennai with water.  What appears to be a Chinese pagoda in the water is actually a decorative cover for a water pump.  The road alongside the reservoir is a popular spot to cool off when the city is experiencing a heat spell, which is most of the time!  Chembarambakkam Lake is 40 km. outside of Chennai off of NH 4 on the Chennai-Bangalore Highway.

Apr 14, 2011

Brick Manufacturing - Chengal Choolai - Chennai

Bricks are made from clay, sand and water, shaped into the desired form, laid out in the sun to dry and then baked in massive ovens.  You can see the big chimneys and ovens in the distance. The brick makers need a lot of space to work and lots of water, so they're on the outskirts of the city near riverbeds. As Chennai continues a real estate boom, building material prices are high.  One brick is about Rs. 15, not much by world standards, but expensive enough since they're the basis of almost every house wall in the city.  When it's monsoon season, brick making is suspended. 

Apr 13, 2011

Burial Place Chennai

This is a burial ground although it's not a formal cemetery, even though there are a few visible graves in this picture.  The structure in the center of the photo is the place where cremations take place.  Most Indians who are Hindus are cremated.  The body is placed on a pile of wood and the eldest son lights the funeral fire which may burn for hours.  The remaining ashes are then distributed in sacred water.  I'm still hoping to soon get a picture of the funeral processions with dancing, flowers and firecrackers that wind through the streets of Chennai on the way to the big city crematories.  

Apr 12, 2011

Water Buffaloes in Chennai Traffic

On the way to the Chembarambakkam Water Reservoir along NH 4, about 20 km from Chennai, we spotted some good old, slow-as-they-wanna-be water buffalo.  Almost had a little bumper damage as a result of a kick by one of these guys, but normally they just mosey along, totally harmless.  These buffalo are probably headed to the water for a dip and a drink and then will saunter back to their owners. Find Great Vacation Rental Deals at TripAdvisor

Apr 11, 2011

Sunset on Chennai Bangalore Highway

This is sunset on NH 4 (sounds like an album title), National Highway 4, also known as the Chennai-Bangalore Highway, part of the Gold Quadrilateral road system that connects Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.  Bangalore is on the route, about 329 km from Chennai.  Google Maps directions say it takes 3 hours 29 minutes to get from city to city by vehicle. It can take that long just to get across Chennai some days, so take that estimate with a grain of salt.  You can hop a regional flight from Chennai and be in Bangalore in about 45 minutes.  You can check out flight deals here:

Apr 10, 2011

Hill Station Near Chennai - Yelagiri

Punganoor Lake Yelagiri

Yelagiri Hills, also known as Elegiri Hills, is a 3 to 4 hour trip from Chennai just over 200 km away, a hill station far quieter than more crowded and popular ones, maybe because it's a bit remote and at an altitude of 3500 feet.  If you want to escape the heat of a Chennai summer, this can be a very restful spot, although everything you buy here, including your hotel room, must be paid in cash.  There are no ATMs.  Mobile phones won't work there and there is no alcohol served, so if you want to have some, bring it with you.

It's really what you want for a true getaway, undisturbed by the outside world.  Most people who come here take a trip to Punganoor Lake for a boat ride next to a children's play park.  It's easier to reach Yelagiri Hills and its central town of Athanur by car or train (Jolarpet) than it is by bus. From Chennai, it would take all day to reach your destination. 

If you wish to drive from Chennai, Yelagiri Hills is accessible by State Highway 113 and SH 57 to National Highway 46 and then SH 122.  The last part of the journey will be along a winding, twisting road with lots of opportunities to see monkeys, although it's highly recommended not to get too close.  Scenery is the main attraction and the cooler temperatures, especially during the "winter" months.  Bring a jacket, especially for nighttime.

There are several hotels including a small Taj resort and the popular Hotel Hills and the Hotel Yelagiri, about 30 places in all where you can stay, but some have far superior accommodations than others.  

Apr 9, 2011

Cycle Rickshaw in Chennai

You don't see many Cycle Rickshaws these days in Chennai.  This is the halfway point between the hand-pulled rickshaws and the autorickshaws.  A lifetime behind the wheel pulling this weight makes a Cycle Rickshaw driver's life much shorter.  Many of them die from tuberculosis at young age.  Cycle rickshaws and hand-pulled rickshaws are banned in many places in India but you still find them in certain pockets in Chennai.  

Apr 5, 2011

Sunrise at Marina Beach

Chennai's Marina Beach is the second longest beach in the world. This photo was taken about 5:30am in that twilight between full dark and real sunrise on the Bay of Bengal.  This is not a swimming beach by any stretch of the imagination.   It's too close to the port of Chennai, has a steep drop-off very close to the shoreline and has a dangerous undertow.  The other reason nobody swims here is because the locals don't really swim in the sea.  A million folks may come down to stand at the water's edge for the experience of a sea breeze, but actually getting in the water to swim isn't very popular.  The brave souls who actually try remain full dressed in their streets clothes.  You will not see a bikini anywhere in Chennai on this beach.

Apr 4, 2011

Chennai Autorickshaw

Here along Chennai Bypass Road, a lone autorickshaw.  That's not a site you see all that often in Chennai when the sun is out.  Most of the time the roads are filled with the yellow and black, buzzy-sounding transport vehicles.  You ought to see one of these 3-wheeled vehicles lose traction in the rain.  It's a very scary site!  If you are a foreigner coming to Chennai, either have someone who is local negotiate your fare, get savvy with your super bargaining skills or pay at least 3 times the price of the ride!

Apr 3, 2011

Paddie Fields Chennai

Just outside the city of Chennai, you'll find the staple product of the city's diet - rice.  These are photos of paddie fields along the Chennai-Calcutta highway.  Rice needs a lot of water so the lower the ground level for planting, the better.  The harvest is still a few months away for this rice.

Apr 2, 2011

Temple Elephant

You never know what kind of traffic you're going to find in Chennai.  In the course of daily traffic, you may dodge goats or cows, who pay no more attention to the traffic lights than drivers, but once in awhile there's a show stopper.  A favorite at temples because of the elephant God, Lord Ganesh, this big guy is all decorated to impress.

Apr 1, 2011

Sunrise in Thiruthani Chennai

Here's a rare view in South India - no traffic!  This is sunrise in Thiruthani, 84 kilometers west of Chennai, a very big temple town.  Bring your sneakers if you plan to climb up the 365 steps of Murugan Temple.