I love southern India: the people are kind, the city is fairly clean, and the way that southern Indians meld and blend spices calms me, and takes my breath away.
Oh my goodness, I am in love! The Leela Palace Chennai is absolutely stunning and peaceful and when you score a Bay of Bengal room, the tranquility is unmatched. The rooms are spacious with sitting areas and desks, as well as a ginormous bathroom that you may not want to leave!
And if this isn’t your thing, and you want something perhaps a little more central, the ITC Grand Chola (https://www.itchotels.in/hotels/chennai/itcgrandchola.html) is a knockout! It appears to take up an entire city block and although I haven’t seen the rooms or stayed here, the public spaces are truly breathtaking.
Southern Spice at the Taj Coromandel hotel is incredible. Tucked away in a far corner of the restaurant, the staff aptly suggests what to experience based on your preference. And if you’re lucky, as I was the night that I went, the waiter suggested two half portions so that I could try different things. And am I glad! The paneer with ghee, ghost pepper, and 2 other peppers was lip-smacking, but soft on the palate and nowhere near as hot as I was expecting. It’s a must try.
Likewise, Royal Vega at the ITC Grand Chola is a vegetarian’s dream! Treated like a king, for not a lot of money, the menu is divided in to 3 sections: southern Indian, Northern Indian, and seasonal and each looked amazing! My friend and I chose different sections and although the spice level has been toned down for the tourist clientele, the food was still outstanding.
And if you have three nights – because the above two would probably be my top-two choices – Pan Asia also at the ITC Grand Chola was a winner and great fun with friends. As you’ll know by now, I am vegetarian but my friends raved over the Peking Duck and the various courses that it entailed. And the curries for me were pretty outstanding as well!
I’ve been to Chennai before but never really had the chance to sightsee and boy am I glad that I did this time! The monuments at Mahabalipuram are true wonders for the eye and deserve their UNESCO World Heritage designation. The order in which I saw them, which appeared to be fairly important was first the Shore Temple, the only remaining temple (the others were previous further close to the sea and, probably due to rising ocean levels, destroyed); then the Pancha Rathas (or 5 chariots) which was my favourite just because of their layout; and concluded with Krishna’s Butter Ball, a massive rock seemingly perched on sloping hill that the children try and push over.
Another lovely experience, especially for those of us who haven’t been invited to someone’s home, is the Dakshina Chitra museum, about an hour’s drive outside of Chennai. Comprised of numerous example houses from Southern India, each gives a sense of homes before the crush of people and apartment buildings. Scattered throughout are also hand-made goods that can make nice gifts for nominal cost.