Chennai Express

My two-day trip

My trip to Chennai last week, albeit a short one, was after ages (read as eighteen years ago). While last time it was for a family vacation, this time it was for personal work. It was going to be a road trip and we started our adventure at around 5.30 AM on a Wednesday morning. Bangalore to Chennai is a long drive (took us around 7 hours with a break in between for breakfast).

We started from Bangalore and took the National Highway (NH-4) route which is really good. We stopped for breakfast at the famous Saravana Bhavan, on the Bangalore-Chennai highway, at around 7 AM.

Chutney varieties at Saravana Bhavan, Bangalore-Chennai Highway

This was my first visit to Saravana Bhavan, the place that everyone kept talking about. I ordered the good ol’ Idli and Vada and was treated with a plate filled with different coloured chutneys and sambar (This turned out to be the signature mark of almost every Saravana Bhavan dish). I must confess, I found idlis in Bangalore much better than the Chennai ones. We also had pongal and then continued our journey.

Bangalore-Chennai Highway

On our way, I saw greenery all around and the skies looked marvellous. When we were approaching on the toll gates, we realised that the car tyre was punctured and we had to get it fixed. We stopped at the car repair garage and soon after it was fixed, I dreaded the experience. There was insane traffic as we were approaching the city limits and it felt like I was being silkboarded again as it took forever to cross a meagre stretch of 10 km.

Every Bangalorean dreads being Silkboarded during its peak traffic hours when hundred thousand people hit the roads after work. Central Silk Board, as its name suggests is a Statutory Body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. This junction connects the tech parks like ITPL, Marathahalli to the traditional residential suburbs like Jayanagar, Banashankari, J P Nagar and the like.
Masala Dosai. Yes, they call it Dosai in Chennai

We stopped for lunch at Saravana Bhavan, yet again. This time, I wanted to try their signature dish, Masala Dosai. As a South Indian, I grew up with Masala Dosa as my favourite dish. Today, I continue to cherish this childhood favourite dish as it reminds me of those trips to darshinis in Bangalore to have dosas and a trip to the ice cream store later on. In fact, I managed to have Masala Dosa during one of my meals even when I went to Paris last year.

Darshinis are fast-food chains which every Bangalore kid of the 90s cherishes.

We checked in to our hotel room and then finished the work I had in Chennai that day. We then headed to Marina Beach. I observed a few things in Chennai:

· Almost every road in Chennai seemed like a one-way. We had a difficult time navigating using Google Maps as the routes suggested were either one-ways or blocked temporarily.

· There are a lot of flyovers in Chennai or so it seemed. These reminded me of the Bangalore flyover at Domlur which is like a loop. Most of the Chennai flyovers seemed like this.

· Chennai Traffic Police have put signboards across the city and I found a couple of funny ones too. One of them read —

Brain is your Super Computer. Protect it.

After a while, we were able to navigate successfully and reach Marina Beach. We saw the MGR Memorial and it was a peaceful place. We then headed to the sea shore. It was around 1.5 km walk to reach the shore from where we had parked our vehicle. It was a beautiful experience to reach the shore.

Marina Beach, Chennai and that’s the Bay of Bengal
Marina Beach is the longest natural urban beach in the country and it is primarily sandy in nature. It is considered to be the most crowded beach in India.

It wasn’t crowded when we went as we went there at around 3.30 PM on a weekday. On reaching the shore, I was ecstatic as I had been to Gokarna (which faces the Arabian Sea) last month. On the other hand, Marina Beach faces the Bay of Bengal. Covering the boundaries of India evoked a sense of pride and patriotism in me.

When Chennai rains

Within a couple of minutes of reaching the shore and feeling the gentle breeze, I could feel rain drops on my skin. We had umbrellas with us as the weather seemed gloomy. It started pouring cats and dogs and the entire crowd on the beach, however sparse, ran towards the shelter under the shacks. Since we were equipped with umbrellas, we managed to cover the 1.5 km stretch towards the parking lot. Thanks to the wind and the heavy downpour, we drenched completely. Amidst the heavy rains in Chennai, we managed to navigate back to our hotel. A couple of hours later, we went to the famous Murugan temple in Chennai and then headed for dinner.

Beautiful decor. Heavenly Dessert, Forum Vijaya Mall, Chennai

Next morning, we headed to another Saravana Bhavan for breakfast and as expected, I had Masala Dosai. After finishing some personal work in the morning, we headed to a city mall, Forum Vijaya Mall. The mall was refreshingly different compared to the traditional stores that I observed on some of the narrow Chennai lanes that Google Maps took us through. The IMAX theatre entrance was spectacular. We treated ourselves with some amazing dessert and then we decided to head back to Bangalore.

On our way back, we stopped for some quick snacks at Alankar Veg Restaurant on the Chennai-Bangalore Highway.

Location: Alankar Veg Restaurant, Chennai-Bangalore Highway; Clockwise: Filter Coffee, Fancy ceiling, Fancy plant, Kara Kozhukattai

I absolutely loved the food at this place. It tasted exactly like my mother’s food and it was simply brilliant. I would definitely recommend any travellers on this route to stop at this place for food. You will not regret, trust me.

Next, we decided to go to the famous Vellore Golden Temple. As the name suggests, it is a beautiful temple with intricate temple art made of gold. It was late evening by the time we left and we managed to catch a glimpse of the golden glow in the night. It was truly amazing.

On our way back, our final stop for dinner was at Saravana Bhavan, yet again. After a quick meal, we were on our way back to Bangalore. The minute I saw the signboards in kannada, it felt great to be back home, Namma Karnataka.

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