Kanchipuram, India

One of the most memorable day trips that we took during our time in Chennai, India was visiting the city of Kanchipuram.  We were told that Kanchipuram was the place in the state of Tamil Nadu to buy silk, so we drove the hour southwest out of Chennai, about 45 miles (72 kilometers), to visit the city.  In addition to buying scarves and other silk products, we also visited the Ekambareswarar Temple, which was another gorgeous temple that we were able to see while we were there.  It was one of the hottest days that we encountered while we were in India, but the beautiful sites and the thrill of buying the silk items more than made up for any discomfort we felt.

Parrot Sitting on a Temple
Ekambareswara Temple
Worker Spinning Silk

Walking around the Ekambareswarar Temple was one of the few times while we were in India that we weren’t overwhelmed by crowds.  Obviously, it is India, so that is a relative term, but it did feel more relaxed than some of the other places that we went to.  As with most temples, tour guides will come up to you and offer to take you on a tour and the price always has to be negotiated, but we chose not to pay for a tour at this particular temple.  Heading southwest away from Chennai takes you to more of a jungle feel and we enjoyed seeing the parrots that were content to make the temple grounds their home.

Another Parrot on Top of the Temple
Candles, Spices, and Other Shops
Temple Door

One memory that we’ll never forget was getting blessed by a temple elephant while we were in the temple.  Apparently, at the time that we were in India, many of the temple elephants were on “holiday” where they are pampered and spoiled once a year for all of their hard work.  We handed the elephant a coin, which he took with his trunk, and then we bowed and the elephant gently tapped us on the head with his trunk.  We were surprised by how soft the elephant’s trunk was, we were expecting it to be leathery and hard, but it wasn’t.  In addition to being blessed by the elephant, another interesting site within the temple was seeing all of the ribbons tied to the “wishing tree”.  We were told that many woman would tie a ribbon in hopes of getting pregnant, but people would tie ribbons on the tree for many other reasons as well.  It was just another tradition that we enjoyed learning about.

Elephant that Gave Us a Blessing
Wishing Tree
Decisions, Decisions…

Going to the silk shop in Kanchipuram was quite the experience.  We were told that Indian women from around the country order the wedding saris from Kanchipuram due to the high quality of the silk.  We sat down at a table and the owner of the shop started pulling out bundles of silk and laying them before us.  If we found a color pattern that we liked, he would pull out several more bundles and lay them in front of us.  We ended up buying scarves for every female family member that we could think of as well as a beautiful table runner that we use on our formal dining room table.  The best thing that we bought, however, was an absolutely gorgeous sari.  Everything that we bought in Kanchipuram that day probably cost us less than what a single silk scarf would cost us here in the United States and was even less expensive than the silk that we bought in Chennai.

Choosing a Sari
Walking Among the Temples
So Many Details

If you are ever in Tamil Nadu and want to buy some silk, a trip to Kanchipuram should definitely be on your agenda.  The owner of the store couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly and we truly enjoyed the experience, even with some struggles with the language.  Fortunately, you don’t have to haggle over prices at the silk shops, the price that they quote is what you pay and it is so reasonable, there isn’t any reason to complain.  We came home with several souvenirs on our trip, but the silk items we bought are definitely some of our most treasured.  Not to mention that our family and friends were quite thrilled to receive such beautiful items.


Government Museum in Chennai, India

History museums are a wonderful way to learn about the history and culture of the country that you are visiting. The Government Museum in Chennai is no exception and was interesting for a variety of reasons. It is the second oldest museum in India and also contains the largest collection of Roman antiquities outside of Europe. The main building of the museum complex is architecturally interesting and is a remnant of British rule. The museum can be quite busy, so you will need to have patience as you wait in lines to view some of the exhibits.

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Sculptures on Display
One of the Buildings in the Museum Complex
Museum Central Hall
Main Building with Beautiful Architecture

There are many ancient statues on the grounds of the museum that are displayed on stone pedestals, which are truly fascinating. Inside the museum there are many different displays with everything from zoological, archeological, cultural, historical, and artistic exhibits. The museum is very popular with the local schools and the students were by far the majority of the visitors while we were in the museum. Also, there didn’t appear to be many, if any, foreigners in the museum other than ourselves, which made for a unique experience as we felt as much on display as the exhibits themselves.

Snakes on Display
More Statues with Students in the Background
Ancient Fossils
Religious Artwork

The information on the exhibits is provided in both the native Tamil as well as English, making it easy for us to understand what it was that we were seeing. Like many things in India, the variety of what is found within the museum can be somewhat overwhelming, but fascinating all the same. It is definitely a bit of a different experience than visiting  museums in other places, but well worth taking the time to see while in Chennai.

Ancient Statue
Lion Statue with English Description
Museum Grounds
Understanding Culture through Art


Sensory Overload in Chennai, India

It is hard to describe to people the overall sensation of what it was like when we arrived in Chennai during our visit to India several years ago. With that many people living in one place, around 8.5 million people, the city is a always in constant motion with cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, trucks, and people seemingly going everywhere. It is also a city filled with colorful buildings and ornate temples, making it visually stunning to see. There is no escaping the constant noise of the city, most specifically the constant honking that can be heard 24 hours a day. Drivers in Chennai don’t honk out of frustration or anger with other drivers, but it is a form of communication to let other drivers know that they are passing, turning, or moving over. Since they don’t stay in the lanes of the roads, it is a hectic dance where they beep horns and swerve in and out of lanes as they make their way through the intense traffic. Another thing that hits you immediately as you exit the airport is the intense confluence of smells that fills the air. With all of the strong spices used in the cooking of Indian food, the combination of animals and people roaming the streets, and the lack of sanitation, it is an overwhelming experience.

Busy Side Street near the Temple
Colorful Temple
Bumper-to-Bumper Traffic
Sacred Cows on the Street

It is definitely something that truly can’t be described unless you have been exposed to someplace similar yourself. It took us two full days before the constant din, motion, aromas, and sense of truly being a outsider in a strange place reached a sense of normalcy. In many ways, it is amazing the way the mind is able to adapt itself under what would seem to be extreme changes in surroundings. We have been to many large cities around the world, but there is nothing that compares to the time that we spent in Chennai. To be clear, it is still one of our favorite places that we have visited, partially because it was so different than any place else. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for the citizens that live in that environment with such a prolific sensory experience on a daily basis and not just for a few short weeks.

Candles, Spices, and Other Shops
Rickshaw in Traffic
Bull on the Street
Busy Temple
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Driving in Chennai