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    Thread: Weekend drives from Chennai

    1. #1

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      Picnic spots near Chennai

      Guys,

      Thinking of a small picnic outing with couple of our family friends. Idea is to spend the whole day at some such spot and back home late evening. I live in Chennai (Ramavaram) so any spots within 50-100 Kms around Chennai would suffice. Any ideas ?

      Can you please let me know the place, distance from my place, route and facilities at the picnic spot.

      Some of the places I have already covered are MGM, VGP, Dakshin Chitra, Muttukad and Tiger caves. Anything apart from these ? Infact I would like to visit some not-so-commercial spots. Awaiting your valued inputs..

      Cheers!

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      rajakrish73 - You have Mudaliyar kuppam which is about 100 KM, it has a boating house and less crowded. Its on the way to Pondy via ECR....Guess you would have visited Mahabalipuram....If you are a temple freak then visit Kanchipuram, you have lot of temples in and around it.
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      I have been to Mudaliyar kuppam, its a nice place for boating. I went there when I ride my cbz from my hometown to Chennai through ECR. You can spend some 2 hours there. If you prefer to visit temples, there are lot of temples around Pondy and also Auroville(a universal city by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother) and Aurobindo Ashram.

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      1. Mahabalipuram (around 50 kms)
      2. Pondy (around 130 kms)
      3. Yelagiri (slightly longer - around 220 kms)
      4. Vedanthangal (around - 90 kms)
      5. Tada falls (around 100 kms, not sure how good it is though)
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      Lightbulb Weekend drives from Chennai

      Some ideas and suggestions for places that you can drive to from Chennai, during a weekend.

      I've always wanted one such thread, but since I didn't find any, thought maybe I'd start one with the places that I've been to and later others can add their ideas and experiences to it.

      Hope this will be of some help

      Of course the most famous destinations from Chennai are Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry! But since these are very famous, I'll pass these two.

      Any guess where this could be?? This is at one of the 'viewpoints' in ECR, before Mahabalipuram I never expected it to be so neat! It's worth a stop to catch some views and fresh air en route to Mahab/Pondy.

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      And then, our very famous Pondicherry.

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      But the downside here is, you cannot get down to the beach. Some 20 years back, there was a "real beach", where you could actually get down to the waves. But the sea has advanced since then and it is no longer possible.


      Another not so famous beach is the "Silver beach" in Cuddalore, which is just 20 km from Pondicherry.

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      You can go straight from Chennai to Cuddalore on a Saturday morning. Spend some time in solitude at the beach and then later you can go back to Pondicherry. It will be a good change. *Expect some litter in the beach*

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      You can also drive a few km along the beach, on a small road that runs parallel to the beach, to a small fish market, where you can get the day's catch, fresh and cheap.

      Here are some pictures from the small market. It won't be big, noisy and smelly like our Saidapet fish market, rather a small one where the fisher folk sell their own catch, without any middlemen.

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      Even if you don't want to buy anything, it would be nice just to watch the activity going on there

      That's about the Silver beach in Cuddalore. I'll add more about Pondicherry later. Meanwhile some of you can share something about Mahabalipuram and some good resorts on the ECR with cost and experience.

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      Places around Pichavaram

      Since we already have detailed threads about Pichavaram, I'll cover some lesser known places around Pichavaram, that can be done either from Pichavaram or Pondicherry.

      Gangaikonda Cholapuram - It was once the capital city of the Chola Kingdom.

      Distance from Pichavaram: 60 km approx.

      Distance from Pondicherry: 100 km approx.

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      There is this beautiful temple built in 1020 A.D. by the King Rajendra Cholan. The lawns around the temple are so neat and beautifully maintained. There is no entry fee. I would definitely recommend this place for a short visit.

      Some photographs around the temple and its beautiful lawn.

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      There was a movie shooting taking place when we went there. These guys were dressed up as the King's guards [It was a Prashant movie, "Ponnar-Shankar"]

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      Children will LOVE running around this place!

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      I purposely didn't post close-up photographs of the temple complex. I'll leave it as a suspense for you guys to go and explore

      You can spend a leisurely Saturday morning or evening there, before getting back to Pondicherry for lunch or dinner. IMO, mornings can be best spent here, as it might become slightly crowded during the evenings. I've never been there during evenings though.

      Another option is, you can visit this place in the morning, then visit Kumbakonam (30 km from this temple) and get back to Pondicherry for the night.

      Eventhough this town was once a great capital city, it is nothing more than a small village now. I don't remember seeing any good restaurants nearby. The nearest towns with good restaurants are Jayamkondam and Kumbakonam. Just take some refreshments along, in case you don't find any restaurants nearby.

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      Parangipettai / Porto Novo

      Another option from Pichavaram is the lesser known Parangipettai / Porto Novo. It was once a flourishing port for trade used by the Dutch, Portuguese, French, Arabs and British.

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      Distance from Pichavaram: 20 km

      There is a Marine Biology Station in Parangipettai where you can see live Sea Horses and can even hold one in your hand

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      There is also a small marine museum, just next to the Marine station, where specimens of various sea creatures and fishes are kept for display. It is worth a peep inside. These are maintained by the Annamalai University.

      Interestingly, there is a cool, lonely beach with white sands near Parangipettai

      Some photos from the beach at Samiyarpettai , 3-4 kms from Parangipettai. (Excuse the low quality, as these were shot from a mobile phone)

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      The actual beach in Parangipettai won't be that neat. Ask around for the way to Samiyarpettai beach, which won't be more than 5 km from the town, connected with good roads.

      You can do Parangipettai as a half-day trip from Pichavaram. No places to stay around and not many good restaurants. Better to bring your own eatables.

      NOTE: If you are going alone, or as a couple, be extra cautious in the beach, as it will be very lonely. I have not heard of any untoward incidents (like in the beaches along ECR), but still, just to be on the safer side.

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      Karaikudi - The Chettinad Homeland

      Another interesting option from Chennai is Karaikudi (Now famous from Nomad.007's TL)

      Distance from Chennai: 435 km (For the first 330 km from Chennai to Trichy, the NH45 is a breeze. Only the last 100 km is a 2 lane road)

      Travel time: Approx. 7 hours (If you start early morning from Chennai, even the Chennai-Chengalpet stretch will be very free from traffic)

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      Places around Karaikudi:

      There is this Chettinad mansion in Kanadukathan. Check beforehand if visitors are being allowed inside.

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      You can also visit a weaving unit in Kanadukathan and buy sarees hand-woven at the same unit.

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      Then there is yet another Chettinad mansion in nearby Athangudi (famous for its hand-made tiles). Entry fees for this mansion must be around 25 to 30 Rupees per person.

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      You will be amazed at the love with which the Chettiars have built these mansions, with perfection in even minute things. The mansions mostly sport imported stuff! Teak wood from Burma, tiles from Japan and Italy, colored glasses from Belgium, etc. etc. imported a hundred years ago It is definitely worth a visit.

      Some pictures from inside a typical Chettinad mansion.

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      Some interesting miniature paintings on the walls inside a Chettinad house.

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      Yet another Chettinad mansion.

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      There is an interesting antique market inside Karaikudi town. All old world items from the Chettiar mansions will be there for sale. Beautiful brass vessels, classic furnitures, old chocolate boxes, powder tins, mirrors, photo frames everything and anything that was used in those days will be available there. If you have a liking for antique goods, you will definitely find something that interests you.

      Also if you are spending the night in Karaikudi town with kids, you can visit the recently built children's park inside the town. It is a park based on "Chronicles of Narnia", with characters from the movie strewn around the park. They also have refreshment stalls inside. It has become quite popular with the people there now The entry fee was Rs.10, IIRC. It is a nice place to spend the evening with kids.

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      Staying options in Karaikudi:

      There are some Chettinad mansions which have been turned into heritage stays with all modern amenities, like this one:

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      But these are mainly targeted at foreign tourists and we may find it a bit expensive. I found a few reasonably priced hotels in Trip Advisor, but haven't tried them personally as I always stay at my aunt's house in Karaikudi.

      That's all I have about Karaikudi

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      Andaman - A gift from God

      A bit more expensive weekend getaway from Chennai is the peaceful Andaman Even though this is not really a "drive", it makes for a beautiful weekend holiday option from Chennai

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      Clean pristine beaches, corals, snorkelling, scuba diving, a little bit of history and all this just a 2 hour flight from Chennai

      At the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Port Blair.

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      Different hues of green in the sea

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      Crystal clear water at the beach..

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      At a rubber plantation.

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      The Central Jail in Port Blair. It's beauty now hides an ugly past..

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      On Havelock Island, which is a 3 hour speed boat ride from Port Blair.

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      Radha Nagar beach in Havelock Island - one among the best beaches in Asia

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      A short motorboat ride (which will cost between Rs.800 - 1,000) from Havelock Island can take you to the nearby Elephantas Island where you can have the beach all for yourself

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      On the way to Elephantas Island

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      With all this and more, Andaman is a perfect weekend getaway. It will be good to spend atleast 3 days there. One day in Port Blair, two days lazing around the beautiful beaches in and around Havelock island. But try to book your speed boat ticket from Port Blair to Havelock island before you start from Chennai, if you can, as the counter can get crowded if you are going to book directly in the jetty in Port Blair.

      While going to Port Blair we tried the ship that goes from Chennai, just for a different experience.

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      The ship takes 2 nights to reach Port Blair. But it can get boring, as it is not a cruise ship. I'd suggest you take the flight instead.

      ------------That's about Andaman----------


      The places that I've suggested here are purely from personal experiences only

      Fellow Gearheads can add more places to this list of weekend drives around Chennai

    10. #10

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      Thanks a lot for the thread and thanks a lot for the contribution buddy.

      Lovely to see more places you visited and thanks for explaining with the Photos.

      That chola temple is in my cards along with the pichavaram for now - Good photography place
      Never Say Never Again :)

      Specially for Photography Section - If i post any pic in photography section, Please click and view in full screen for correct resolution and clarity. Thanks !!

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