The food was excellent and cheap (except for the night we splurged for Emily’s birthday dinner at Royal Vega). The public transportation system was good and will be even better when the new subway lines are done soon.
There aren’t a lot of sights to see but there are a lot of interesting neighborhoods to explore.
Kapalishvara Temple – beautiful architecture, relaxed for a holy site, interesting place to sit and watch rituals being performed.
Fort St George – awkward to get to, mostly restricted access for government business, but the museum provides a good historical context for the city
Government Museum – four museums in one covering stone and bronze statues, natural sciences, art, children’s, puppetry, etc. The site contains several old buildings with neat architecture, some falling into disrepair, but they are over 150 years old.
Mylapore – new shaded side streets to explore. Interesting juxtaposition of new, rich areas, and some really poor areas.
Triplicane – a bit more hectic, a big mosque they wouldn’t let us into
T Nagar – big shopping area, an unbelievable crush of people, particularly around the train station. We went to an interesting theatre complex to see a dance show.
Georgetown – the area inhabited by the locals when the Fort was first constructed by the British. There are lots of narrow streets selling anything from pots to motorcycle parts to fruit.
Egmore – the area around the train station with the most tourist restaurants and hotels we saw. Quite hectic into the night with people coming and going.
The biggest downside of Chennai is how hostile it is to pedestrians. The sidewalks ware rarely walkable so you’re often in the street fighting off space with honking vehicles, people, cows, goats, and trees. We only found one light with a pedestrian signal and almost died trying to follow it.
The biggest advantage to Chennai was being able to act like a local. You can take public transit, shop, eat, and never get different, tourist treatment.