To most people, especially the Northerners, South India remains a largely unknown territory. Prone to applying stereotypes, I decided to take a trip down South and explore the major cities; and for the foodie in me, I sampled their vast cuisine.
Metropolis of Madras
My journey began in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. Chennai has emerged as a cosmopolitan hub of the South, embracing various cultures without losing its rich heritage and unique identity.
The presence of the British Raj in this strategic port city lends it a colonial charm. ‘Madras’ they called it. While it may not have natural forest cover, Chennai can take pride in its numerous parks scattered across the city.
Did you know? The Marina Beach in Chennai is the world’s second longest natural urban beach!
As a self-professed lover of food, it would be criminal to not mention the food culture of the city. Unlike the other metros, Chennai’s street food is rather limited. However, the ‘fast food’ culture has really caught on. While it may not be famous for its biryanis, it is interesting to note that Chennai boasts the highest number of biryani restaurants per square km, in the entire country!
From filter coffee to spiced Chettinad chicken curry, from parotta to hot bhajjis, I moved to my next destination, fully satisfied.
God’s Own Country
My second stop was at Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of ‘God’s Own Country’.
Words have been written magnificently for the beautiful state of Kerala. From the rolling hills of the Western Ghats to a bustling concrete jungle, it all seemed like a symbiotic force of nature.
Thiruvananthapuram is a popular tourist destination, drawing travelers from India and the rest of the world for its scenic beauty and big-city convenience. True to its reputation for being the state with the highest literacy rate, it comes as no surprise, the abundance of public libraries throughout the capital.
The food here is usually prepared using coconut – Kerala’s main export. In addition to the standard idli and sambhar, you are also served puttu (a South Indian dish made of steamed rice), vellappam (a type of pancake made of rice flour, yeast and coconut), payasam (a version of kheer), and a host of other dishes whose names I can’t pronounce.
Did you know? Yann Martel wrote his book ‘Life of Pi’ after studying a disabled lion, Simba, for months at the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo.
The Silicon Valley of India
My final stop, after what has already been a fabulous journey, was at the Garden City – Bengaluru. The capital of Karnataka has been blessed with a gratifying climate, a burgeoning social scene, and a thriving IT industry. It vies with Mumbai and Delhi as the nation’s most progressive city.
True to its moniker, Bengaluru is dotted with innumerable parks and greenery, an initiative in place since 1927. It has seen various rulers in its history from 4th-century kings to the Mughals and then the British Raj, culminating in a city of mixed cultures and progressive ideologies. Today, the third most populous city in India, it continues to draw tourists and professionals from all over the world for its economic relevance, and social significance.
Bengaluru is home to the largest number of Udupi restaurants. The varieties of dosas available here is mind-boggling. However, given the contemporary scene of the city, it is also home to several micro-breweries and is often called the Pub Capital of India.
Did you know? Bengaluru has the highest percentage of engineers in the world.
From the culture capital of the South to the divine capital of Kerala, to the Garden City of India, my trip to the peninsula led me to forging pleasant interactions with the friendliest people, experiencing the warmest hospitality and gorging on the most diverse cuisine, gifting me a truly memorable journey.
How to Travel: Chennai can be reached through Air, Road, and Rail.
When in Chennai cabs, buses, metro, share autos are the best mode of transport
Flight to Trivandrum International Airport from Chennai takes an hour and 10 minutes. City buses, taxis, and auto rickshaws are ideal for traveling within the city.
Train from Trivandrum to Bengaluru takes 16 hours. Radio taxis, self-drive cars, autos (notoriously expensive), metro and buses are the ways how people commute within the garden city.