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Chennai (Madras) combines the old India with the new. Here you'll find magnificent Hindu temples and stone monoliths built by ancient Tamil kings, and see the mark left on the region by British rule and the East India Company during the height of the empire. For all its wealth of ancient monuments and palatial imperial halls, Chennai is also a bustling modern city – home to countless brightly-coloured tuk tuk taxis and the clean lines of contemporary architecture.
Chennai's main attractions lie in its ancient history, with no small number of monuments and temples to be found in and around the modern city centre. With so many attractions to see, guided shore excursions in Chennai could well be the most convenient way to see all the best that the city and the surrounding area has to offer.
The Pallavas dynasty had the awe-inspiring statues and reliefs of Mahabalipuram built to the glory of the goddess Siva in the seventh and eighth centuries – and the intricately carved monuments still stand in remarkable condition today. Shore excursions may be available during your cruise to see the area's ratha chariot temples and pillared mandapa shrines, among many other stone monoliths in this coastal area. Be sure to walk around the site of the peaked Shore Temple too, an ancient construction of age-worn stone carvings, overlooking the sea.
This quiet reconstructed period village makes a perfect retreat from the busy city centre, and lies an hour's drive from the port. Here you'll have the chance to meet with local traditional artists and craftspeople – and tour the area's cultural centre to see the broad range of architecture, crafts and art pieces on show. You'll even be able to enjoy a traditional meal during your time in the village, and take a seat for a show by performing artists and folk dancers.
Chennai city and Parthasarathy Temple
A tour of this modern city is best taken by tuk-tuk, and you may well begin your guided tour of the city by taking a ride along the Marina Beach. Later, you'll have the chance to see the ornate Krishna temple of Parthasarathy standing in the heart of the modern city – which remains in beautiful condition, given that it's just as ancient as the monuments and temples of Mahabalipuram.
Chennai is a large city that combines ancient tradition with modern style, and you'll find plenty of fantastic shopping during your time here. Large malls and elegant galleries give you the option to browse designer brands and modern masterpieces; but for a taste of traditional India, you may want to cast your eyes over the sacks full of colourful powders, berries and chillies around the city's spice markets.
You'll find a good choice of luxury dining options during your time in the city, with many places specialising in Madras curry – traditionally served without the inclusion of meat, harking back to its origins as a staple Hindu dish. Alternatively, many restaurants offer a fine dining experience which covers the tastes of China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam – so that even if you won't be visiting all of these locations on your next cruise around Asia, you can still get a taste for the cultures through their respective cuisine.
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