I planned for a day outing on the ECR route with my childhood friend and we set out on a weekend with 3 kids in tow. This ECR day trip was to refresh some childhood memories of Chennai visits during my summer holidays. We made a series of stops along the way enroute to Mahabalipuram.
Cholamandalam Artist Village:
Our first stop was Cholamandalam artist village which is said to have some sculptures on its premises. They also have an art gallery with paintings, but we only wanted to look at the sculptures and try our skill in photography. To avoid crowds, we were eager to be the first people to get in and find some opportunity to take some good pictures. So we arrived there at 9 AM as per the opening time information on their website. Though we were the first to turn up, the gate was closed and we wondered whether the park was closed during weekends. A passerby said that it opens only at 9.30AM and we patiently waited outside for the gate to open. At 9.30AM the security guard promptly unlocked the gate and sending us scattering across the area looking for good photographic spots. There were some stone sculptures and some constructions for the kids to climb up. The sculptures are created by various artists from all over the world. What we liked the best was a huge banyan tree with its roots in thousands hanging all over the place. We had a swell time trying to swing on its roots and climbing the tree.
Cost: Entry to park is free, art gallery – 20 inr per adult, 5 inr per kid
5 km further down the road , Sprawled across 20 acres of lush green land lies Dakshina Chitra, a heritage museum where models of yesteryear houses and life styles of 1900 Indian households are depicted where children can understand how it was like for the people living in near ancient India. The houses and the items are very well maintained and clean. There are ancient model houses from southern states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Sometimes the houses are categorised based on the community like in the Kerala section there is Syrian Christian house, Koothakulam house. All items like beds, chairs, dresses, utensils used in those days are well preserved and spic and span, that one can just move in there.
Entrance Fee- 120 inr for adults and 50 inr for kids(less than 12 years)
Professional camera fee – 100 inr
Pot painting – 30 inr
Kili Joshyam – 40 inr
They also have some handicrafts on sale which are expensive , but many are very unique items and hard to find in outside market.
There are also some programes like puppet show, folk dances, painting for the kids, henna art, kili joshyam( bird astrology).The kids did some painting on mud pots and my friend was interested in the Kili Joshyam. The Kili Joshyam was a lot of fun. A parrot is summoned out of the cage and is asked to take a card to read out which is supposed to hold key to knowledge of my friend’s future. The Joshiyar(astrologer) asked the parrot to whistle for my friend which excited us adults and kids alike. He opened the card chosen by the parrot and it had a picture of velankanni (mother mary). He said that my friend will be bestowed with prosperity soon. We all chuckled and he told my friend that she has a lot of worries at the moment to which my friend tried hard to remember the worries she is thought to have at the moment. She told the astrologer that she does not have any worries and he said that she has concern that her children may not take care of her in her old age. She decided to accept what the astrologer says quietly. We spent a bit more time wandering around the vast expanse of the place and then decided to move on to our next spot.
The crocodile park is a must see for all the reptile lovers. This is an environmental conservation effort started by an NGO called MCBT (Madras crocodile bank trust). There are over some hundreds of crocodile in this reptilian zoo which consists of marsh crocodiles, ghariels and saltwater crocs along with other reptile species like anaconda, turtles and even a few giant aldabra land tortoise. Seeing the Crocs waiting at the banks of the river setting with its mouth wide open, patiently waiting for food to be dropped in can awestruck some kids and unnerve some adults
Our next destination in line was the majestic shore temple of Mahabalipuram. These temples were built from stone with carvings of deities. This is listed as UNESCO world heritage site. At the shore temple the kids started whining imploring us to go back home. We just roamed around for a while around the stone structures and decided to call it a day. As we turned back, we stopped to take a glimpse of the gigantic rock that defies all gravity. The stone appears as if it is rolling down a hill but is perched strongly on it. It looks as if something has stopped it midway. No one knows how it got there or how the stone was formed. Whether the stone was formed from natural causes or some Royal highness carved it such a way. We were told that the stone was tried to be removed using elephants and it failed. It seems impossible to move this stone.
Cost – Entrance 30 inr
On the way back the kids wanted to do some boating and we decided this would be the last stop of the day. We paid for a boat for 6 people. The day was hot and sunny, so the thin roof on the boat was a bit of a comfort. The boatsman was shaking the boat on purpose to add some thrill to an otherwise dull ride. All around the lake there were some grasslands, few trees and some towering IT companies at a distance. The lake was only 5 feet deep and there were some fishermen standing in the lake casting net in the hope to catch some fish. Muttukadu, being an estuary, there is a chance of catching sea fish, but the catch is few. We asked the boat man how much worth would their catch be, and the boats man said that they may get about 500 inr per day worth of catch, which is ok considering they do not own a boat and have to spend fuel on the boat. The boat guy asked if we would like to do some extra boating time, and the children was unanimous in answering positive. We gave in to them and we went for another 10 minutes boating. To me the ride was just ok, but it pleased the children.
Cost – 550 inr for 6 seater boat for 20 mins
100 inr for 10 min extra
On the ECR there is indeed plenty of more stuff to do – The wide tribe ranch, go karting, Tiger cave, Mayajaal, MGM dizzee world and VGP golden beach. But we shall plan to go there another day. Stay tuned for part II of a day out on the ECR.