The sun is long gone, but Chennai’s 6km Marina Beach is livelier than ever. Strolling away from the glare of the main road, across the sand, I see children riding miniature rusty Ferris wheels and shooting balloons at side stalls. Orange sparks fly as a vendor roasts fresh corncobs and, as I pause to look at the crashing black waves, a boy gallops through the surf on a white horse.
In colonial times, this south Indian city was known as Madras, and many of the buildings along the seafront date back to its days as an important naval base under the British. Facing the Bay of Bengal is a red and white lighthouse that was once illuminated with coconut oil lamps, while a little further along Marina Beach Road is Vivekanandar House, built in 1842 to store ice – a hugely profitable commodity at the time – that was shipped all the way from New England.
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