No matter how determined you are, you'd be pretty hard pressed to find much to gush about when it comes to Chennai. The streets are clogged with traffic, the weather oppressively hot, the air heavy with smog, and sights of any interest are uncooperatively thin on the ground. Even the movie stars, as one Chennaiite put it, are 'not that hot'.

While it may not boast the money of Mumbai (Bombay) or the buzz of Bengaluru (Bangalore), Chennai does feel friendlier than most cities its size. Chennai is so modest you wouldn't even know it’s an economic powerhouse, much less a queen of showbiz: India's fourth-largest city is its most humble. The major transport hub of the region, this 70-sq-km city is a conglomerate of urban villages connected by a maze of roads ruled by hard-line rickshaw drivers. Its central location and excellent plane, train and bus connections actually make it an interesting alternative entry point into India. If you do happen to be caught here between connections, it's certainly worth your while poking around the markets of George Town or taking a sunset stroll along pretty Marina Beach.

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