- Destination: Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India
- Time to Visit: November – February
- Visited on: Mid-November
- How To Reach:
- By Train – Number of trains from Chennai. From Bangalore, only one train “Puducherry Express” on friday evening.
- By Bus – KSRTC operates daily bus to Pondicherry from Bangalore.
About: Though very small, Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. There is a strong French influence in the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian. French is still understood, and the whole city makes for rather pleasant mix of East and West. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East (La Côte d’Azur de l’Est). If you’ve spent some time in Tamil Nadu and approached Pondicherry by land, you’ll very likely experience mild culture shock on discovering French architecture and restaurants serving steak and good wine. Pondicherry is widely visited by foreigners also.
Our Journey Starts: I was planning to visit Pondicherry with my friends for a month . Everytime the plan was getting cancelled as either me or my friend couldn’t manage to get some time for ourselves out of office. This time, my friend Niloy Das had to go to Bhopal for some office work, as a result another good friend of mine naming Chandan Rakha joined me in this Pondicherry trip. Pondicherry is often called as “Pondi” in short. We started our journey on Friday evening from Banaswadi station in Bangalore. We boarded the train “Puducherry Express” from Banaswadi Station at 9.30PM. There were hardly any people in the train. After having a quick dinner in the train, switched off the lights and lied down in the allotted berth to get some rest. Woke up quite early in the morning the next day. The train reached Puducherry station at 8.30 AM. While coming out saw few shops just opposite to the station. Had breakfast and tea there. During this tea session tried to get some information from the local people. On their advise, we didn’t took any auto to reach to the beach from the station. The “Rocky beach” also called as “Pondicherry beach” is also only at a 5 minutes walking distance. To travel this distance by auto, they will at least charge you Rs. 60. So take right after coming out of the station and walk for 5 minutes straight till you see sea beach. On reaching Pondicherry beach, we started to look for accommodation which we didn’t book in advance. The hotels next to the beach like “Ajanta” are very nice, as well as expensive too. As we were looking for a moderate accommodation, we looked in all the alleys near the sea beach. Finally got a home stay owned by a French Gentleman naming “Gerrald”. They charged Rs.500 per day. Room was good with all basic facilities and a fridge which helped us later to keep the beer chill. The room was just in a 2 minutes walking distance from the sea though you cannot have a direct view of the sea from the room. Check the comments section below if you need to contact the owner of the home stay for room bookings.
Freshened up quickly. Got some information again from a German lady there who was staying in the adjacent room in the home stay. Then we moved out to book a bike. The best way to see Pondicherry and its surrounding areas is by renting out a pedal cycle or a motorcycle or gearless scooter. Within city, walking is great option as many sights are within 2-3 kilometers of each other. There are several rental outlets on Mission St and MG Rd. The prices as of November 2014 were Rs.250/day for a gearless scooter, and Rs.250/day for a geared motorcycle and Rs 50/day for a bicycle. You will need to provide some identification document as collateral and an advance of Rs 500. Many of the rentals also provide delivery and pickup at the hotel which is very useful. (Note: Usually the number of days for these vehicles are calculated from 9.00 AM to 9.00 PM. The motorbikes are easily available in a couple of two wheeler rental shops in Mission Street. Alternatively, buses and shared auto-rickshaws (tempo/tuk-tuk) are also available cheaply and frequently in daytime hours (about 8am-9pm). They charge roughly 5/- per two kilometer.Auto-rickshaws are common and easily available mode of transport too. However, they are on expensive side and need to be bargained. They may start by asking for 40-50/- per kilometer but may come down to 30/- per kilometer. Anything lower and you are good! The Pondicherry Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has daily bus services for tourists and it covers all the important tourist spots to be seen in Pondicherry .
We hired a motorcycle, filled with petrol of Rs.100 and visited the “Sri Aurobindo Ashram” first. The ashram is small yet beautiful. The silent ambience will definitely bring peace within you. It has a book store inside. They also have a bigger book store just outside the ashram. Candles, incense sticks and other organic herbs and perfumes are famous there. You can buy from a shop belong to the ashram named as “Auroshikha”. The shop is located just 100 metres away from the ashram. I bought bunch of fragrant candles and incense sticks from there. Just opposite to the ashram, there is a temple too naming “Vinayagar temple”. The temple sculpture is also beautiful and worth a visit. From there, we had a 7km drive to reach to Auroville international city. The Auroville city is made in remembrance to Sri Aurobindo. The compound is huge and beautiful. There are many small buildings offering meditation course, dance course, singing course etc. inside the compound. Trees and beautiful mud roads has an identity of their own.
After a drive of 1km within the Auroville, reached the main building. We got out free passes to visit “The Matrimandir” (globe like structure – topmost picture) from the reception. Then started to walk within the beautiful jungle like surrounding. One can hire “BTwin” cycles there. After a walk of about 1 km in a beautiful and peaceful environment, we finally reached “Matrimandir”. It is a huge and really beautiful globe like structure. Passes were available for the next day to get inside the Matrimandir for meditation. After taking several photographs there, we walked back to the main building. There were few boutiques offering nice collection of dresses, lamp shades and even beautiful candles, soaps, etc. There is a musical instrument shop as well.
Skipped lunch in the Auroville food court, but had in a small Dhaba (food junction) within the Auroville compound which was offering home food. Sitting arrangement was in a open space surrounded by trees. Food was tasty there. Most attractive feature of that place is the surrounding while having food. Almost silent, a foreigner was busy finding his own tune in “Ukulele” (Musical instrument). Birds chirping all around. After having a satisfactory meal, moved to Auro beach which is just 2 km from the Auroville main road. The Auro beach is a beauty. Hardly we can get to see such beaches in India. People are less in number, sands are soft and clean, water is crystal clear. There is no one to restrict your movement. We took a long walk in the Auro beach. Captured moments on gusty water lashing the innocent sandy beaches, small kids busy in playing, fishermen’s boat is standing in the beach and keeping an eye on the water. Take your own time to spend in the Auro beach. You may find few sea shells too.
Then we drove back to Pondicherry beach. Sun is almost set by then. Without any delay, we parked our bike and went inside old and renowned “Le Café” (Coffee shop) situated just next to the sea. The sea view is nice from the inside of the Café. Ordered Café Latte and a Bourgeois sandwich. The service was not great there. Still the view of the sea made me forget all the negatives of the café. Met a lady there named “Basha” who came to Pondi from Netherlands to study on Indian tourism. I was amazed seeing people from their coming to study on Indian tourism. On asking why, she said India has great versatility in tourism starting from beaches, mountains, heritage site and so on…And she was absolutely right. After a delightful café, we spend the entire evening sitting in the Rocky beach and counting unlimited number of waves hitting the shore. Few fishing boats are busy in the middle of the sea to catch some fishes even in the dark. The small light of the fishing boats gazing from the horizon somehow motivated me for no reasons.
Later at night, had a lovely French cuisine in the “The Satranga”, which was close to the beach. We returned our bike, picked some beer and came to the room. Cigarettes and beer are really cheap there. After discussing all the lovely moments over a beer, we planned for the next day and went to sleep. There was nothing much left to visit in Pondi. The only thing left is the Paradise beach. To reach there one have to first go to Chunnambar Boat house. We went to the main bus terminus and boarded a bus going towards “Cuddalore”. It took 15 minutes to reach there. The ticket for the journey was only Rs. 5 . The boat house opens at 9.30AM. The boat charges is Rs. 150 (Up and down fare inclusive). Camera charges of Rs. 20 extra. We were the first to stand in the boat queue. Booked tickets, took a life jacket and boarded the motor boat on time. The journey was of 15 minutes by boat to reach Paradise beach. If one misses the first boat, might have to wait for another 15 minutes for the next boat. On reaching “Paradise beach”, I was breathless. There was no one in the beach except the people came by the boat. Gradually people started to come as the time goes by. It’s a huge beach, but the security guards will not allow you to go beyond their vision proximity. Sands are clean and water is blue. The best part of the beach is, it is not polluted. There are number of activities in which one can get involved. We hired a football to play beach football. People around may join you on request. Football in the beach was fun.
It was too hot even in the morning. There are several shades to take cover. However, we booked a special one which has beach chairs in it. Each chair was charged for Rs. 75/hour. After playing football, we took rest on those long chairs with a beer can. The beauty of the sea was magnificent even from the shade. Had food from the shacks later. One cannot swim there, but can take bath. If you try go deep, beach patroller will blow whistle to restrict your movement. It was a nice beach for the foreigners too to get some colour in the skin. Later, we had noodles from the shacks. Also met an old colleague “Akash” there who came with his office clients from Chennai. There are bathrooms too. People taking bath can actually freshen up there in soft water. The beach closes at 4PM. Finally after spending the entire morning there, returned to the bus stop by a boat. From there again took a bus for Rs5 per head to reach Pondicherry. From there, took an auto to reach our rooms. After taking rest for some time, we went to the Rocky beach again. The bus back to Bangalore was booked for Sunday night, so we wanted to stay close to the Pondicherry bus stop only. Lot of activities was going on on the beach at that time. Pondicherry police made a fine exhibition with drums and trumpets. A kid was showing her talent by dancing on the rope to get some money from tourist. There were lots of food stalls too offering all sorts of food. We had Biryani there as dinner and started to walk to see the light-house. Light-house was very far from there, but definitely got a view from distance. Even Gandhi statue and French war memorial along with a statue of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is all situated at the Rocky beach. One need to walk for 15 minutes along the beach to view all these monuments and statues. One can just walk around and can see the French quarter. All houses made long back in French styles. Long windows, inclined shades, etc. A very different and beautiful french architecture which can be witnessed there.
Return ticket in train “Chalukya Express” was not confirmed. Hence, had to book return bus to Bangalore which was scheduled to leave from Pondicherry at 9.37PM. We left the Rocky beach at 8.30 PM and reached the bus terminus by paying Rs. 60 to the auto driver. It was just a 10 minutes drive to the bus terminus. We boarded the bus which reached Bangalore early in the morning. Reached home with some satisfactory memories in mind. Pondicherry is a very good spot to visit as a weekend trip. Tour Summary: Start time – Friday 9.30 PM End Time – Monday 5.30 AM Visited on Day 1 – (1) Sri Aurobindo Ashram, (2) Vinayagar temple,(3) Auroville International City,(4) Matrimandir within Auroville,(5) Auro Beach, (6) Le Café, (7) Rocky/Pondicherry Beach Visited on Day 2 – (1) Chunnambar Boat House, (2) Paradise beach, (3) Rocky Beach (4) Gandhi Statue, (5) Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Statue, (6) French War Memorial, (7) French quarter Suggestions For Travellers:
- No need to carry woolens as Pondi is hot even in winter.
- Buy incense candles and sticks from “Auroshikha” in The Aurobindo Ashram.
- Alcohol and cigarettes are cheap.
- Try French cuisine.
- Kindly follow no trace policy and save mother earth.