Living, Photography, Travel
comments 12

Postcards from Pondicherry

On the long weekend (Aug 13-15), about 15 of us headed to Pondicherry. So this is a little late but I usually follow the maxim, “better late than never”!

It took about 100 mails going to and fro. Finally, about 15 people decided on Pondi as the destination for the long weekend.

The last time I went to Pondi, I have warm (or should I say hot) recollections of walking around the place in what seemed like 40+ temperatures. Sweat oozing out of our glands like juice out of lemons. I had only my sister for company. Both of us wearing cute colourful caps and walking around in the summer heat trying to look cool and discovering Auroville in all its splendour. That was a fun time!

This time it was a little different. For starters there were so many of us that at times I felt like we were at Forum! Restaurants had a real problem with us since it’s hard to find a table that accommodates so many together. And the waiters in Pondi, we found, were the rather surly types. Added to the situation, the fact that we weren’t French. Whatever little French we spoke got rejected by the Mauritian in the group (you are murdering the language, he said!). So that was the end of our brief affair avec la langue Française.

The plan was to set off at 4.00 am. We did finally manage to all take off from Bangalore at 5.00 am on Saturday morning. By about 9.30 am we were in Chennai where ee stopped at Murugan Idli for breakfast! It was a long way to go for a meal. And the idlis were a little soggy. But the yummy chutneys more than made up for the long and circuitous route to TNagar and asking a million people for directions on the way!

After that break in Chennai and another longish break in Fisherman’s Cove near Mamallapuram, we reached Pondi around 1.30 in the afternoon.

The whole world and their neighbours seemed to be in Pondi that weekend. There were massive crowds everywhere. Especially at Aurobindo Ashram there were long queues to get in. And Goubert Avenue, the main sea-front road of Pondi was choc-a-bloc with people – everyone assembles in the morning and the evening for no particular purpose (like Forum, again!).

While walking along the sea-front we spy Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Goubert Avenue. Wait a minute! It looked so healthy that we were suspicious that they actually put someone else’s body and MG’s head on it.

The Alliançe Française at one end of Goubert Avenue in Pondi overlooks the sea face and looked so beautifully done that we are now contemplating doing classes there on weekends. Heh. It was closed, but we poked our noses in to catch a glimpse : it looked terribly inviting!

We made the customary visit of Auroville (but Matri Mandir is shut for repair), frolicked in the sea and relaxed on the beach. On Monday, Shibs and I walked around Pondi town for a while and admired all the cool and pretty architecture. And then went and splurged some at Casablanca (Pondi’s cool mall) and some of the handicraft shops (where everything smells gorgeous and is equally overpriced). Picked up incense sticks, handmade paper objects, candles and generally anything that smelt nice.

Service I must say was really bad; maybe this was because of the unusual crowds in town. But both the dining places we visited : Satsanga and Rendezvous : were pretty dismal. The food was no great shakes either. The macaroni with meat sauce I ordered at Rendezvous was cold and extremely unappetizing. At Satsanga, I ordered some chicken maiyonnaise with vegetables. Thankfully, I wasn’t ravenous. I’d need 3 plates of it any other day!

The best service, I kid you not, was at the coffee shop at Casablanca mall on Mission Street. On the bill, the waiter had scribbled, “It was a pleasure to have been of service to you!” We were really surprised after our prior experiences in the town!

On Monday afternoon, after shopping and walking around, we packed our bags and started off for Bangalore. When we left Pondi and arrived in a temple town called Thiruvannamalai we stopped for lunch at Hotel Arunachalam. And boy, the waiter there made our day. He was smiling pleasantly all through, got us our dosas in super fast time, and actually took the trouble of slicing the dosas when we said 1×2. We were tempted to take him back to Pondi to teach some of the waiters and restaurants there about service!

We stopped at an ashram called Ramana Shri Ashram in the same town. One of our traveling companions went inside the meditation room and was showing no signs of emerging. Meanwhile, we watched the peacocks frolic.

Reached home at about 9.30 pm after a most pleasant tree-lined drive through Krishnagiri. And it only took us about 6 hours at a really reasonable speed. Definitely a route I’d like to go back on a bike someday!

Some takeaways from the trip:
1) Pondicherry is a hot place! Avoid till Sept-Oct if possible. Unless you actually like sweating buckets.
2) Preferably go in a small group. The problem with large numbers is that you hardly spend anytime with most of the people and tend to hang around in smaller groups. Thus defeating the purpose of the trip in the first place (i.e. to spend time with friends!). I’d say a size of 5-6 is perfect for a chilled out place like Pondi.
3) Don’t expect great service in Pondi 🙂 Slow and easy (the French way?!) is the mantra. Even the bill takes almost as much time as the meal!
4) The best way to get around is on cycles and bikes. They’re on rent in the city and Auroville. The perfect way to see the place.

The Pondicherry album is here.

Please follow and like us:

12 Comments

  1. Sounds like you guys had lot of fun.

    I didn’t even know that it was a long weekend till the day before, so ended up roaming around Bangalore.

    Nice pictures!

  2. Gosh! I love your photographs. I am no professional but I really wish I could get clicks half as good as yours. Keep the photos coming.

  3. Anita, coming here after sometime. The road trip made for a nice read. Your trip to Tiruvannamalai and the Ramana Ashram caught my eye. Interesting factoid/trivia about Ramana Maharishi. Somerset Maugham visited the Ashram in 1938 and met the sage. He later used his visit and his meeting with the sage as inspiration for a Guru’s character in his novel “The Razor’s Edge” and also wrote a non-fiction account of his meeting called “The Saint”! Interesting, No? 🙂

  4. Perry Naik says

    Hello Anita Bora,

    I happened to be on your blogsite and looked at your photo collection on Flickr. All I can say is “Astounding” and “Outstanding Photographer.” You must really start a gallery or a website where people can buy your pics. You’ve great eye for unusual shots. Keep up the great writing and the great photography…

    Perry
    Atlanta, USA

  5. hi,
    I also made a trip to pondicherry in 2003 Jan and had wonderful time. i would like to share my experience.
    Pondicherry MY Favourate place

    The first trip I made to this french land in India was in january 2003, during my sixth semester in Bachelor of Planning in School of Planning and Architecture , New Delhi. We were making the master plan for Pondicherry District. I remember when we were crusing through the East Coast Road while going from Chennai to Pondicherry. I could feel the air of the city, the charms it possess, the freshness it offers and a sense of distinguished ambience.
    We reached around 5.30 in evening on 25 th january and started looking for cheap accomodation. The girls were very finicky about the accomodation , so the girls and boys stayed at separate hotels adjacent to each other. We were staying on the road parallel to M.G Road , around 100 meters from Surya Hotel . We were happy to see the cheap bars located at around every 500 m in the main market area. I along with my friends used to visit the bars continuosly for the next 17 days . The liquor was damn cheap and the food was awesome , especially the sea food.
    We were regular surfer at Auro Beach , though most of us were novice swimmer and I was almost drowned. I still thank to Anshul , one of my close friend who got the attention of all fisherman to save me. I am thankful to those fisherman who saved me , and the irony is that I had made an argument with them on the issue of having beer on the beach.
    We had hired 12 scooters as we were 24 of us and two of us were sharing the scooter. I was sharing with Navin , and he did not know to drive a scooter , so I was having the solo fun of zooming around the city.
    We also met a friendly fisherman guy who arranged a big boat for us to go in middle of the sea, then he took us to show his basti and his jelly fish factories. He gifted us some big fish and squids which we asked sm chinese women working in Hotel Ellora to cook for us.
    Well , the city is mix of french and Indian outlook with lot of europeans visiting and staying for long periods.We made some gud frens like Nathan from London, who was learning Tabla there, then Ludo from France and the unforgettable Clauria from Belgium with whom I did get sentimental and we shared some great time discussing on Vikram Seth and Salman Rushdie, as she was an english graduate from France University. She also tried to teach me swimming but I could not learn. There are streets with french name , french architecture and as well as french restaurants like Rzendovou. I liked a bengali restaurant called Bamboo Hut on the same raod where Surya hotel is located. The restaurant offers good food, nice green ambience on the roof, and cheap liqour.
    I also went to Aurbindo Ashram and spent some peaceful time there minus my food, liqour ,beaches and friends.
    we also had a long discussion on the auroville town and the Matri Mandir . With no offend to anyone , I personally found it a unique thing which needs to be refined a lot. They want to sustain it on natural energies and they are making huge grand temples which does not jell with each other. It could have been a simple monument , but may be they have some other idea in their mind. Well , the representatives were not able to justify the idea.
    I am writing about Pondicherry after long , becuase a recent visit to the city with my IIFT friends rekindled my old memories. I went there again recently for just a day , but it felt as if I am back to my home, with everything as fresh as i was living there for years.
    I invite comments from ppl who are travel enthusiasts like me , and they love cities and cultures.

    http://amitsinha69.blogspot.com/2005/10/pondicherry-my-favourate-place.html#links

  6. Ahsan Memon says

    Hi there. me and my friends are planning to come to ponbdicherry in july.
    need asnwere for 2 questions.
    firstly which is better coming from chennai or bangalore and how 2 come from either place

    2ndly i need cheap accomidation in pondicherry like for abt 400 and less per day.
    we are 2 ppl

  7. shehnaz begum says

    I am travelling to pondi with another friend of mine we are taking train actualy not sure of the route we would also love to visit Our lady velankini i would appreciate your advice on cheap but decent accomadation in both places
    also what route should we take a bus or train

    will be highly obliged our traveling date is bombay bangalore on 10th and after 3days precisely 15th bangalore chennai and onwards
    thanks

  8. kevin says

    All of u missed a wonderful and unique bar/restaurant, with exotic music, and great service.

    LE CLUB, LE BISTRO, L’INDOCHINE
    38, Dumas st, pondicherry.

    It is a place I recommend u to visit.

    I went there with my friends, and we had cocktails, simply great.

    There was a DJ party that day,

    Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. saurabh says

    Hi filks ,im planning for pondt trip in aug around 15-17th..
    We r a group of 3-4 guys looking frwd to fun n masti…
    can we find sum rel hot chicks for fun in pondy n if yes then where n how?
    plzz help us so dat our trip is memorable and fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.