Pondicherry: Appreciate its unique feel

Monday, July 20, 2015 Rahul Das 0 Comments



4 day break coming up? In the mood for a getaway far from NITK?

Pondicherry might just be the right place for you.

One of Pondicherry's many streets edged with characteristic yellow buildings

Pondicherry (or Pondy as it is colloquially known) is situated on the Coromandel Coast at a distance of 170 kilometres to the south of Chennai. The vestiges of French colonialism that can be seen even today make the town a very interesting place to explore. My friends and I had utilized one of our breaks last August to pay the town a visit. En route to Pondy, we had also stopped by at the temple town Mahabalipuram for a couple of hours. Here’s sharing our four-day itinerary with you.



OUR ITINERARY


Day 1: Thursday, August 21

14:00 – Boarded the train at Mangalore Central.


Day 2: Friday, August 22


06:00 – Arrived at Chennai Central and boarded a suburban train from Park Station (which is opposite to the entrance to Chennai Central).

08:30 – Alighted the suburban train at Chengalpattu Junction and then boarded a bus to Mahabalipuram.

10:00 - Arrival at Mahabalipuram

The physics-defying Krishna Butter Ball

Mahabalipuram is a historical town consisting of a group of monuments carved out of rock. It is believed that this was the place where Lord Vishnu had triumphed over the cruel King Mahabali. A former capital of the Pallava dynasty, the town is also one of India’s 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The auto driver we struck a bargain with agreed to take us to the town’s most significant monuments. In the two hours that he showed us around the town, we visited Pancha Rathas, Shore Temple, Krishna Butter Ball, Mahisha Mardini Cave and the carvings near Arjuna’s Penance. Overall, we did quite relish the mythology associated with the carvings and the whole quiet feel of the coastal town.

12:00 – Boarded a bus to Pondy

14:00 - Arrival at Pondy

Gandhi statue at Promenade Beach
Contrary to what I had expected, Pondy had at first seemed completely Tamil to me! We began to see traces of the town’s French connection only after we walked along its rues (streets), ate at its restaurants and saw the French monuments at Promenade. We had especially enjoyed eating at Le Café, Tanto, Giorgio's, Auroville Bakery and Veneto Café Restaurant while we were in Pondy.

Day 3: Saturday, August 23


Owing to its small size and the beauty of its network of streets, Pondicherry is best experienced on bicycles.

We spent our morning riding to Auroville, the spiritual retreat visited by people all over the world. The most striking feature of this “experimental township” was its Matrimandir, the spherical shrine covered with over a thousand golden discs.

The Matrimandir
While you’re riding to the town, do stop by at Auroville Bakery and Farm Fresh. The snacks we had there were a refreshing change from the everyday confectionery we were all so used to eating. Do try out the wood fired pizzas at Tanto as well.

We spent the evening trying out more restaurants and wandering about Promenade and the rest of the town.

Day 4: Sunday, August 24


Pondicherry is probably most famous for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Although we knew we wouldn’t really get the whole Ashram experience by merely stopping by for some time, we decided to visit the place anyway. Seeing more than a hundred people move around the Ashram wordlessly was a very peculiar experience for us.

Entrance to Sri Aurobindo Ashram
15:00 – Boarded the bus to Salem
We had decided to board our train from Salem instead of Chennai to be able to spend a few extra hours in Pondy. Arrived at Salem at 19:00.

21:30 – Boarded the train; arrived at Mangalore Central at 08:30 the next morning


*****

It shouldn’t take you more than a day or two to explore Pondy’s hotspots. The only thing you need to take into account before visiting the town is the time that you'd have to spend travelling from NITK. I don’t see that as much of an issue though. The journey is part of the experience after all.

I’ve listened to a lot of my friends compare Pondy with Goa, describing the latter as by far, a livelier place to visit. To be fair to Pondy, it is not in the least a party destination. (Oh, and if you’re keen on going clubbing, don’t bother visiting Asian House, Pondy’s only EDM club - it isn’t worth your time at all!) Accept the town for what it is and appreciate it for its own unique feel.