Destination: Pondicherry

A few years ago my sister and I made a pact… We decided that every year we would take a trip just the two of us, to a destination that both of us had never been to and to mark the beginning of the deal we zero-ed onto Pondicherry…

A Little About Pondicherry

A Union Territory, in the south of India, Pondicherry is a sleepy little place that is a delightful example of how a mix of cultures can coexist. An erstwhile French colony, Pondicherry depicts a Creole-ish feel and the whole city exemplifies a pot-potpourri of cultures and traditions that feel both homely and foreign at the same time…

Pondicherry is divided into 4 districts, 3 of which lie on the east coast (Coromondal coast) bordering Tamil Nadu and Telangana, while the fourth district very surprisingly lies on the west coast (Konkan coast) neighbouring Kerala. Pondicherry city per se is divided into 2 parts – The French Quarter (Ville Blanche), the colonial Pondicherry that is reminiscent of the old French rule, evident in the street roads, French style Manor houses and the atmosphere on the Promenade and The Indian Quarter (Ville Noir) that is self explanatory…

When visiting Pondicherry, I highly recommend booking a quaint hotel in the French quarter preferably on the promenade itself…

Period accommodation and direct access to the promenade and hence the sea is all you need… Think after dinner walks along the Bay of Bengal, early morning cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer) on white deck chairs on your balcony overlooking a wide expanse of water…

How To Get To Pondicherry

Well to be honest there are numerous ways one can reach a destination but not all are time efficient, convenient or simply put doable… in the same vein let me suggest 3 ways you can arrive at Pondicherry that would save you time and would be comfortable:

1. Drive down from Bengaluru (~300 kms)

Bangalore -> Hosur -> Krishnagiri -> Ambur -> Vellore -> Arcot -> Vandavasi -> Thindivanam -> Pondicherry

Pondicherry-1
Bengaluru to Pondicherry

This is the recommended route while driving from Bengaluru, since this ensures that you travel on Asian Highway (AH) 45 for more than 75% of your journey. Needless to say it is faster and you reach well within 5 hours.

ISLM-Bangalore-Pondicherry-RoadTrip-4ISLM-Bangalore-Pondicherry-RoadTrip-6

The scenery throughout is beautiful with monolithic structures studding the whole way and coconut trees marking the horizon. Geographically, you start at the Deccan Plateau, cross the Eastern Ghats and make it to the Coromandel Coast well in time to have lunch along the Bay of Bengal.

This route takes about 5.5 to 6 hours at the most!

2. Drive down from Chennai (~150 kms)

NH 45 – Chennai -> Chengalpattu -> Tindivanam -> Pondicherry

NH 39 (ECR) – Chennai -> Mahabalipuram -> Pondicherry

pondicherry-2
Chennai to Pondicherry

NH 45 though 4 lane and hence faster generally loses out to the East Coast Road (ECR), which is 2 lanes due the fact that the latter is more scenic and literally along the coast.

3. Fly from Bengaluru/Hyderabad

Probably the fastest way to reach Pondicherry but it literally takes the fun out of things. However, if you are in a hurry to reach your destination or if road trips are not your thing then this is probably the best option for you.

My View of Pondicherry

I found Pondicherry to be very beautiful and when I say that I not only mean it scenically but also because of its people, the mish-mash of cultures and because of an overall blanket of calmness that the city seems to be shrouded in.

Unlike Goa, that I invariable compared Pondicherry to, the locals are more friendly and trusting of tourists. Pondicherry is still sheltered from commercialization and things are pretty inexpensive and sometimes even downright cheap. Its a shopper’s paradise for sure 🙂

Culturally, Pondicherry city is really interesting… Architecture wise there is a HUGE influence from the colonial periods but the food, language and traditions are still Tamil. It is no doubt a hugely homogeneous mix with as many temples as there are churches…

Pondicherry-5
Hotel Villa Bayoud
Travel Blog - Pondicherry
The French Quarter in Pondicherry City

 

There aren’t many foreign tourists that you see as much as Indians coming down over the weekend to unwind and since it is like really close to Chennai and Bangalore, there is a steady influx of IT professionals coming down to this UT on long weekends…

Food wise, like I said earlier, Pondicherry has a mixed cuisine that mostly is influenced by it being a coastal region and hence coconut curries of sea food and the like is very common. Breakfasts are predominantly either idli-sambhar or continental French Toasts and Croissants… Its a delightful mix really and I was left in awe of how beautifully people of Pondicherry have embraced this mix culture… It is humbling…

You will find loads of bakeries and cafes that cater to non-Indian desserts, cakes, macaroons, muffins, sandwiches, pita breads and other forms of delectables but at the same cafe if you ask for a cup of cappuccino, they’ll nod their head and say “Only Filter Coffee Madam” 🙂  Cute isn’t it…

pondicherry-7.jpg

Pondicherry is NOT a place to party or have “fun”… For such things, you might want to head over to Goa on the on the West Coast. Pondicherry is a place to relax, unwind, explore your inner-self and take delights in little cultural anomalies…

One thing that stood out was the Policemen had these Red colored French hats on that gave everything an air of nostalgia… Loved every bit of it 🙂

Pondicherry-6
Pondicherrian Policeman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s