The plan was to visit Kanchipuram and Chidambaram while staying at Pondicherry. There is a direct flight to Pondicherry from Hyderabad. A one and half hour journey which is the best way to reach Pondy quickly. The other option is to go via Chennai and then drive to Pondy by road. One can also spend a few hours at Mahabalipuram which is on the way. We took the flight.
Here is a Summary of our stay in Puducherry.
What to see –
There are four well known beaches namely the Promenade beach , Serenity beach, Paradise beach and Auro beach. We were able to spend an evening at the Promenade and Serenity beaches. Promenade is good for a nice long walk along the road at Sunset. Lots of rocks placed on the shore to prevent erosion. Serenity beach is good for spending some time in the water. Lots of fishing boats parked here. If you are adventurous try some surfing here. The sand is nice and white and the place is quite clean too.
Whitetown – This is a part of the town which was colonized by the French and has several buildings (Official and Residential) built in European Architecture style . This area is adjacent to Promenade beach. One can take a stroll around the area to appreciate the architecture , visit the numerous restaurants, cafes , art museums dotted all over the place. Several villas have been converted into Heritage accommodations and have a colonial ambiance. The restaurants serve excellent French Cuisine.
Aurobindo Ashram –
The building is quite big when seen from the outside , but once you go in your movements are restricted. Lots of containers with flowering plants greet you as soon as you enter the path leading to the Samadhis. Haven’t been to a place which is as calm as this place though there were a lot of people paying their homage at the Samadhi , which is made in marble and beautifully decorated with a lot of fragrant flowers . Several foreigners paying their respect and several others sitting nearby in quiet complemplation only to be disturbed by the shrieks of parrots. They have a bookstore with books translated from French into several Indian and Foreign languages. Books compiled by disciples from the various speeches given by Shri Aurobindo and the Mother. I bought books that were related to Healing and found that the gist of the writings are very useful for those who want to help / heal themselves in a Spiritual way.
There are several churches in Whitetown. We stopped at the Lady of Angels Church while going on a tour of Whitetown in a Rick.
Among the several Temples in Pondicherry we visited the Manakula Vinayagar temple in Whitetown. This is a popular ancient temple which a few centuries old and was revived in spite of several attempts by the french to demolish.
Street Shopping – Every town has a few streets that are popular for cheap goodies. Nehru Market is supposed to be very popular and is crowded on Sundays. Our Cab driver told us that Vehicles are not allowed in these streets on Sundays. One can also do some shopping just outside the Vinayagar Temple.
Where to Stay –
Hotels / Villas / Homestays etc are available and one can choose as per their convenience. Several French Villas are converted into Boutique Hotels and do have a restaurant. There are several options closer to the beach too. We stayed in a Hotel as we preferred an elaborate Buffet Breakfast 🙂 coz we would be travelling the whole day and were not sure when/where the next food stop would be.
Where to eat –
Lots of South Indian Restaurants if you wish to try the traditional Tamil/Chettinad food. We went to Karai Chettinad and the Shrimp curry there was awesome. One must try French Cuisine at the several restaurants in Whitetown. Had Dinner at the open air restaurant in Le Dupleix. The food was too good with Live music.
A major attraction in Puducherry after the beaches and Whitetown is Auroville. Its a half day trip 10km up north of Pondicherry. As we reached the visitors centre we learnt the tickets to enter Matrimandir were sold out. One has to buy tickets in person. It was a disappointment but it appears they want people to visit the place two times. We watched the Intro video at the visitors center and started walking towards Matrimandir which is 1km from the VC. I preferred taking the battery vehicle which caters to those with kids and elders. I requested to let me go in the vehicle though I didn’t belong to either of the groups and they obliged 🙂 . On our way back I preferred to walk. The place is a young artificial forest , 20 sqkm ,with a variety of trees. The path is beautiful and shady. Only Bicycles and Bikes are allowed inside the campus. Highly advisable to rent a Bike/Bicycle to go around the campus. The Boutiques near the VC, which have a beautiful display of handicrafts and hand made items. Clothes, Crockery , Lamps , processed foods made with Organic produce like jams , snacks etc. We also visited the famous Auroville Bakery . One should stay and spend a few days at Auroville to get a feel of the place and for the mystery of Auroville to be revealed.
How to travel within Puducherry –
Several modes of transport are available. Most youngsters rent a Bike/Bicycle which is actually very comfortable as the traffic is quite less compared to other big cities in India. Several Online Bike Rentals are available and there are a lot of choices. Ola cabs service is good. At the end of a trip , Ola drivers will invariably ask you if you have other plans to travel around Puducherry. When we told them about our plans to Kanchipuram and Chidambaram ,they quickly arranged a cab for a reasonable price compared to the prices quoted by a travel agency. There are autos too plying around but I haven’t seen too many.
I will definitely want to visit Pondicherry again to spend time on the beaches , walking along the streets in Whitetown , eating Chettinad food and French cuisine and also spend more time in Auroville .