Pondicherry/Puducherry had been in my bucket list for some time now and on checking the list of long weekends in this year (2018), I could not think of a better time to visit the place than during Holi vacation (2nd to 4th March). I had two other girlfriends to accompany me: Apurva and Chaitali. We booked the flight tickets at the end of December, 2017 which turned out to be financially beneficial (The details of the bookings are at the end of the post).
Our plan was to spend the night at the airport and to take the second bus towards Pondicherry at 5.30am. The nearest pick-up point is at Guindy which is 8kilometers away from Chennai Airport. As we knew a long day was waiting for us, we took sleeper bus.
Unfortunately my encounter with Chennai has never been good. What went wrong? Here it is:
We took Uber from Airport to Guindy at 4.30am giving the driver enough time to take us to the bus-stop. The estimated cost was Rs.110/-. I asked him if he knew the dropping point and he gave a positive response. After taking multiple wrong turns, not following google map even after pointing it out, roaming around the same place again and again and spending 50 minutes to cover 8kilometers, we reached at the bus-stop. He charged us Rs.290/-.
After reaching there, we asked an auto-driver if that was the correct place or not.
Me: Do the Orange travel buses stop here?
Auto-Driver: No, Madam. The bus-stop is a kilometer away from this place.
Me: But the driver of the bus directed us here only.
Auto-Driver: No Madam. Ride on my auto and I’ll take you to the place.
Just when we were about to get into the auto, we saw that our bus halted on the opposite side. We ran towards the bus and caught it. Within 5 minutes in the bus, we fell asleep till a shriek voice screeched, “Pondicherry Bus-stop!”
We jumped out of our place and ran towards the door when the clock stroke 8.20 am. Finally, after hectic 10 hours we were at Pondicherry. Remember, the public transportation fee is high: Rs.80/- per kilometer.
Our hotel was at around one kilometer from where the bus dropped us and even though we tried to negotiate, the auto-driver took Rs.100/-. In the middle of all the wrong happenings, our hotel was a good decision.
Hotel Coramandal Heritage is a 150years old Tamil House. You’ll get complimentary breakfast but do not expect dinner or lunch. We had to wait for 2hours before getting the room. In that 2 hours, we freshened up in a common washroom, had our breakfast and roamed a little. One of the main reasons of booking the hotel was it is situated at the midpoint between White Town and Heritage Town. 8 places from my Visit-list was within one kilometer. They serve a standard breakfast menu everyday which consists of Bread Toast, Butter, Jam, Omelette, Tea/Coffee and fruits.
MatriMandir, Auroville: Our first stopping point was at Auroville which was 12 kilometers away from our hotel. An entire village is inspired by the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, a philosopher and nationalist. The centre of the Auroville is MatriMandir, a mesmerizing golden spherical architecture. To get inside, you must take appointment for a slot of 15minutes by visiting MatriMandir office in person. The place spreads vibes of harmony and peace. When we visited, it was booked for next 3 days. After watching videos about the idea and philosophy behind Aurovile in Information Centre, we were handed over tickets to visit MatriMandir from outside, a place with great architectural value. We had to walk quite a distance from Informtion Centre to MatriMandir. Keep water and at least 3 hours in your hand to explore the place. There is a restaurant inside Auroville but I would not recommend it. Instead you can always have snacks from 2-3 shops situated there. Parking charges for 2 wheelers: Rs.10/-. Timings; 9.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-4pm.
Auroville Beach: Auroville Beach is situated almost 7kilometers away from Auroville and 3kilometers away from Serenity Beach. Take some time out while visiting MatriMandir for this beach.
Serenity Beach: While coming back we took the road towards Serenity Beach that is 8 kilometers away from Auroville and is 5 kilometers away from our hotel. The beach was less crowded and decorated by series of colorful boats- something I haven’t seen in a while.
Promenade: In the evening, we headed towards Promenade that is situated beside Rock Beach and exhibits the well-structured urbanization of White Town. If you walk one kilometer at a stretch starting from Pondicherry War Memorial to Joan of Arc Park, you’ll come across several famous monuments, statues and structures.
Half of the area beside Promenade was of French Colonial and beautifully shows the blending of Tamil and French Cultures. Here you’ll find these:
Government of Pondicherry War Memorial:
On the way, you’ll cross the building of Government of Pondicherry Chief Secretariat and Fench Consulate.
Gandhi Statue: It is almost the mid-point of promenade.
French War Memorial: just opposite of Gandhi Statue, you will find this monument.
Our Lady of Angel’s Church: You’ll get a glance of it from the Promenade.
Statue of Dupleix: The statue of Ex-Governor General Francios Dupleix (till 1754) is situated inside Joan of Arc Park.
You can find the shopping/ food place in Beach Shopping Market. Often Art and Craft fair and cultural programs take place here on weekends.
As we were dead tired because of the journey and we missed the sunrise, we planned to visit the other places nearby.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral: We could see the top of this 300-years-old church from our hotel terrace. It is situated at 150metres from Hotel Coramandal Heritage. What attracted me the most about this mother church is the vibrant paintings on the white walls.
Bharathi Park (Aayi Mandapam Monument): Bharathi Park is one of the cleanest Park I have ever seen. It is 400 metres away from Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Monument, Aayi Mandapam can be seen at the centre of the park. Timing: 6.30am-8pm.
Raj Niwas: The official residence of Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry, Raj Niwas is situated at just opposite of Barathi Park. The place has its own history to explore. Needless to say, it is worth visiting for its beautiful interior.
We were fortunate enough to meet the Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry, Kiran Bedi. It was an experience of a lifetime to meet such an inspiring personality. As a token, we were given seed for plantation. Earlier visiting the place was restricted but now you can take appointment from the official website of Rajniwas: https://rajnivas.py.gov.in/
Pondicherry Museum: Apart from several Indian statues from 11-12th century, Roman and French artifacts, the centre of attraction were the fossils and bricks from Arikemdu. Use of mobile phone or camera is prohibited. The ticket price was Rs.10/-. The rest of the details can be found here:
Aurobindo Ashram: The variety of colourful flowers was captivating. It is situated at distance of 80meters from Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple. You have to keep your phone switched off before entering the place. Timings: 8am-12pm and 2pm-6pm.
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple: The Ganesh temple is famous for golden chariot (which contains 7.5kgs of gold) and having an elephant in its premises after 11am till evening. This holy Hindu temple is 300 meters away from Raj Niwas and was on our way back to hotel.
Sunrise at Rock Beach: Situated beside Indo-French colony, Rock beach is well maintained and clean. The name suggests the fact that the beach is full of rocks. It is the most beautiful beach at Pondicherry causing it to be crowded. Beach, Breeze and Beauty- Rock Beach impressed us beyond our expectations. As it was our last day to witness sunrise, we left hotel at 4am. What we saw there was worth it and here is a glance:
Around 6.30 am we spotted Tea-sellers were roaming around.
Paradise Beach: It was 7am when we started for Paradise beach from Rock Beach. This less crowded beach is beautified by coconut trees and calmness. The distance is about 10 kilometers. We met this Mister there.
Due to lack of time, we could not visit the next 2 places.
Arikamedu: Arikamedu means ‘Mound of Arakan’, a Greek trading place with Rome established by emperor Augustus. I regret not visiting the place. The place opens at 10am and closes at 4pm.
Chunnambar Boat House: Chunnambar Boat House id 4.8 kilometers away from Paradise Beach towards Pondicherry main city. Timing: 10am-4pm.
The Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church: On our way back, we visited the Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus which is one the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. It was at a kilometer away from our hotel but on a different direction from other tourist spots.
After having lunch, we started our journey towards Chennai at 1.30 pm via ECR route. We feared delay due to traffic but the transportation system did not let us complain about anything. Our flight was at 9.15 pm and we reached at 5 pm. I accidentally bumped into a school-friend of mine there and we spent the next 4 hours in the airport.
For me, the most interesting part about Pondicherry is its Indo-French culture. When I started to talk to the localities I got to know that although French influence can be found in their lifestyle, mostly French are the people who adapted Tamil culture. There lies the beauty of India: our country has the open mind to welcome other culture, mentality, lifestyle and philosophy wholeheartedly that makes others to fall in love with India.
- If planned properly, 2days are good enough for Pondicherry trip.
- Do NOT park vehicles on the road of Promenade from 6pm to 8am. You can always park it at the parking place. Otherwise traffic police will take your vehicle and you have to pay spot fine. One of the many parking places ison 8, Goubert Avenue- near Hotel Promenade.
- If you want to go inside MatriMandir, after reaching Pondicherry your first agenda should be heading to Auroville to get a slot.
- Don’t expect OLA or Uber services there. We got rental bikes at a price of Rs. 250/- per day. Bargaining is the key.
- If you are fond of street shopping, you can visit Beach Shopping Market near Hotel Promenade and a market place near Vinayagar Temple.
- Remember that as Pondicherry is situated at the east coast, sun rise is the most beautiful experience here.
- Transportation charges are pretty high: Rs. 80/- per kilometer.
- Here is a list of hotels and restaurants I would like to recommend:
Hotel Promenade: Although it is a bit expensive, still I’ll highly recommend Hotel Promenade for a rooftop dinner or lunch beside the Rock Beach.
Café Xtasi: The place tends to be crowded. Try their Prawn Pizza and Brownie with Icecream.
Surguru Restaurant: Authentic South Indian food is served here.
Hotel Du Parc: I would love to give this place full marks for ambiance, food quality and service.
Baker Street: You can find French Delicacies at its best here. I highly recommend it.
|Pune – Chennai||Chennai – Pune|
|Friday, 02 Mar 2018||Sunday, 04 Mar 2018|
|IndiGo 6E-6406||IndiGo 6E-232|
|PNQ 00:40- MAA 02:25||MAA 21:15- BLR 22:15|
|BLR 22:50- PNQ 00:15|
I got cashback of Rs.200/- in PayTM.
|Pondicherry – Chennai||Pondicherry – Chennai|
|Duration:5:40 am-8.30am||Sunday, 04 Mar 2018|
|Orange Tours and Travels||Puducherry Road Transport Corporation (PRTC)|
|AC Sleeper, From Guindy To Pondicherry Bus-stop||Ac Seater, From Pondicherry Bus-stop To Guindy|
|Ticket Price:427/-||Ticket Price:305/-|
|Application: PayTM. I got Rs.40/- cashback there.||Appliaction:PRTC Website|
|Hotel Coramandal Heritage|
|Superior Delux Room for 2 nights 3days|
|Price: Rs. 4480/- (including tax)|
|Address: 36, Needarajapayer Street, Behind Mahatma Gandhi Road, Puducherry, 605001|
|Application: GOIBIBO (We paid the entire amount at the hotel).|
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