Pondicherry- fondly called Pondi is that it is a sweet endearing town which seems to be immersed in a summer slumber, lifetimes old. It is small, simple and almost so charming one would simply fall in love innocence and simplicity.
The fastest way to get to Pondicherry is from Chennai, where it lies about 2.5 hours away in the sleepy hollows of Bay of Bengal. While there are two routes to get to Pondi, my favorite is the one by the sea with ever blowing coconut trees, cloud covered fields of rice and never ending roads lined with saturated heaps of salt to complement the view.
At first glance Pondicherry is vibrant. Commercial, densely populated and heavily packed with vehicles especially two wheelers. However, the contrasting elements as you enter deeper into the city are stunning as the city slowly transforms into a sleepy, colourful summer town where people are mainly trying to escape their own realities.
The locals are forever smiling, helpful and extremely comfortable with tourists in their lives. Tourism being the main trade of the city, everyone is oriented towards guiding tourists around the city. The best way to travel around this gorgeous place is by hiring a kinetic which comes at the rate of Rs. 250/- per day while the magic lies in getting lost around this town only to discover that almost all roads are inter-connected!
If in Pondicherry, do try and stay at one of the hotels in White Town, the most beautiful part of Pondicherry also knows as the French village. My top recommendations would be Le Dupleix, Palais de Mahi, Villa Shanti or even Hotel Promenade.The little french cafes, bistros and restaurants pull strings at your heart which make you immediately thankful to be there and then.
The beautiful Le Dupleix, located just off the Promenade is incapable of ever disappointing. Its gorgeous and down right my favorite place in Pondicherry. Beautifully structured, elegant in design the feel of the place is magical. If there do try the crab frittatas and Lobster Thermidor!
Le Cafe is probably the most aesthetically located restaurant/ cafe in pondi. Located right on the promenade rock beach and the only one on the entire stretch, this cafe is elegant and has a stunning view! A perfect place to relax and forget who you are and where you come from. Places like Le Cafe make me philosophical almost because of its sheer elegance and this kind of beauty cannot go unnoticed.
When on a kinetic, you’re never out of options and on our trip we got a chance to explore a number of eateries, some similar and some very different. Cafe Xtasy serves the best best Pizzas and these pizzas are absolutely huge!! Do NOT order a large pizza unless you have at least 5 people sharing the pizza! Le club is another open air bar and restaurant which feels a lot like Goa to be honest. One place that must absolutely be visited is Villa Shanti! Elegant and ethereal, this place calls for a pre-booking or reservation..
Chocolatarians must visit Zuka! The mousse cakes are absolute delights. another recommendation would be to try the sunny Prawns at Le Club and maybe some Mutton soup and samosas by the street across Pondicherry railway station which my friends seemed to love.
Alcohol lovers can head to bars like Pudou Pudou or de Bussy, which are not very beautiful but serve extremely reasonable alcohol.
The best part about being on a kinetic is that we have the liberty of alighting and exploring as per our wishes. It is so important to have that kind of freedom when travelling, and this proved to be the best decision we took when there.
Immaculate conception cathedral, one of the largest and most beautiful monuments in Pondicherry stands tall and stuns with its symmetry. We were lucky to be here during Easter and I must say witnessing the Midnight Mass on that Moonlit night was absolutely magical.
Another beautiful structure is Notre Dame des Angles church located just off Promenade and you get the most gorgeous view of the sea from inside the chursh. Frost glass windows, calm interiors and ancient architecture, the church is absolutely gorgeous. The streets of Pondi are lined with churches, temples and mosques and each nook and corner of the city seems to have a story to tell.
Pondicherry in general is a small commercial town which has a number of gems along the streets which CAN be easily missed. An example is the Kofi Barr along the corners of MG road street which serve mind blowing coffee, called Kofi or Mini Kofi by the locals.
The botanical gardens are just off the main road of white town. Riding or Walking around town one finds great photo opportunities at places like the Aurobindo ashram, Pondicherry bus station and even along water canals within the city. The drive by the Pondicherry Railway station is beautiful and one can cross over to the Fishing harbours on the other anytime.
If in Pondicherry, try and get yourself to indulge in some Scuba. I am highly claustrophobic myself and so I was unsure about being able to handle the kind of pressure which would inevitably come with the dive. However, PADI temple adventure in Pondicherry provides an opportunity to train individuals and help them indulge in an open sea dive in the middle of the ocean with some of the most experienced divers, at one of the best sites available in India.
My Scuba experience was incredible. We dove 40 feet under water and stayed under water for 37 minutes. We got out to the main ocean reef through a private harbour located at the backwaters of Pondicherry. Even if you are not planning to go diving, try and visit this area to get stunning views of fishermen catching fish and old ships stashed along the old harbours. While I was overcome with sea sickness on my way to the ocean, the dive was a spectacular experience. My partner in crime Ak actually ended up being a natural at this, and we slowly made our way down past groups of Moonies and tiger fish. More than anything, it is the endlessness under water as the sun seeps in through the world underneath that amazes you, especially if its your first dive. My Advice would be to stay as calm as possible and just let go. You will be okay. 🙂
Auroville is located outside the city just off the toll point and is about 20 minuted away from the city center. The roads of Auroville are beautiful, green and wind around in circles so I suggest use Navigation whenever possible. Auroville, also called the city of Dawn is a world of its own.
The main Auroville temple is beautiful and world famous, and the surrounding village is one which will make you reminisce of long winding roads, canopies of trees, sun streamed forests and places far far away from the concrete jungles we have been raised in.. If visiting Auroville preferably travel in the morning.
The beaches are average, especially Serenity beach which I was expecting a lot more out of. However, a walk by the rock beach Promenade takes one along several ages as one witnesses the serenity of the Gandhi statue, the long forgotten air circumventing the lighthouse, the ancient and iconic promenade boardwalk and the simple people of this sleepy town who never forget to smile at someone they know is new to their home city.
So thats my Pondicherry for you. I hope you love it as much as I did.May you be overwhelmed by the smell of sea and taste of salt on your face, and may all your thoughts and ideas get re-alligned as you walk by the inspiring yet lazy streets of this city forever drenched in love and magic! 🙂