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Weekend Getaway :: Pondicherry

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This trip was undertaken between 21st – 23rd February 2009. The write-up states that we came back to Bangalore from Pondicherry. That is only partially true. Some did return but others, including me, took the ECR to Mamallapuram for another day of merry making.

The pleasure of riding in the fading winters of February and a chance to experience the French ways of life saw us heading to Pondicherry. That we were on four bikes is of no consequence to the one who does not possess the biker spirit, so I’ll let it be. However, a road trip is what one should undertake for this getaway. The thrill of creaming the tarmac on any stretch of the Golden Quadrilateral must not be missed. So don’t fret if you don’t own a bike, getting behind the wheel is a good option too.

We started at 0600hrs and the first 90 odd kilometers, till Krishnagiri, had us witnessing the sun rising above the horizon and also entailed the first pit stop. Chinnar, almost midway between Hosur and Krishnagiri, has a British Petroleum bunk and Anand Adyar Bhavan – the best place to eat in the entire journey. We parked our bikes and sucked in, on the fresh morning air. A2B being over-crowded tempted us to give-in to our, otherwise curbed, rustic instincts. After bidding adieu to NH7 at Krishnagiri, we continued on NH66 for a while before pulling off at a roadside Dhaba. Heavy breakfast comprising of Idlis, Egg Dosas and steaming coffee set us up for the ride ahead.

NH66 is a single lane highway. Although the traffic was scarce, the road was bumpy in patches. We rode at leisure, crossing small towns Uthangarai, Chengam on the way. Then, there was crowd and lots of foreigners and even more Gopurams. We were passing by the pilgrim town of Thiruvannamalai. For the religiously inclined, this could serve as another pit stop. We, however, continued for 5 kms outside the town before stopping for some fresh tender coconut water.

In another hour or so, we were at Gingee.

View from top of the Gingee Fort

View from top of the Gingee Fort

I was looking forward to this since we started and was the first to reach the top of the fort. This fort is several hundred years old and has seen several ruling dynasties such as the Vijaynagar Maharajas, Shivaji Maharaj, Nawabs of Arcot, Tipu Sultan, the French and the British. The government official at the premises told me that the smallest of the three forts belonged to the Rani. I wondered how women liberation organizations must have been in that era and smiled.

Now, Pondicherry beckoned!

At around 1400hrs, a stone-faced lady in white greeted us with a namaste. We were at Puducherry.

Welcome to Puducherry

Welcome to Puducherry

As we rode further, we found the road was well canopied. We passed by the JIPMER Hospital, the police complex, the truck terminal and continued on Nehru street all the way to the beach. This street is lined with vibrant and colorful shops on either side and reminded me of Commercial Street in Bangalore. First things first! Getting a glimpse of the beach is an implicit ritual that my biker buddies and I follow whenever we reach such a place. A look at the Bay of Bengal brought an instant cheer but the heat was taking its toll on us considering the riding gear et al we were in. A beach facing hotel was all that we had hoped for. Is that too much to ask when you visit a coastal town? Seems it was! Reason being, the date was 21st February and guess what – it was Mother’s Day. No! Not the Mother’s Day you thought. This was the reverend Mother of Pondicherry. Most of the beach facing spaces were booked. The others were just too expensive.

After scouting for a while, we found accommodation at Sree Meenakshi In. opposite to the Bus stand. This was far from the beach but reasonably priced and well maintained. The chilled beer and the scrumptious lunch at Hotel Dhanalakshmi lifted our spirits no end. Booze is cheap in this part of the country and this hotel even had a liquor sale on. As a result, the saddle bags were heavier by a few kilos on our way back.

We missed the sunset at the beach. Nonetheless, it was bustling with activity unlike in the afternoon. Vehicles are not allowed on this road in the evening, till 2200hrs. We parked our bikes and began to partake in the merry making. There were vendors of all sorts – the toy parachutes, peanuts, ice-creams. There were many fresh fruit juice parlors, a book store and several souvenir shops on the other side of the road. The beach here is rocky and entering the water in strictly prohibited. In fact there is a sturdy concrete banking to prevent mishaps. However, the cool breeze and sound of the tides lashing against the bank were enticement enough to fall in love with the place. We ambled along the entire stretch chin wagging, deciding on plans for the next day and sharing tidbits about the days ride. There is a French Bar on the beach which doubles up as a tourist information center and it is open 24×7. Here, the taste buds were pampered with a gamut of French breads and steaming hot coffee.

The pleasure of a ride in such a setting could not have been forsaken. We rode under the moon after 2200hrs. The speed limit was 30km/hr but we were at 5km/hr. Looking towards the ocean one moment and turning our glance back to the road ahead the next moment, much to the amazement of the onlookers.

Dinner was a sad affair at a place called Bamboo Hut. The ambiance was up to the mark but the food was rather bland. However, the deserts at a joint named Come ‘n Joy were simply out of the world and at rock bottom prices. We indulged sinfully!

Next morning took us to Auroville. This town is still under construction and so is the Matrimandir, which is the major attraction here.

The Architectural Marvel - Matrimandir, Auroville

The Architectural Marvel - Matrimandir, Auroville

Nonetheless, it was a revelation. The place has a mystical feel to it. Shri Aurobindo is a world known figure and so is the holy Mother but there is so much more than meets the eye. I grabbed a couple of books at the information center to dig deeper.
In order to avail passes to the Matrimandir, the guests are subjected to an educational video. The cafetaria here serves French as well as South Indian cuisine. Lip Smacking!

Another much touted tourist destination is the Chunnambar Boat House. But our experience was rather dismal. There is no availability of good food and the wait for the boat was excruciating in the afternoon sun. The beach just had one cold-drink selling shack and officials prevented people from entering the water. Come to think of it, a resort with a private beach is a much better option.

We visited the Pondicherry Museum, a must for the history enthusiasts, in the evening and later chilled at a French Bistro. The Kailash French book shop near the beach opens at 0800hrs and is a delight for the bibliophile.

And thus a memorable weekend ended. It was hectic but fulfilling. After a good nights sleep, we hit the highway early next morning. After all, there were so many anecdotes to be shared and moments to be re-lived, once back in Bangalore.

Pictures from the trip can be seen here.

Written by Sangfroid

September 4, 2009 at 11:17 pm

7 Responses

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  1. I have been to Pondi, (as we called it then) quite a few times, by the virtue of being in Chennai and truly, the drive from Taramani, via ECR is commendable, beyond beautiful..
    And I happened to be on a bike too (pillion) most of the times.. I understand your excitement on the drive: unexplicable.. 🙂

    sam

    September 7, 2009 at 11:50 am

    • It is still called Pondi 🙂 And I’ve never heard anyone call it Puducherry!

      Yes, it is a nice little town 🙂

      Sangfroid

      September 7, 2009 at 7:44 pm

  2. talk about being lethargic… you are posting a travelogue half-a-year later!

    I wonder how many of your travelogues have been missing?

    Kunal

    September 7, 2009 at 12:45 pm

  3. Ah pondy! I have awesome memories of that place. The best part is sitting on the rocks alongside the main street and staring into the darkness. The sound of the waves. Breeze . And the contrast to the almost empty streets. Just amazing!

    Winnie the Poohi

    September 7, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    • Yes! Night by the sea, under the open sky is an experience I love. Could be at any beach 🙂

      Sangfroid

      September 7, 2009 at 7:51 pm

  4. I am looking to arrange a group of like minded people for this summer to go to beach hotels in india.

    beach hotels

    January 18, 2010 at 2:35 am


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