Beach holidays are meant to be fun, carefree and relaxing. That is exactly how our vacation to Pondicherry was, and so much more!
For those of you who are not familiar with this place, Pondicherry (or Puducherry) is a beach town located in the Southern part of India. It is the most popular union territory of India and is a must loved erstwhile French colony, still retaining quite a lot of the old world French charm, especially in its architecture and cuisine.
Since there are no direct flights from our hometown Guwahati to Pondicherry, we had to make a small stopover at Chennai, from where we took a cab to Pondicherry. Just to add, there is just one flight from the city of Hyderabad to Pondicherry and I have no idea regarding its frequency. Essentially the city does have a small airport but it has not yet gone fully commercial. So, from wherever in the world you are visiting Pondicherry, your best bet is to take a flight to either Chennai or Bangalore and hire a cab/bus/train from there.
Anyways, we reached Chennai at around 3 in the afternoon on 2nd March, 2020 and decided to just spend some time by the beach in the evening. There is something magical about beaches after the sun goes down and same was the vibe at the Mariner beach. This beach is not even that beautiful and we were also almost mugged by a eunuch! But now when we think back, we could very easily put all those things aside just concentrate on the positive aspects.
After a good two hours of enjoying the Bay of Bengal and its refreshing evening breeze we headed straight towards a mobile sea food shack that looked and smelled delicious! They were serving a whole range of sea food dishes and perhaps we had our best prawn fries and fish fingers that evening! Also I must add that Sarmistha was really looking forward to some real good and strong filter coffee. Since Chennai is a major hub in the coffee belt of India, she had her fair share of the beverage throughout the evening. She also her fair share of insomnia that night!
Chennai was just a stopover this time around. But this city has so much more to offer, I am sure we will be back very soon for an exclusive Chennai trip. For now, really excited to visit Pondicherry!
We booked a cab from Chennai to Pondicherry and started our journey early next morning. It was a lovely 3 hours drive along the east coast highway, one of the most picturesque highways in India! We arrived at our resort at around 11 am in the morning. Our resort is called Tanto Far Beach Resort and it is around 10 kms away from the Pondicherry city center. We booked a two-level wooden chalet with an amazing sea view from the balcony. The sea was literally 50 meters away from the resort with a private gate to the beach.
After settling in for a while we decided to hit the road and two-wheelers were our mode of conveyance for getting around the city. There are no app based cab services in Pondicherry and the Took Took riders can really take tourists for a ride (pun intended)!! Hiring two-wheelers is a popular choice and is quite a budget friendly option. However, do check reviews of the agencies, practice caution while and go for reputable agencies only. The guy we hired the bikes from was a real crook even though he was referred to us by our resort!
Nonetheless, Sarmistha hired a Vespa and I got for myself a Mitsubishi. Aaprt from our bad experience, it was a real delight exploring Pondicherry on a bike. We paid 300 INR per day for each two-wheeler and headed straight for the city center.
We followed google maps and reached the White Town area which is kind of the center of Pondicherry city. We parked our vehicles by the Promenade Beach and started exploring the area by foot. White Town is the French part of Pondicherry and was evident from its quintessential French architecture and the countless French styles cafes. We came across “Le Cafe” restaurant which happened to be one of the most popular cafes in the city according to many travel blogs/vlogs. Sarmistha is a big foodie and trying a lot of sea food in local cafes was one of the top 10 things on her ‘to-do’ list! So we decided to try some authentic French cuisine for lunch there. The restaurant is located in the Seaside Promenade with a beautiful outdoor sitting area overlooking the sea. While the food was brilliant, the ambiance was very good as well. As we did not have anything special planned for the day, after a hearty meal we spent rest of our time exploring the alleyways of the erstwhile French colony. By 7 PM we were back at out resort and headed straight to our “almost private beach”.
The next day was all about some local sightseeing. We had heard about a popular tourist destination called Paradise beach and thought of making that our first stop of the day. After setting the destination on Google maps we rode straight towards Paradise beach. But somehow Google maps got a bit confused and we reached a completely different beach called Eden Beach! Turned out there are no road connection to Paradise beach and one has to take a boat from Chunnambar boat house which was a stone’s throw from Eden beach.
Eden beach is a beautiful white sand beach that is very clean and with lush coconut grooves all around. It was so charming that we decided to spend our time there instead of trying to locate Paradise beach. It had all the charms of a quaint beach town. We found some local fisherman selling fried freshly caught sea fish with lime juice and we enjoyed a bite sitting under the coconut grooves.
It was a delightful experience tasting the local cuisine under the shade of the gently swaying coconut grooves and the cool sea breeze made everything even better.
We had a tiring day and it was somewhat late by the time we reached our resort. But being an animal lover, I could not help myself from playing with the resident Great Dane for a while before crashing in to my bed!
A trip to Pondicherry is virtually incomplete without a visit to the soul of town, Auroville. So we dedicated our last day in Pondicherry exploring Auroville and it’s famous Matrimandir. The spiritual significance of the Matrimandir is immense and it is situated right at the center of Auroville. To put things in real perspective, Matrimandir is not your quintessential tourist spot but a space to concentrate in absolute peace and silence to rediscover your inner self. This place has no religion, no God-man and no discrimination. The spirit of the place truly embodies the essence of humanity where the world is one and everybody is equal.
While it was possible for us to enter the Matrimandir, for which you have to book a day in advance, we just went to the Visitors Centre and walked towards the Matrimandir viewing Point trough lush green forest.
It was quite a solemn experience just viewing the Matrimandir from the viewing point. Now we are very certain that next time when we come to Pondicherry, we will book a tour inside. The road to the Matrimandir with chestnut plantations, large farmhouses and spiritual centers on both the sides, is a delight on its own. Furthermore, the entire area around Auroville, as you approach the visitors centre, has a very happy and hippy vibe to it. It appears that lot of Europeans have settled here and even open up shops. Many westerners came to visit the Auroville ashram and Matrimandir and never went back.
If you are into European cuisine, Pondicherry is the place to be. Our agenda was to have as much of sea food as possible and it appears that Sarmistha had her best sea food risotto that day!
We had a sleeper bus booked for that night to Bangalore. After returning our scooters we visited our resort beach for the last time to pack our luggage and bid farewell to the beautiful Pondicherry!
This was definitely a trip we will remember forever! We were also really lucky to be home on time because COVID-19 lockdown across the country started just a week after we left Pondicherry.
Don’t forget to check out our Pondicherry Travel vlog on YouTube!
Travelling is a very enriching experience and we will not let a virus take that away from us!
As we slowly come out of the lockdown, we can’t wait to plan our next travel and continue to enjoy life to the fullest!