Beaches, Amazing food and the French Connection - Pondicherry

#1 Jan 3rd, 2006, 12:24
Join Date:
Apr 2004
  • lonelyaztec is offline
Pondicherry is the closest weekend getaway from Chennai. Chennaites go to Pondi for a Friday night drink, or Saturday night drink, or just lunch, or for a long drive and get back home in the evening. It is 167 kms away on the East Coast Road, and takes just 1 hr and 30 mins. Isnít it cool.
Let me start with something about Pondy itself. Pondicherry consists of Karaikal, Mahe, Yanam, and Pondicherry itself. The best things about being a Union Territory is that the taxes are less, and hence you get any kind of alcohol at dirt cheap rates.

Pondicherry was known to Roman and Greek cartographers as Poduke. It was an important point on the trade route between Rome and the East. Some elements of culture also were interchanged - the remains of a Roman amphitheatre were unearthed at Arikamedu.

The Pallavas and Cholas were among the first dynasties to take control of it, followed by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British. Finally it came down to a struggle between the French and the British. However the French managed to get control (in this one instance) and when John Francis Dupleix arrived as Governor General, he began rebuilding the city that the British had ravaged.

He built the city in two parts, Ville Noire (black city or the Indian side) on the west of the canal and Ville Blanche (white city or the European side) on the east, using the canal as the line of apartheid. In 1954, the French relinquished control to India and the city became the headquarters of the Union Territory of Pondicherry.

Pondicherry has remnants of that colonial memory although these are beginning to fade a little around the edges. French is spoken on the streets, the streets themselves are rues and the policemen wear kepis in the style of M'sieu De Gaulle.

Now, with the famous Aurobindo Ashram and the experimental commune of Auroville, Pondy is still hopping. Life here is laid back, and hence you need to spend about 2 days or may be more, to let the pace sink into you. Do you know, the restaurants close here during summer for vacations. The town in so small, you donít need any local transport. You just need to hire a bicycle, you can see all the places, or if you have got time, you can walk it.

A planned city, Pondicherry is laid out in a grid pattern. All roads turn at right angles. A north-south canal that is now covered, divides the city into two parts - the smaller eastern side (the Ville Blanche or White city) and the much larger western side (Ville Noir or the Black city), reserved for natives. The French left and Pondy shed its apartheid demarcations, but the difference in the two sections is marked. You will probably be looking for the canal (it is non-descript and easily missed) so ask someone to point it out. On the east side runs Goubert Salai with a kilometer-long stretch of beach which has the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Ashram offices, French institutions, government buildings and restaurants.

Most of the houses are painted in pastel shades. The area surrounding the ashram is painted in Grey. All the buildings or houses that are painted grey, means that they are associated with the ashram in some way.

Pondy is famous for the Ashram, the beaches, the alcohol and the food. There is always a steady inflow of tourists from foreign countries, mainly France, coz the Mother was a French woman. People come here, stay at Auroville commune, spend a year or two, and go back to where they came from. Therefore, there are loads of restaurants that provide continental food of the best quality and a wide range of wines, liquers and cigars. This is in addition to this, the weekend partying crowd that comes from Chennai. Pondicherry is used as a test market to test all the alcohol and beverage products that are launched in India. The other place is Goa.

There are a lot of places to stay in Pondicherry as it is a large town. There are several lodges and hotels, you could check into. I have stayed once in Suruguru and once in Ram Prasad. These are budget hotels and have restaurants attached. The Ashram and the beach are walkable from here. If you wish to try a luxury hotel, there is Ananda Inn and Hotel Annamalai. They are expensive though.

There are several restaurants in Pondy that give great food. Rendevous, Le Bistro, Sat Sanga are some of them. They make the most exotic sea food, and serve the finest cocktails. Though they are a bit expensive, you will never really regret the sumptuous meal.

There are lots of places to see in Pondicherry. The Ashram, Auroville, Matri Mandir ( Mothers home ), Auroville Handicrafts unit, Recycled paper making unit, about 350 temples, several churches, Pondicherry museum, Jawahar Toy Museum, the botanical garden and the beach of course.

Aurobindo Ashram was set up by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, freedom fighter, poet (of the longest epic poem in English, the uneven Savitri) and visionary. He and his chief disciple, the charismatic Parisian painter Mirra Alfassa better known as The Mother, are buried under a frangipani tree. Devotees cover their samadhi with fresh flowers every day. You don't have to be a believer to feel the calm and sanctity.

Auroville is a commune that is set up. Designed by the French architect Roger Anger, Auroville (or the City of Dawn) was the brainchild of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and The Mother. They wanted it to be a place where people could live freely as citizens of the world and in harmony obeying one single authority, that of the Supreme Truth. People can buy houses / accommodation and stay here, and serve the commune or tourists can also stay here. There is a huge meditation hall, that is build in the shape of a sphere. There is a opening in the ceiling, in the center, through which sun light enters the spherical room. There is a large crystal right under this beam of sunlight. The crystal spreads the sunlight and illuminates the room. You need to get there to see it and meditate.

Three kilometres from Pondy, this is believed to be the site of the port of Poduke named by Ptolemy, occupied between the 1st century BC and 200 AD. It was also an important Roman settlement and stamped pottery from the Arrezzo region of Italy, amphorae and faceted dishes have been found. This is also Virai, the place mentioned in early Tamil literature. The place itself is picturesque, on the banks of the river Ariyankuppam, which forms a tiny lagoon with a sandbar.

There is also a secret place that I would like to share with you all. About 10 kms on East Coast Road, beyond Pondy, on the way to Cuddalore, there are backwaters - Pichavaram. This place is awesome. One can go on a speed boat, kayaking or canoeing. The Tourist office here, provides boats for a nominal fee.

Pondicherry also boasts of its own Education Institutions that are very reputed and are counted among the best in the country. They include JIPMER for Medical Sciences, Pondicherry University for general faculties, SOM Ė School of Management, Pondi etc.

We usually leave Chennai on Saturday mornings, reach Pondy in about 2 hrs, stay there for 2 days, enjoy, play in the water, eat good food, then leave on Sunday afternoons, so that we get back to city by Sunday evening.

Getting there :

By Road : 162 kms from Chennai. Maximum 2 hrs of driving. East Coast Road is a pleasure to drive. There are buses from Chennai, Madurai, Bangalore and Cuddalore. Pondy is well connected.

Airport : Nil

Rail : Pondi is connected by rail from Villipuram.

Best time : As Pondy is on the coast, the climate is usually hot, hotter or hottest. You can choose to go any time you can.

Trip Duration : 1 or 2 days.

Where to stay :

Ananda Inn : Tel: 0413-330711, Fax: 0413-331241
Ashok : Tel: 0413-655161, Fax: 0413-655140
Surguru and Ram Prakash are also good. I am not giving address. Ask anyone, they will show you the place. Pondy is a small town.
#2 Nov 4th, 2009, 12:22
Join Date:
Nov 2009
  • yours_uday is offline

Information Please!

Dear Friend,
I've read your post on Pondicherry. Though I reside in Chennai, I'm yet to go to Pondicherry. I'm planning to go there. Can you please guide me to go about it. I need information about Accomodation-Price, Where to start from Bus stand to other places. Routes and Vehicles like Auto available-fare.

Thanking you,

#3 Nov 4th, 2009, 13:45
Join Date:
Oct 2004
you essay
  • ananda2193 is offline
Yours Uday, your responding to a post almost 4 years old. Who knows if they are even alive.
#4 Nov 4th, 2009, 14:34
Join Date:
Oct 2004
Chennai, India
  • Nick-H is offline

Aztec was here on the sight as recently as August of this year, so I'm sure he's still alive!

Uday, You'll find lots of information on how to reach Pondy: use the search box at the top of the page!

It is 167 kms away on the East Coast Road, and takes just 1 hr and 30 mins.
Albeit four years late... I'd hate to reach Pondy in an hour and a half from Chennai, even from the South of the city. That is an attempt that one might not live through! An hour to Mahabalipuram, three to Pondy is more reasonable, certainly more sensible and, hey! It's a nice view on the way... one would not want to spend the journey with eyes shut in terror!
Life gets aadhar every day.
#5 Jun 13th, 2011, 15:30
Join Date:
May 2010
  • Pat H is offline
A really good, informative reading about Pondicherry. I will be travelling to Pondicherry and am a 62 year old beach fan and would like to know if the beaches around Pond are really clean and the sea blue and clear or is this just marketing to attract tourists or would it be better to travel to the Nicobar islands. I wouild appreciate any tips or links which my help me, many thanks.
#6 Jun 13th, 2011, 16:42
Join Date:
Sep 2009
melbourne australia
  • redninja is offline
Originally Posted by Pat H View Post A really good, informative reading about Pondicherry. I will be travelling to Pondicherry and am a 62 year old beach fan and would like to know if the beaches around Pond are really clean and the sea blue and clear or is this just marketing to attract tourists or would it be better to travel to the Nicobar islands. I wouild appreciate any tips or links which my help me, many thanks.

For beaches, Nicobar it is.
#7 Jul 8th, 2011, 16:34
Join Date:
May 2010
  • Pat H is offline
Many thanks for our reply and I will visit Pondicherry and then travel to the Nicobars, BFN.

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