Once I booked my tickets to Pondicherry, everyone that I told I was going to this city would inevitably say ‘Wow I always wanted to go to Pondicherry’! Well, I am here and its a pretty lovely place! Its a quaint town as I had pictured with a mix of people. There are foreigners, some tourists and the tamil populace. Along with these when staying in and around the picturesque Promenade beach area we get to see lot of old folk who have settled here at the Aurobindo Ashram.
My first exposure to Pondicherry is from my aunts tales about the Aurobindo Ashram. So before I came here I was already aware that the town is integrated with the Aurobindo Ashram or maybe the other way around. Its quite a small area that seems like the posher section of the whole city where every third building is a Aurobindo Ashram dining hall or samadhi or playground or information bureau etc.. For me this adds a great touch to the place as it gives a very ‘safe and holistic’ aura around it. Just yesterday I was sitting outside on the footpath of the samadhi since it was closed for a group meditation and felt part of the small devoted community.
The beach area is not a sandy stretch where one can dip their feet in the salty water. Instead its like a small Marine drive of Mumbai. Small because its less than 2km while Marine Drive is a lot longer stretch. Its a stoned promenade where folk can sit, have snacks from the roadside vendors, take a walk and tan themselves. Watching the mix of people walking in the mornings and evening itself is quite amazing. Just today I noticed a foreigner who only walks backwards. Yes you heard me right he walks backwards to and fro for a while. So these sort of funny occurences seem part of daily Promenade life. On saturdays and sundays there is loud tamil music blaring and giving it an appearance of a mela – but with lesser crowds thus keeping it enjoyable!
The sea is a beautiful blue with small boats going about on their fishing chores across the horizons. Every morning as the sun rises from the Sea its a testiment for a western coast settler like myself that I am now on the Eastern Coast of India. Definitely a place to visit!
The place to stay if not on a budget are sea-facing rooms at the Sea Side Guest House or The Retreat. They are in the range of 1200 for a single room, 2200 for Double suite. They are affiliated to the Ashram and thus affordable and yet luxurious. There are also a few hotels like Promenade but they are a lot more expensive. There are also budget accommodations like The International Guest House, Cottage Guest House and Park Guest House. Apart from these many other guest houses found every nook and corner of the place.
I have heard the french cuisine is good but its all non-veg so in the vegetarian section there are a few restaurants like Surguru, Adyar Anand Bhavan and Cottage restaurant. Apart from the Ashram dining passes are available for those staying at ashram guest houses mentioned above. These passes are very reasonable but the food is a bit repititive though wholesome.
Rickshaws seem main mode of transprt – very expensive. Again they don’t come via meter and fares are easily 50+. Moped and bicycles are available on hire.