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Old 8th July 2014, 12:45   #1
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Default A blissful 4 days at Pondicherry

A blissful 4 days at Pondicherry

We started planning for our 8th wedding anniversary outing and the obvious two places came to mind were, Goa and Mahabaleshwar. But, both these places are so common and we have been there multiple times, so we ruled them out and started searching out for a new destination this time.

I came across a thread in Team-BHP regarding a road trip to Pondicherry. I read about the place and finalized the place. Then started r&d regarding all the logistics, travel, hotels, food etc.

Location in perspective. Not exactly the route we followed, as we flew to Chennai. Just putting it here for reference.

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It is too far to do a road trip to Pondicherry from Pune, so booked flights to Chennai and then by road to Pondy. I have had good experience with Indigo airways in the past, hence booked the return journey with Indigo again. Booked cabs from home to Pune Airport and from Chennai Airport to the Hotel in Pondicherry, all online. Life is so easy with Google and the likes.

For cabs in Pune, we booked WINGS Radio cabs, due to our fantastic pas experiences with them. Now you can book online at http://www.wingsradiocabs.com/. No need to give them a call or no need of any follow up whatsoever. Once you receive the booking ID, your booking is confirmed. We received driver details around 12 hours before the journey.

For the cab from Chennai to Pondy, we booked cabs from 'http://pondicherrytaxi.com/'. These people gave us the best rates of most cab companies in Chennai and Pondy.

We finalized on the hotel "Palais De Mahe" (http://www.cghearth.com/palaisdemahe), based on the reviews everywhere (tripadvisor, hotels.com and all websites and blogs). The hotel was ranked # 1 on all sites and blogs and it really is ! Due to off season, we got great rates and we paid up 50% amount in advance.

Day 1: Pune - Chennai - Pondicherry

We had asked to the Wings cab to pick us up at 3:45 AM, as the flight time was 5:55 AM. The cab was waiting for us at the gate of the society at 3:45 AM sharp. Impressed ! We reached the airport at 4:20 AM, very much on time. The check-in was smooth. Indigo announced boarding at 5:20 AM and we were seated in the plane by 5:30 AM.

It was my daughter's (5 years old) first ever flight, so she was totally excited. She grabbed the window seat, eagerly waiting for the flight to take off. The flight took off 10 minutes before time, at 5:45 AM. Kudos to Indigo !

We landed at Chennai airport at the expected time. I got a call from the cab driver of Pondicherrytaxi.com, who was tracking the flight. We checked out and the cab, an Indigo(Tata) again, arrived at the arrival gate # 2.

The journey to Pondicherry through the ECR (East Coast Route) was estimated to take around 3 hours. 70% of the route is very nice as it runs parallel to the coast. The driver stopped at a road-side restaurant around half-way between Chennai and Pondy. We were sceptical about the hygiene and quality of the food at this place. But the restaurant was decent and served nice and hot dosas and filter coffee. Welcome to South India!

We reached our hotel at around 11:30 AM. The hotel staff greeted us with small garlands and a welcome drink, which is a local favourite. The manager explained a few things about the hotel and then started talking about Pondicherry. This is the first time in my travel history, that a hotel manager explained, advised and suggested a lot of useful and good things-to-do around the town. He also pulled out a map of Pondicherry, which had the hotel marked clearly on it. Pondicherry that way is a pretty small town.

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Pondicherry town is actually part of PUDUCHERRY, which consists of 3 more towns besides Pondicherry. The Pondicherry town is divided into two parts, White Colony and Indian colony. White colony has all French style houses and all the heritage buildings. Whereas Indian colony is...well...Indian colony. Our hotel was part of the white colony and very close to the Promenade, the main attraction of Pondicherry.

Honestly, once you spend some time in the White colony, you don't feel like going into the Indian colony at all. I am not against India or anything, but as a tourist I anyday prefer the white colony. The roads are clean, the houses and hotels are beautiful and overall you get a nice peaceful environment to roam around.

The Hotel - Palais De Mahe

What can I say! Truly beautiful place. The hotel is a heritage type of hotel, with French influence in everything, be it the construction, decoration, room designs, corridors, and the food menu. I have not stayed in a bigger room than this one. It was a gigantic room with gigantic doors, windows and bed. Ultra spacious, very well decorated, airy, with all basic amenities and a mini bar. The rooms are so big that each one has 2 big ACs in it. We got the room on the top most floor and at the extreme corner. So it was calm and quiet all the time, with an excellent breeze from the sea served 24x7.

"Welcome to Hotel Palais De Mahe"

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The corridor

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Reception

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The room

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The room

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Room entrance

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Window

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View of the pool from our room

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View of the pool from the restaurant

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Top floor corridor

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Our room - exterior

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View from the restaurant

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Last edited by ajay_satpute : 9th July 2014 at 13:51.
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Old 8th July 2014, 16:06   #2
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Day 1- continued

After a nice lunch, we started on a walk around the place. The plan was to visit the Bharathi Park and then spend the evening at the Promenade.

Jawaharlal Nehru statue at the entrance of Bharathi park

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Inside the park

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Light house adjacent to the park

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The Promenade

Promenade-dictionary meaning for those who may not be aware of. Rest, please ignore.
a paved public walk, typically one along the seafront at a resort.

So as the defintion says, the promenade at Pondicherry is exactly what it should be. A beautiful straight road alongside the sea coast paved immaculately. The best thing about the promenade:- The promenade road is closed to vehicles each day from 6 PM in the evening until 7:30 AM in the morning next day. Its a pleasure to walk on the promenade during this time without the fear of vehicles passing by or kids running haywire. Kids love it and so do the parents. Walk anywhere...sit anywhere...take photos from any positions on the road which you can't when vehicles are flying by.

The entire stretch of the promenade has only one proper restaurant called La Cafe which runs 24x7 it seems. It serves all kinds of snacks and drinks and is bang on the coast and facing the sea. You get nice sea breeze at the cafe, while enjoying your snacks.

After the snacks at La Cafe, we went and sat on the rocks near the sea for hours enjoying the fantastic view and wind.

Mahatma Gandhi statue at one end of promenade

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Rest of the promenade

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Promenade at night

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There is a Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial on the promenade. It is nicely done with nice fountains and good lights.

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Last edited by ajay_satpute : 8th July 2014 at 16:11.
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Old 8th July 2014, 16:44   #3
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Day 2

After our tiring experience of walking around in very humid conditions, we decided to rent a bike, which is very common in Pondicherry. Google returned 4-5 search results, out of which we called up this one.
Krishna Two Wheeler Rent
106, Mission St, Heritage Town, Puducherry, 605001 094 43 768740

His assistant reached our location in next 5 minutes with a Honda Aviator bike. As per the convention, these people ask for 1000/- INR as deposit amount and original identity proof. The rent is 250/- INR per day and you have to rent the bike for at least 2 days. So I gave 1000 Rs cash to the assistant and my PAN card.

After getting the bike in our hands, we started out on a tour of churches in the town. There are plenty of big and beautiful churches in Pondicherry. The first church we visited is called 'Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus'.

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From one church to next church called 'D.O.M. Subinvocatione DOMINA ANGELORUM'

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After the churches, it was the time for a temple. The most famous temple in Pondicherry is the 'Sri Manakula Vinayagar temple'. The temple is most famous because of the presence of a real elephant at the entrance of the temple, which gives you his blessings by placing his trunk on your head. Not only the foreigners, but even the localites are attracted towards this temple because of the elephant. But one thing to note. The elephant is well trained and unless you feed him something, it wont give you his 'blessings'. The elephant is completely under the control of its owner and whatever action it does, are controlled by the owner. The elephant is only present at the temple from 4:30 PM to 6 PM everyday.

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My daughter getting the blessings(?) from the elephant

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After the church and temple tour, we returned back to the hotel and rested for the remaining of the day.

Last edited by ajay_satpute : 9th July 2014 at 11:34.
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Old 9th July 2014, 12:03   #4
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Day 3

A note about the breakfast menu at the hotel 'Palais De Mahe'

They have extremely small breakfast menu.
The buffet table has few things like
1) Muesli
2) Plain corn flakes
3) Chocos
4) Cold milk.
5) Assorted fruits

The actual breakfast menu has 'Egg as per order' and south Indian snacks.

Egg as per order means you can order either. All the omelets can be accompanied with beef, chicken, fried potatoes and fried mushrooms.
1) Boiled eggs
2) Scrambled eggs
3) Plain omelet
4) Masala omelet
5) Sunny side.

South Indian snacks has typical items such as Idili, Medu wada, Dosa, Masala Dosa and Uttappa. You can also order Pancakes with 'Flavour of the day'.

After the sumptuous breakfast, we started towards the Auroville beach, which was about 6 KMs from the hotel. After riding the bike for about 10-15 mins, we reached the beach. The point from where we entered the beach, was full of fishermens' boats, fishing nets, etc. It was kind of fishermans' hub.

The Auroville beach is sloping into the sea, so you gotto be careful while having fun in the water. The water pulls you with force while receding back. However, due to this particular feature, the incoming waves hit the demarcation and get tossed in the air nicely. We spent about 1-1.5 hours on the beach.

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After the beach, we bought swimming costumes on the way to the hotel. Then it was time to chill in the pool.

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For lunch, we decided to go to a place called 'Satsanga' (http://www.satsanga.co.in/). Don't go with the name. The place serves some very good genuine french dishes. We ordered 3 dishes and all were very good. The place was full of french people, who were probably looking for some home-made food taste.

We came back to hotel and took rest till dinner. We had dinner at our hotel's restaurant again. The dishes ordered were 1) Chicken in traditional Mahe style 2) Kerala Fish Curry 3) Exotic Vegetable dish. All dishes were served rice. There was an option of Appam too with most dishes.

After dinner, we went for a nice walk on the promenade. I think the promenade is most enjoyable at night. As I have already mentioned, vehicles are not allowed on the entire promenade from 6 PM to 7:30 AM next day morning. Being Sunday night, there were significant amount of people roaming around the promenade. Typical beach-side shops such as bhel-puri, corns, etc were doing rampant business even at 10 PM. It was really the best time to be at the promenade. We sat on rocks near the coast and the wonderful breeze and the superb sound of the tides hitting the shore was meditating.

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Me and my kiddo

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Some photos of the hotel at night

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Last edited by ajay_satpute : 9th July 2014 at 13:13.
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Old 9th July 2014, 13:28   #5
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Day 4

We had already booked both the cabs, from Pondicherry to Chennai Airport and from Pune Airport to home, with the same cab companies, Pondicherrytaxi.com and Wings Radio cab.

I had asked for Etios for our ride from hotel to Chennai airport. However, at the last moment an Innova was sent. I called up the owner of the cab company and he said that he is happy to send Innova at the cost of the Etios. So either they must be charging high rates basically or due to off season, we got this free upgrade, from Etios to Innova.

The cab reached the hotel on time and we started our return journey, with a tiny bit of sad feeling. Being an Innova and being on the 2nd row seat, the journey to Chennai airport was super comfortable. This time the driver took the other route to airport, called the Grand Souther Trunk road consisting of two parts, first one on NH-66 and 2nd one on NH-45. While going to Pondicherry, I had specifically asked for the ECR route due to its scenic landscapes alongside the entire route. But, it turns out that the SGT route, even though longer, is much faster due to 4 lanes highway with a divider.

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We reached Chennai airport 2 hours before the scheduled flight time. Check-in and security checks were done and then started the wait for the flight. I dont know why in the world the stuff sold at airports is so bloody expensive, even a simple item such as tea, coffee and ice tea. May be the taxes are too high to run a shop at the airport.

My daughter at Chennai ariport, again very excited to board the flight

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Indigo airways impressed us again. All formalities were done and the flight took off about 2-3 minutes past the scheduled time, which is as good as being on time. All the rest of the journey went as planned and we reached home safely, after 4 days of total bliss.

I would highly recommend Pondicherry as a holiday destination to those who have not been there. It is an ideal destination especially in the months of June/July, when its usually raining cats and dogs in the rest of the India and it is peaceful and a little warm in Pondicherry and also it is the off season. All rates are running low, very low and you don't feel the unnecessary rush at the most wanted places around Pondy.

I hope you had as good time reading the blog as I had writing it.

Cheers,
Ajay

Last edited by ajay_satpute : 9th July 2014 at 15:00.
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Old 9th July 2014, 15:26   #6
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 9th July 2014, 15:55   #7
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Nicely written travelogue with great photos. Glad to know that you had a good experience down south !!!

Pondichery is a quick getaway destination for Chennai folks and inspite of having done it multiple times (including a tbhp meet/ride in July2008), I still won't say no to another visit.

As the marketing tagline says, "Come to Pondichery. Give time a break".

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Old 9th July 2014, 19:58   #8
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Nice travelogue Ajay. I had done a roadtrip from Pondicherry from Bangalore via Chennai back in 2004. Attended a friend's wedding in Chennai before taking off to the beach town for a couple of days. The contrast between the French quarter and the "Indian" part of town was something we noticed as well. One thing that struck me about the French quarter was how the streets were so perfectly aligned at right angles (obvious from the map you have attached).

ECR back then was a new road with hardly any traffic: perfectly paved with reflectors to mark the lane separations. These days I hear it is a complete mess.
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Old 9th July 2014, 20:12   #9
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Nicely written travelogue and very descriptive pictures. Thanks! If you don't mind my asking how much was the stay cost/night at the hotel? How was the service?
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Old 10th July 2014, 10:00   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supremeBaleno View Post
Nicely written travelogue with great photos. Glad to know that you had a good experience down south !!!

As the marketing tagline says, "Come to Pondichery. Give time a break".
Thanks and quite agree with the tagline.

Quote:
Originally Posted by noopster View Post
Nice travelogue Ajay. I had done a roadtrip from Pondicherry from Bangalore via Chennai back in 2004. Attended a friend's wedding in Chennai before taking off to the beach town for a couple of days. The contrast between the French quarter and the "Indian" part of town was something we noticed as well.

ECR back then was a new road with hardly any traffic: perfectly paved with reflectors to mark the lane separations. These days I hear it is a complete mess.
Thanks Anoop. ECR, even though scenic, is a mess as you said. Being a single lane road, you really have to be at the edge of your seat while driving or even on the back-seat. Those green coloured local buses haunt you all the way. We did have one very close encounter with this green coloured bus, thank God we are safe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Nicely written travelogue and very descriptive pictures. Thanks! If you don't mind my asking how much was the stay cost/night at the hotel? How was the service?
Thanks. Glad you liked it. Just one word for the hotel...BRILLIANT! Be it the heritage architecture, the rooms, the food and most importantly, excellent customer service. I will PM you the cost of the rooms.

Cheers !
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Old 10th July 2014, 10:26   #11
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Super photographs. You've inspired me to do a part of the shoot of my next music video on the Promenade road
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Old 10th July 2014, 11:21   #12
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Awesome photos! The promenade seems like the place to be in the evening. Having a 3 year old son myself, i can imagine the parents relief at not having to deal with vehicles on the promenade when kids want to run around that perfectly paved road!
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Old 13th July 2014, 16:12   #13
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Nice travelogue Ajay!! I totally agree with the Promenade road getting closed in evening and being a bliss to walk freely. When we went about a year back, we landed on a 2nd Saturday and was privy to a live music concert on the Promenade road. I was told that every 2nd Saturday there is a live concert - not sure if it exists still.

Also, of you had time you could have visited Pichavaram - the only mangrove forests in South India - your little one would have loved it too - maybe next time
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Old 14th July 2014, 10:01   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RevvMusic View Post
Super photographs. You've inspired me to do a part of the shoot of my next music video on the Promenade road
Thanks. Would love to watch the video.

Quote:
Originally Posted by abhinav.s View Post
Awesome photos! The promenade seems like the place to be in the evening. Having a 3 year old son myself, i can imagine the parents relief at not having to deal with vehicles on the promenade when kids want to run around that perfectly paved road!
Thanks Abhinav. Yup, the promenade is THE place to be in the evening. It gives that perfect feeling of a tourist spot which is hassles-free, tension-free place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonblr View Post
Nice travelogue Ajay!! I totally agree with the Promenade road getting closed in evening and being a bliss to walk freely. When we went about a year back, we landed on a 2nd Saturday and was privy to a live music concert on the Promenade road. I was told that every 2nd Saturday there is a live concert - not sure if it exists still.

Also, of you had time you could have visited Pichavaram - the only mangrove forests in South India - your little one would have loved it too - maybe next time
Thanks. I was not aware of Pichavaram. Its not mentioned on most of the blogs, even the top rated ones such as Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, etc.
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Old 17th July 2014, 20:52   #15
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Excellent pictures.
Liked so much the picture of the side-walk vendor woman.
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