Hey friends, thanks for checking out my latest blog on Pondicherry.
It was an unplanned visit to the quaint city of Pondicherry located in southern India, but I am sure you will fall in love with the journey and experience which I am going to share with you.
22 Nov -Wednesday-2017
Departure to Pondicherry Via Delhi
I was booked on Air India 439 at 6:05 am at Indira Gandhi International Airport (Terminal 3). As it was an early morning flight and departure gates close 45 mins prior to the departure, it’s always advisable to reach airport at-least two hours in advance.
So I booked my cab with Ola for 3:45 AM on 22 November 2017, and as usual they arrived on time and I left my house at 3:47 am, I am usually punctual!!!! I also got packed some healthy breakfast, poha, prepared by my beloved wife. a word of advice, do make it a habit to carry some homemade food to avoid eating unhealthy and expensive junk food, especially inside the airport complex where everything goes four times its original cost. Although, still if you want to have some lip-smacking stuff at the airport you will find many options.
You must be wondering domestic flight at 6:05 am is too early and hectic, but as you know,“to earn something, you have to lose something”. The reason, I hate getting stuck in traffic and miss flight, hence I always prefer early morning flights. And, guess what? some early morning flights are international connecting flights.
The point is, one can reach the airport on time without hassle and enjoy the comfort of International flight.
I was lucky to be on Air India Dreamliner 738. It’s a beast with beauty.
I reached Indira Gandhi International Airport (Terminal 3) by 4:20 am (quite early ), hardly found any traffic en route to the airport. Although I have been to Terminal 3 many times in past, each time GMR surprises me with the latest offering and services for the passenger, it feels privileged to be at T3.
If coming by your own car, disembark the car soon and do not block the main road.
The terminal is huge and has everything to take care of you, until the time you fly.
So, let me give a brief about the offerings available at the airport before check-in counters.
- Coffee shops – Cafe Coffee Day
- Self-check-in kiosk
- Weighing machine
- Forex counters – Thomas cook
- Ticketing Counters – Respective Airlines
- Snack counters
Once my check-in was done at Air India Counter, I headed towards the Departures.
At T3, the movement to any area is easy, airports have highly trained CISF officials always ready to help and assist you. Other staff is also courteous. Airport also has proper signage at all places. I assure you, you can’t get lost here.
Surprises, fun, leisure, & shopping, have it all at the domestic departure area at T3.
- WH Smith
- Metro shoes
- Marks & Spencers
- Costa Coffee
- Satya Paul
- Apollo Pharmacy
- Electronics shop
If you are hungry, you have many restaurants in Delhi Airport Terminal 3 area.
- Pizza Hut
- Costa Coffee
- Cream Bell Ice-cream
On the way to the boarding gate, I found a paradise for the smokers.
- Cigarette shop & Dedicated smoking zone.
After walking further, I reached the boarding gate but as I was early, airlines were yet to call passengers for boarding, so I decided to doze off (obviously aware not to miss my flight).
For the comfort of passengers, recliners are available close to all boarding gates.
Then, I boarded my flight AI 439.
My flight reached Chennai International Airport by 8:30 am and it took 2:5 Hrs to reach Chennai from Delhi.
Although Chennai Airport is new, it is not at par with Delhi International Airport in any aspect. The airport is smaller as compared to Delhi Airport, but don’t worry that would be more than enough to serve you. Once you enter the terminal, you will be welcomed at the sight of beautiful wall paintings and artifacts in the airport arrival area.
Also, there are few options for sweets & coffee:
- Krishna Sweets
- Coffee Box
Services available at the Chennai airport.
- Madras Cafe
- Sangeetha Restaurant
- Cab Booking Counters
- Airlines Counter
If you are on a budget trip, you can also find the local train station opposite to the airport & the newly launched metro for commuting in Chennai city.
I was heading to Pondicherry, and so, I decided to take a cab to main bus terminal CMBT (Koyambedu). To get the Bus for Pondicherry
It was a tiring journey, I was stuck in traffic in Chennai city and reached CMBT in one-hour-and-ten-min. But thanks to my driver, who was a really funny guy and a great help, he saved the day with his anecdotes.
CMBT (Koyambedu) is the main bus station in Chennai and many domestic and international tourist board buses from here.
“I was deeply disappointed to see the state of sanitation of the place. Bathrooms & urinals were in poor state. If you are using the facilities, you are putting your health at stake. Also, it was in the same state back in the year 2010, 2011, and 2012, while I was living in Chennai. Still no sight of positive change.
After this unpleasant experience, I decided to share my feedback with the authorities. Later, I boarded the Tamil Nadu State Road Transportation express bus to Pondicherry.
It took the bus more than an hour to reach the ECR (East Coast Road; the highway to Pondicherry) road moving through busy roads of Chennai. Before I go further, let me first share the details about the ECR.
ECR or East Coast Road is one of the most scenic roads I have ever journeyed through in my life. Splendid views of the majestic Bay of Bengal along the Indian coastline followed by beautiful trees and clean golden beaches is a delightful sight. Anyone living in concrete metros would surely love this scenic route. ECR is not a road rather a dream, which stretches around 150 km and here you can feel close to nature. Sponsored by the Centre and the World Bank, this road is a straight stretch without any turns and twist. I would suggest you take a self-drive or a chauffeur-driven car if not low on budget to explore the beautiful stretch of highway at your own sweet pace.
I remember the time when I was in Pondicherry, during 2010 to 2013, I used to enjoy traveling along the highway. The air was cooler and cleaner then, free of dust and pollution, unlike other bustling cities. Aroma of the sea, the flora, and fauna around the coastline overwhelmed every time I traveled.
But sadly at present, the entire stretch starting from Chennai to Mamallapuram (en route to Pondicherry) which is approx. 70 km has turned into residential, commercial places, to provide the elite, opportunities to be close to nature. But this change is not good, and this time as a tourist, I was not welcomed to the serene views, rather high rise buildings and resorts awaited.
I was disappointed at the start until I reached Mahabalipuram. I was glad to find the same beauty I was looking for in the remaining journey to Pondicherry, from Mahabalipuram. Reminiscing the same old days – green and quaint.
There is a number of sightseeing & accommodation options available on the East Coast Road.
- Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay
- Grande Bay Resort And Spa
- Chariot Beach Resort
- Ideal Beach Resort
- Silversands Beach Resort
- Tun L hotel house boat Resorts-Restaurant-Hotel-Mamallapuram
- Green Woods Beach Resort
- InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort
- TTDC Hotel Mamallapuram
- Joe Beac
I am sure the above information will be very helpful in deciding your itinerary. Although all this is not on my itinerary, you can still use the details for your upcoming trips.
On the way to Pondicherry city, you will find the Pondicherry Central University on your right.
Pondicherry Central University is an institution of higher education; its lush green campus spread across 700 acres is worth visiting. University is rated ‘A’ by NAAC and offer a plethora of courses of your interest. It is a Central University fully funded by the government of India. Noteworthy is the infrastructure and environment offered by the university. The best thing about the university is the fee which minimal, and the faculty staff there.
From Pondicherry Central University, it will take about 20 minutes to reach Pondicherry City. A little ahead on the way, you will see the global city of Auroville.
The bus took about 4.5 long Hrs to reach Pondicherry City, which I could have covered in mere 3-3.5 Hrs had I boarded the bus that to my luck was unavailable at that time. I was really disappointed because I was in Chennai at 8.30 am and reached Pondicherry city around 3:45 Hrs, including my transportation time, Airport to CMBT and then to Pondicherry.
I shared my disappointment with the conductor, then he revealed the bus has speed regulator, and therefore he cannot drive more than the speed of 50 km per hr. The Express bus makes lots of stops in Chennai city and east coast road.
After this experience, my advice would be that you take a Volvo and check the timing from the below website. Volvo bus makes few stops in Chennai and no halts on ECR and it does not have a speed regulator. Volvo bus will take 3 hrs but it cost 200 INR per passenger almost 3 times the charge of the express bus.
Once I reached Pondicherry, I hired an auto to reach my Hotel.
On this trip, I stayed in four different properties/accommodations.
- Anandha Inn
- Lotus Comfort
- Treebo South Avenue
- Treebo Red Lotus
Best among them was Treebo South Avenue Premium Room.
After a long tiring journey, I preferred to take rest and made plans for the next day.
I rented a Bike from @300 INR/per day.
I chose Fazer 150CC bike, which was relatively new, as to the other options, and also was in a good condition. I decided to go for it as the ride quality was superb
Let me share some important info on local transport in Pondicherry.
There are few local transportation options available, although it is sufficient to travel in the city.
Buses are operated by Pondicherry state road transportation and the private operator. You can use them if you are on low-budget and on long holidays to Pondicherry. The bus stop is located close to the Pondicherry Police Station.
Autorickshaws here generally don’t go by meter-reading and charge you exorbitantly. Minimum fare is 50 INR.
Use it as the last mode of transportation. You will find auto available at all major places.
Private Cab :
If you are in a group and want to travel to other places in and around Pondicherry such as Auroville, Paradise Beach, Gingee Fort, etc., then I advise is to hire private cabs.
You can book through local operators in Pondy city or via your Hotel.
Famous Travel agent: Chetak travel and tours.
Hire a Bike: You can hire a bike from Mission street.
This is my favorite and most economical means of commuting in Pondicherry. It offers you to choose your ride and provides complete flexibility in all aspects. Trust me you will love this option, especially when you are riding in the evening when the weather is pleasant and the cool breeze gently brushes your hair.
My Itinerary for this trip :
I started my journey with a visit to the Pondicherry University, it is one of the best central universities in India, it offers courses with access to world-class education at very minimum cost with very good infrastructure. It’s worth considering. Located close to Kalapet with pollution free environment.
University offers best in class infrastructure & facilities. Hostels are also available for the students and scholars with mess facilities on campus. University offers high-speed internet through Wi-Fi to all students, and the campus has its own transportation system consisting of bus, cycle and battery cart.
University also has a department of South Asian Studies sponsored by SAARC Countries. Students from different SAARC countries travel to Pondicherry for study purpose. Its campus is like mini India, you have students from most of the states.which offers students global and national exposure and prepare them to work in all conditions and place.University offers free education & food for the disabled students.
Some of the departments at the University
- School of Management
- School of Arts
- School of Language
- School Social Sciences
- School of Food Technology
- School of Physical education
- School of Psychology
- School of Law
- School of Earth Sciences
- School of Mass Media
- School of Electronic Media
- School of South Asian Studies
- School of Sanskrit
- School of Hindi
- School of Fine Arts
Courses which can be pursued.
Some of the images for the university are below.
I also met with Professors of Tourism department & Dean of Management Dept.
Dr. G Anjanaya Swami (Dean School of Management)
Dr. Venkata Rao
PhD Scholar Abinash Jha
Day2: Shopping Places in Pondicherry
I dedicated this day to shopping.
Although Pondicherry is a small union territory, it offers plenty of options for shopaholics. I’m sure you will not be disappointed. From modern to traditional and ethnic, they have it all. Being on a low budget, I did not shop much but explored a lot to help my readers. So let me take you through the streets of Pondicherry.
There are many local and branded retail showrooms available in Pondicherry. As Pondicherry was a French colony once, you’ll see a rich influence of French culture in the city. Find architectures, streets, houses and other delightful sights, influenced by French and Tamil culture. Some of the famous outlets at Pondicherry that I visited.
Ladies wear shopping at Pondicherry :
- Pothys in Anna Salai
- Rajendra’s at JN street
- Aurelia at Mission Street
- Kalki at Mission street
- Casablanca at Mission Street
- Local Shops at Gandhi Bazaar
- Local Shops at Anna Salai
Souvenir Shopping at Pondicherry:
Pondicherry is famous for Aurobindo Ashram, beaches, French culture & Beaches.
I suggest you buy souvenirs from Aurobindo Ashram outlets as they employ local people to make unique hand-made products. This, in turn, helps the employees support their families.
Places to get good souvenirs from.
- Auro at Goubert Street
- Vak at Jawaharlal Nehru street
- Visitor centre in Auroville
They have a wide array of souvenirs:
- Incense stick
- Photo frames
- Handmade paper
I picked three things from here
- Two T-shirts (Off Beat)
- One Coffee Mug
Gold shopping at Pondicherry
Tamils like to wear gold unlike in north India, in Tamil Nadu woman with below average income also wears gold ornaments & it’s part of their tradition. So you will find all top gold retail brands in Pondicherry. You should visit few of them. They offer beautiful designs.
Some of the top jewelry brand showrooms in Pondicherry:
- Kalyan Jewellers at Kamraj Salai
- Joyalukkas at Anna Salai
- GRT jewellers at Kamraj Salai
- Lakshmi Jewellers at Kosakada Street
- Tanishq at Mission Street
Craft Bazaar at Pondicherry
There is local craft bazaar close to Goubert street, here you can find good handmade leathers products at reasonable price. Also find stone made souvenirs. I personally liked only 2 variety of products, still you can have look at other products also. Make sure you bargain before you pay.
Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper at Pondicherry:
It is a handmade factory at Patel Salai road in Pondicherry. Here, you can buy handmade paper items, it makes for a great gifting option. Also, they conduct the factory tour with a minimum guarantee of five guests, which need to be booked in advance. Photography is prohibited at the factory, so don’t expect any photo opportunity. Admission to the factory is free, so visit this place and buy something for your special one.
I somehow managed to get one .
Last but not the least, every corner in Pondicherry city offers something special. Just hop on your bike and set to explore on your own.
Day 3: Exploring Auroville in Pondicherry
Tourist generally visits Auroville for Mantri Mandir (Golden Globe), but I wanted to explore other areas, wanted to understand the way of life of the community and other facilities available for them in Auroville.
Once I entered Auroville, I found the area to be distinct, surrounded by nature at its best. The best aspect about Auroville is a balance between nature and the modern world. You have it all in the lap of nature. It is a place where I wanted to settle right away once I entered core area.
I could see people from different nationalities in Auroville, it was not like India, and I felt as if I’m in a different country. Children were playing sports in a park close by. All seemed to be very sensitive to nature. People use a bicycle in large to commute.
Truly inspirational visit and we must learn from the residents of Auroville, how they respect the nature and take care of it without disturbing the balance.
I visited various places in Auroville:
- Auro Dam & Nandam
- Visitor Centre
- International Guest House
- Savitri Bhawan
- Solitude Farm Cafe
- Bharat Niwas
- Dreamer Cafe
Let me introduce you to AUROVILLE CITY.
What is Auroville?
Auroville is a universal township in the making for a population of up to 50,000 people from around the world.
How did Auroville begin?
The concept of Auroville – an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity – came to the Mother as early as the 1930’s. In the mid 1960’s the concept was developed and put before the Govt. of India, who gave their backing and took it to the General Assembly of UNESCO. In 1966 UNESCOpassed a unanimous resolution commending it as a project of importance to the future of humanity, thereby giving their full encouragement.
The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity – in diversity. Today Auroville is recognised as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness, also concerned with – and practically researching into – sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.
When did Auroville start?
On 28th February 1968 some 5,000 people assembled near the banyan tree at the centre of the future township for an inauguration ceremony attended by representatives of 124 nations, including all the States of India. The representatives brought with them some soil from their homeland, to be mixed in a white marble- clad, lotus-shaped urn, now sited at the focal point of the Amphitheatre. At the same time the Mother gave Auroville its 4-point Charter.
Where is Auroville?
Auroville is located in south India, mostly in the State of Tamil Nadu (some parts are in the State of Puducherry), a few kilometres inland from the Coromandel Coast, approx 150 km south of Chennai (previously Madras) and 10 km3 north of the town of Puducherry.
Who are the Aurovilians?
They come from some 49 nations, from all age groups (from infancy to over eighty, averaging around 30), from all social classes, backgrounds and cultures, representing humanity as a whole. The population of the township is constantly growing, but currently stands at around 2,500 people, of whom approx one-third are Indian.
Overview of the city plan
The city layout
At the centre of the township lies the Peace Area, comprising the Matrimandir and its gardens, the amphitheatre with the Urn of Human Unity that contains the soil of 121 nations and 23 Indian states, and the project of a lake to help create an atmosphere of calm and serenity and to serve as a groundwater recharge area.
A 109-hectare area to the north of the Peace Area, the Industrial Zone, a zone for “green” industries, is focused on Auroville’s efforts towards a self-supporting township. It will contain small and medium-scale industries, training centres, arts and crafts, and the city’s administration.
The largest of the four city zones, comprising of 189 hectares, the Residential Zone is bordered by parks on the north, south and west. Main access to the zone will be through the crown road with further traffic distribution via five radial roads that divide the zone into sectors of increasing densities. This zone wants to provide a well-adjusted habitat between individual and collective living. 55% of the area will be green and only 45% built surface, thereby creating an urban density balanced by nature.
The International Zone, a zone of 74 hectares to the west of the Peace Area, will host national and cultural pavilions, grouped by continents. Its central focus is to create a living demonstration of human unity in diversity through the expression of the genius and contribution of each nation to humanity
Planned on a 93-hectare area, situated to the east of the Peace Area, the Cultural Zone will be a site for applied research in education and artistic expression. Facilities for cultural, educational, art and sports activities will be located in this zone.
The city area with a radius of 1.25 km will be surrounded by a Green Belt of 1.25 km width. As a zone for organic farms, dairies, orchards, forests, and wildlife areas, this belt will act as a barrier against urban encroachment, provide a variety of habitats for wildlife, and serve as a source for food, timber, medicines etc. and as a place for recreation.
Presently an area of 405 hectares, the Green Belt – though incomplete – stands as an example of successful transformation of wasteland into a vibrant eco-system. Its further planned extension with an additional 800 hectares will make it into a remarkable demonstration site for soil and water conservation, ground water recharge, and environmental restoration. As lungs for the entire township, it will complete the healing process that Auroville started several decades ago.
Reference : https://www.auroville.org
Day4: City Tour of Pondicherry;
Pondicherry must be a small city but it has immense to offer to its visitors. So on my final day of the tour, I decided to explore the city on my own, so I hopped on my bike and started my day.
I went to Goubert street or promenade beach area, the promenade was clean and beautiful. You can sit back and relax as long as you want. But I preferred to sip a cup of coffee and relax, so I went to Le cafe located right on the promenade.
It was an amazing experience and perfect for a date, unfortunately, I was traveling alone and missed my wife. So if you are at promenade make sure you enjoy the moment. After amazing views of the Bay of Bengal, not far from the beach, I decided to visit the Manakula Vinayagar Temple for the blessings of Lord Ganesha, it took me 6 minutes to reach the temple from Goubert street.
Manakula Vinayagar Temple
Manakula Vinayagar Temple is a Hindu temple in Pondicherry. Dedicated to Lord Ganesha, it is a popular pilgrimage site and tourist destination in Puducherry. The temple is of considerable antiquity and predates French occupation of the territory. During the tenure of Dupleix, there were attempts to destroy the temple, but it was spared owing to strong protests from the Hindu population and the threat of British and Maratha invasion of the territory.
The best part about the temple is you get blessings from the holy female elephant from her trunk; she is famous and is called Lakshmi by devotees. You can also buy flowers and other offerings for the god from the local shops located just outside the temple.
My next stop in Pondicherry city was Governor House, which was only three mins away from the temple.
Governor house is the official residence of the governor of Pondicherry. Kiran Bedi, the first Indian woman IPS officer, is currently Governor of Pondicherry. Due to security reasons, I was not permitted entry inside the governor house. But I was happy to take a picture of the building from outside. After this, I decided to have some food so I visited Richy Rich at JN street.
Visit Richy Rich Pondicherry
Richy Rich is one of the best ice cream parlors in the city. It offers end number of ice cream options and the best place for small kids to enjoy the sweet flavors. They also offer a variety of other items such as Pizza, Burgers, Pasta, etc. The best part is variety, quality, and price. It is not less than any branded store. I highly recommended a visit if traveling to Pondicherry with family. It’s located on JN street opposite to the police state and close to A2B. I ordered Hot Chocolate fudge and small cheese pizza; both were great in taste and I loved it!!!
After satisfying my sweet tooth, I headed toward Aurobindo Ashram.
Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry
If you are in Pondicherry you can’t miss a visit to Ashram; I myself believe in the teachings of Sri Aurobindo .
Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual community (ashram) located in Pondicherry town. The ashram grew out of a small community of disciples who had gathered around Sri Aurobindo after he retired from politics and settled in Pondicherry in 1910. On 24 November, 1926, after a major spiritual realization, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from public view in order to continue his spiritual work. At this time, he handed over the full responsibility for the inner and outer lives of the sadhaks (spiritual aspirants) and the ashram to his spiritual collaborator, “the Mother”, earlier known as Mirra Alfassa. The date is therefore generally known as the founding-day of the ashram, though, as Sri Aurobindo himself wrote, it had “less been created than grown around him as its centre.
After my half day City tour of Pondicherry, I headed towards my Hotel to rest and relax.
Departure from Pondicherry:
Finally the day arrived that I wished never came, D day. After having breakfast at the Hotel, I was waiting at the lobby, when I was surprised by one of my friend visiting me at the Hotel, it was Mr Avinash Jha – PHD scholar from Dept. of Tourism Pondicherry University, he was here to say goodbye to me.
To make it more exciting he dropped me to Pondicherry Bus Stand on his bike, I felt nostalgic for the days when I was a student at Pondicherry University. Life seems to be the same here in Pondicherry, as it used to be then, but it’s not the same back in Delhi.
Due to my worst experience with Express Bus initially, when I came, I was sure to board the Volvo this time in return.
Volvo Bus at Pondicherry Bus stand.Volvo bus runs on specific time slots, in the morning and afternoon, and it’s quite reasonable at 200 INR per passenger.This time, instead of ECR way, I took the bypass route Volvo Bus from Pondicherry to Chennai – Perungalathur Station, which is the fastest way to reach the airport on return. I boarded the bus at 2.00 pm and reached Perungalathur Station by 4:40 pm. To reach the airport is not that easy as we have to change our ride and book local transport so, I booked a cab from Ola to Meenambakkam International Airport Chennai, it took driver around 30 min and I was at the airport around 5:45 pm.
I thoroughly enjoyed my journey and the weather at the airport was awesome too. By the time I reached the airport, I was hungry, so I went to the Departure area (Outside, but not inside the terminal) to find some good options. It’s a known fact that prices of items inside the terminal are sky high, but unfortunately, the case outside the departure is the same (All stalls are charge very high prices)
Offering from :
- Sangeetha Veg
- Cafe Coffee Day
- Coffee Box
Some of the Options you have outside the Departure and Arrival Area
But I found the way out to satisfy my hunger at minimal cost, I discovered the Canteen of the Airport Authority of India located at the extreme left of the arrival gates. You can take help from CISF or Airport staff in locating the canteen and to my approval, the prices here are very reasonable as compared to others.
After enjoying a good meal I took the elevator from Arrival and went back to Departure gates around 6.45 PM. I presented my Air ticket and local ID to the CISF official at the Departure terminal entrance gate and he allowed me in.
I went directly to my airline counter and they advised me to get the luggage scanned from airline baggage scanning machine, so I went, got the same done, then went back to the airline counter, and the counter staff asked for my boarding and ID again, to check in my baggage and issue me my boarding pass. It took around 3 mins to do so and security check was left to reach the passenger waiting area. As my flight was at 9.45 pm, so rather crossing security, I decided to explore the airport departure area from inside.
Some of the food options available in Departure entrance area are:
- Juice Baar
- Chat Wala
- Cookie Man
- Cafe Coffee Day
Surprise.. Surprise.. Thanks to Deputy Chief Minister of the state.
Something special was still pending I believe, I met Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu(O paneerselvam sir) at Cafe Coffee Day and I must appreciate him for his simplicity. At my request, he posed with me for a photograph.
In return flight i was booked on Jetairways and indeed it’s far better than our very own Maharaja (Air India ) in all aspects.
Once i reached Delhi i must admit Delhi Airport is the best , it offer a world to you.
It is one of my best trips and with your support and love , i wish to share more insights about other places as well.