I recently managed an escape to a destination I had long awaited to visit. Being a resident near the west coast of India, I had always felt a curiosity to see the east coast and how was it different from the ones I am used to in Maharashtra and Goa.
So I booked my tickets to Pondicherry and squeezed 3 nights and 4 days to explore the place and quench my curiosity. Here is what I saw.
Pondicherry liquor saves lots of money.
One of the first things I was told was that main attraction of Pondicherry is its cheap liquor. I come from Maharashtra, and buying liquor over here makes you feel poorer instantly. In Pondicherry buying liquor is uplifting emotionally. You feel rich ordering fancy stuff. The prices are as much as half compared to Maharashtra at least. Don’t go overboard with it though ! You’ll miss out on a lot if you keep snoozing the rest of the day.
Mikasa hostel is the best backpacker place to stay.
This is a recently opened property. It’s beautifully made and very spacious. The vibes are super chill. The people who run the place, Christopher and Vicky are very friendly and helpful. One can be informal around the whole property, smoke and drink with reasonable responsibility almost everywhere. Enjoy card and board games. Binge on Netflix on a big projector screen. Or just snuggle up in your air-conditioned dorm and read a book.
The terrace is the gathering place for all guests and that is where I spent all my evenings and most mornings.
The kitchen is well equipped. Bathrooms are functional and clean. There is hot water always. They rent towels too at 30 bucks a day. They give a good deal to rent a scooter also. 300-350 rs for 24 hrs compared to 350-450 rs elsewhere for 12 hrs.
In general, it’s much less fussy to stay here. Dorms are rs.699 a night.
The white town is totally worth its hype.
The white town or the old French colony has been beautifully preserved and restored. Some of the new resorts have also been constructed in the same fashion. I really enjoyed the architecture, the neat and clean streets, and couldn’t click enough pictures of picture-perfect facades, doors especially. It makes for a perfect locale of a romantic photo shoot.
Cafe des art is a must visit for its old-school feel and tasty food.
The rock beach is the heart of the town.
As you meander in the streets of the White town, eventually you’ll reach the sea from one of the lanes and land on the Rock beach promenade. This is where all the action happens in Pondy. It’s an approximately 1.5km stretch facing the bay of Bengal. It’s wide, smoothly paved and enough space to accommodate the weekend rush.
Ironically, it is not lined by street food vendors, and smoking/ drinking is not allowed. So it’s a great opportunity to catch some sea breeze, sip filter coffee, have European cuisine overlooking the sea, visit the art gallery, get a live sketch made, catch some free cultural shows, or just generally wander about.
Don’t miss the snacks at Auro bakery. It’s pocket-friendly. Food is good and healthy.
Visit the Aurobindo ashram art gallery. It is a not for sale art gallery exhibiting work from past students of Aurobindo Ashram. Some of the paintings are as much as 60 to 70 years old.
Have a taste of the good life at the Promenade hotel, facing the sea.
Pocket-friendly sea view can be enjoyed from Le Cafe right in the middle of Promenade. It is also a good source of information about activities happening all over town. They have a notice board to put up adverts from various parties and gigs happening in the vicinity. Also, there is a free guided heritage walk in the evening at 4 pm.
Matrimandir and Auroville are a little overrated.
I went as a visitor to Matrimandir and Auroville, perhaps that is why I came less than impressed. As you enter the Auroville complex, you are introduced to the concept of Auroville via various poster along the walkway. Auroville was founded with the aim of symbolizing international unity and creating a place where children could grow up and families live without the dominance of a single government or economy.
But, essentially it has been reduced to a tourist attraction and a meditation centre cum resort. Not many families living in Auroville. It is beyond the reach of average Indian. As a visitor one can enjoy the limited view of Matrimandir from far away. Besides that, there are some vegan cafes and boutique shops. There is an exhibition where one can see the conception of Auroville and inside pictures of Matrimandir. There is also an audio-visual session if one wishes to see.
The best way to experience Auroville is to live there, in their resort for a short-term ( rs. 1400/night I was told) or become a volunteer.
Pondicherry is known for its surfing waves, unlike Maharashtra beaches. So if you have never tried surfing, like me, I would strongly recommend doing it.
Kallialay is the best surfing school in Pondy and is situated on Serenity beach. you will have to book a session one day prior and a minimum is rs.1500 per session of 90 mins.
Be warned that as a rookie surfer, it is not all fun and games. Those few seconds of addictive adrenaline rush of standing on the surfboard and riding a wave comes after hours of bruising and falling in the water, and tons of salt and sand in your stomach. These guys take their job seriously and do their best to teach you. Absolutely must do…!
Some random useful info:
I booked the hostel via Hostelworl android app. Rarely google search can also give you a better price.
Zomato and Swiggy work well in Pondy and can help you decide a place to go to. Zomato though is not very reliable. For eg, The story teller’s bar in Promenade hotel is highly rated but was actually empty and expensive. So, ask the locals. They are very helpful.
Don’t haggle with the auto rickshaw fellows, it’s not worth the effort.
Beef is easily available in Pondicherry. Go to a place called ‘Boston Cafe‘ for it on Mission St.
Thanks for dropping by.
What’s your recent travel story?