While visiting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands a few years back I had made plans to visit Pondicherry on my way back. The connecting flight between Port Blair and Mumbai was via Chennai which is just 150KM away from this little town on the bay of Bengal. Andaman was a visual treat however still something was missing… Maybe the French aura? Unfortunately it didn’t happen then. Nevertheless, I made it in this August.
As soon as one enters the main town one can’t help but notice the colonial villas laid across quiet, sleepy and shady streets. It is a sudden and striking difference as the part of Pondy through which one enters the ‘White town’ has very little Frenchness. It is just like any other south Indian city -fairly populated and noisy.
The grid like main town meets the bay at the promenade. There are a lot of restaurants, villas converted to hotels by the promenade which provide excellent views of the bay of Bengal.
The most interesting thing is that the promenade becomes exclusive to pedestrians around sunset till the next morning.
One cannot drive or park a vehicle on the Goubert avenue (promenade road) post 6 PM. The lack of hawkers, beggars and vehicles make the whole experience very pleasant. One can sit peacefully by the sea and enjoy the view and the music of the waves.
Many think Pondy is eastern version of Goa. However, one should get the facts and expectations checked before visiting Pondy.
- If you are planning to visit this place as just a tourist interested in sightseeing then you can skip it. Pondy is a very tiny town and though you might see a long list of ‘to do’ things on the internet it can all be ‘checked’ in half a day.
- Despite all the Frenchness in it’s architecture and food, it is still a majorly Tamil speaking territory.
- The climate is uber hot and humid most of the year.
- Pondy is a union territory which means Tamilnadu regulations and taxes are not applicable here. Liquor is easily accessible but make sure you don’t carry it out of Pondy. It is not allowed.
I loved my three nights stay at Pondy. Of all the things that I did and experienced, it was the energy that I witnessed on the promenade in the breezy evenings that captivated me. In it’s fancy villas there was still some earthiness that appealed to me. In it’s sleepy streets lined by foliage was peace and calmness that is so missing in the metros.
On the last evening of our visit it rained and the place melted into something else. Hot and humid became cool and breezy. We were glad that we ordered hot tomato and coriander shorba to start our dinner with. After an exquisite 4 course meal, we rode back to the promenade. To our surprise it was deserted. Surprised because if it was Mumbai, it would have been overcrowded in the rains. A romantic stroll by the roaring sea was all that we needed to make it memorable!