Saturday, 9 March 2019

Heritage Town - Pondicherry. (Part 1)

Hello Readers,
Hope you all are having a lovely day, month & year so far! I certainly am!! I recently got a chance to visit Pondicherry in South India.
It was a 4 days’ trip giving me a lot of time to explore the place. So, I decided to write 3 posts; 2 posts about places to visit in Pondicherry and the last post about my stay in Pondicherry along with the best restaurants in Pondicherry.
Hope you have fun & get all the info you need if you’re planning to stay here!

I read a lot of reviews online & at the end Quora proved to be the most useful in helping me understand the best way to reach Pondicherry. Now, there is an airport in Pondicherry, but there are very few flights to & from there. Also, most of these are connecting flights with stops in between which is not ideal. This brings me to the most ideal option.
You can fly to Chennai. And then from Chennai, you can go by road to Pondicherry, which takes about 3 hours. There are various options for the road travel as well.
If you are on a budget or travelling solo, you can consider the bus option. From the Chennai Airport (MAA), you can take a cab to reach the CMBT bus stand, which is about 30 minutes away. It’s a big bus stand with a lot of busses which you can consider. There are AC & non-AC busses to Pondicherry. You should make sure that you take the bus which goes by ECR only. If you take any other bus which takes a different route, it will take 5 hours, which was the mistake I did! So, choose carefully even if it takes some time. There isn’t a ticket counter & nothing is properly organized. You just need to approach the bus conductors and ask for all these details.
The other option & the much better & relaxed option for Chennai to Pondicherry is by booking a cab. The rates for Ola are between Rs. 2500 to Rs. 3000.
After 2 hours of flight & 5 hours of tiresome & hurtful bus journey, I reached Pondicherry around 3 PM, only about 9 hours after I left home. So, clearly, I didn’t want to waste any time relaxing (which, in retrospect I should have done for a while, at least.) I was out to explore the city by 4 PM. Since there were few places on the list, I chose to ride a bicycle, (which, in retrospect, also is something I should not have experimented.) So, in this post I will write about my adventure on the first 2 days, which mainly involves roaming around in Heritage Town of Pondicherry!!

Ever since I started planning this trip, I was very keen on going to White Town. All the photos on Instagram & Pinterest were so amazing that I couldn’t wait to be there. The photos were of people standing on front of interesting graffiti, colourful walls, simple walls with nice windows and so on.
And, now that I was there, I was not happy. I mean, sure, people use a lot of Photoshop, but even after considering that, I didn’t find the overrated French quarters nearly worth the hype. The colourful walls weren’t as colourful. The interesting graffiti was nowhere to be found. So, naturally, that upset me. So, I gave up on exploring the White Town (for which I had saved 3 hours!)
Time Taken to Explore: 1-2 hours.

Pondicherry is considered as a spiritual place. The history of the places goes back to the spiritual collaboration of Sri Aurobindo & Mirra Alfassa (The Mother.) People from the around the world come & settle in Auroville in Pondicherry on their path to eternal peace.
This Ashram is a small place where the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo presides. There is a beautiful garden surrounding it where people sit & meditate. There are various frames hung around the place. There is also a book store inside from where you can purchase books on various topics surrounding spirituality, life & death. You can also get post cards with quotes on them. It is a short tour but you actually feel good vibes inside the premises.
Time Taken to Explore: 20-30 minutes
Timings: 8 AM to 12 PM & 2 PM to 6 PM

There are many churches in Heritage Town, of which I visited 2. The Immaculate Conception Cathedral is truly exquisite. It is a big structure. It is painted in white & gold colours from outside. The inside is truly beautiful. This was my first time visiting a church, so I don’t know if all churches have a similar look. But, this one really seemed quite amazing. The lights & colours made the architecture look even more magical. I sat there for some time & it felt really good.
Time Taken to Explore: 15-25 minutes
Timings: 7 AM to 12 PM & 3 PM to 8.30 PM

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is another beautiful church, a bit farther from the central city. When I visited, it was quite full & I got to hear the mass. It felt peaceful & my homesickness went away for a while.
Time Taken to Explore: 15-25 minutes
Monday to Saturday - 7 AM to 6.30 PM
Sunday – 8 AM to 6.30 PM

There are 2 lighthouses on the Promenade road. The Old Light house is on the Promenade, but it isn’t very fancy. But, the new lighthouse, which is a bit afar is quite amazing. You can go inside the lighthouse & take picture of the spiral staircase. I had seen some photos of it online & it looked amazing! Although, you can only go inside form 3 PM to 5 PM. I couldn’t go there at those timings, so I skipped it altogether.
Time Taken to Explore: 25-35 minutes
Visiting Timings: 3PM to 5 PM

I think The Promenade is the highlight of Pondicherry. It is a beautiful beach with rocks towards the end. Well, Pondicherry is known for Auroville, beaches & churches. And, I think I enjoyed the latter two quite a lot. The best thing about The Promenade is that the street facing the beach is closed for all vehicles post 5 PM! So, you can go for a nice breezy walk & have a nice & chill time.
As a Mumbaikar, I thought that Marine Drive was better than Rock Beach. There wasn’t anything proper to sit on on the Rock Beach, just rocks, which are a bit uncomfortable. But, I think, considering all other places, this one had to be the best. In fact, I visited it thrice, all evenings! Just sitting & looking at the ocean gives me back my sanity & I really needed that as I was not exactly happy with the sightseeing!
Another plus is that all the restaurants are lined up along the Promenade. So, after your evening walk, you can go & have a nice French dinner!

There were so many places I missed out on because of various reasons. Some were far away. Some were closed because of some political rallies. Unfortunately, these were the ones I really wanted to visit. So, if you get the time, do visit!

Bharathi Park:
This is a very nice park, located in the Central city. I only got to see it from the outside. It takes about an hour to explore it entirely. It is open from 6.30 AM to 8.30 PM.
Raj Nivas:
Raj Nivas is the place where Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry resides. It’s quite closer to Bharathi Park. You can see it from the outside. There are some specific timings when you get to go inside as well.
Pondicherry Museum & French War Memorial.
Now, I was really looking forward to go to the Pondicherry Museum. It is an art & history museum which has collections of bronze sculptures & a lot more. It is open from 10 AM to 5 PM. The museum is also within walking distance from Bharathi Park.
I also wanted to visit the French War Memorial as well. But, I suppose my luck wasn’t so good after all.
Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges:
This is another church which was on my list. But, I couldn’t exactly find it, so I skipped it.
Pondy Marina:
Pondy Marina is the location where a scene from 'Life of Pi' movie was shot. It is actually quite scenic & you can take beautiful shots there as well. Again, it is on the Promenade lane but much ahead. I tried finding it too, but got lost a few times & eventually gave up. You should check that out too!

Well, that is it for Pondicherry city & Heritage Town. I will be back next week with a post about Auroville which is the most talked about place in Pondicherry!

Until next time,

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