A couple of weekends ago I took a weekend trip out from Bangalore to Puducherry (Pondicherry=Puducherry, it’s confusing I know but indians like to change the names) with my Leave UR Mark volunteers, you know to revamp and rest and of course to see more of amazing India. And one of them was from Quebec and another from Lyon, France so they were pretty excited about seeing the French side of India. Puducherry was previously run by the French and is known as “The french Riviera of the East” so be prepared too meet many frenchies and see a lot of signs and posts in french as well as many french restaurants and architecture of course.
and This is going to sound bad but I honestly wasn’t expecting to love India this much. I’ve been bombarded by bad pictures and news of India that I was expecting the worst. I know it’s bad on my end but its true! I am glad I still came though because it just proves you must experience things for yourself in order to decide whether you like it or not and I LIKE! India has amazing places all around, you know I am not a city girl I’d rather the smaller towns or the beach and India is full of these so I am as happy as ever. Auroville made it to my top 3 destinations in the south of India and Puducherry is quiet the site as well it’s a living representation of India’s French colonial past.
We took a night bus from Bangalore and woke up to amazing Puducherry From the bus stand you can walk towards the city, it’s a half hour walk. The first thing we wanted to do was head out to the beach, some of us has not seen the ocean for months and we needed to freshen up a bit after the long trip, a little ocean breeze would do the trick! So head out to the main street and walk towards the beach and you will bump into the Promenade walk on Goubert Avenue , or the “boardwalk”, make sure to visit Gandhi statue when you are here.
After the beach you can head out to the park just across the street, Bharathi Park, with a monument built during the time of Napoleon and beautiful flowers and most importantly trees that will provide shade from the sun. Make sure to take a little break here.
After the park head out to the French quarter and explore the cafes, the bakeries and patisseries and all the cute little stores around the area. The Architecture is very impressive as well, you won’t feel like you are in India for a bit I swear. On your way up to the french quarter you can walk by the palace, you can’t go in but you can a get a bit more of colonial India architecture.
Head out to the Ashram once you are ready for another break, Sri Aurobindo Ashram which used to house two spiritual gurus; you can sit and meditate for a bit.
We then took a walk around the central market on MG road, visited the artisan shops and came bumped into this structure that I believe was temporary, looked like there had been some sort of celebration but maybe it’s still out there check it out.
Next, up on MG road the biggest road in the city, you will see the tall temple, Arumilgu Manakula Vinayagar. Make sure to take your shoes off and experience the full temple by making some coconut and flower offerings and listening to some live music being played at the temple. Check out video below
I think the pics will speak for themselves but you must head out to Paradise Beach! It is truly paradise.People, even officers, will tell you that you can’t get to or out of the beach via public transportation and that you will have to get a rickshaw that obviously want to charge an exuberant amount but it is not true! From Puducherry you can take a bus for 10 rupees and it will leave you exactly by the beach entrance, ask some locals or head out to the bus stand. You will be charged a 10 rupee entrance fee plus 200 Rupees per person for the boat ride all the way to the beach, you can walk all the way over there but it is about a 3-4 km walk in the middle of the jungle. If you are up for it and have the time do it! But the boat ride is pretty awesome too! You buy a return trip for 200 so if you want to come back from the beach via boat you must purchase it in advance before heading out to the beach otherwise you can’t buy it on the island.
There are showers, toilettes, bars and restaurants by the beach so you’ll have everything you need. You can even buy beer and drink it by the beach.
Next we were off to Auroville and you can also get there via bus, ask around depending on where exactly you are heading out to but you can go to the bus stand and from there take a bus for 8 rupees or take a rickshaw for about 250 rupees. Auroville is known as the city of peace. It was built as a town to promote harmonious and unity living and its 2500 inhabitants are in charge of constantly organizing several events in art, culture, health and music. Come here to relax and enjoy a different India, a more exotic and culturally varied India.
The first thing I recommend doing is heading out to the visitor center in Auroville to get some tickets to visit the Ashram the day after. You MUST get the free passes in advance. The visitor center has several herbal gardens, and cafes ( a bit overpriced in my opinion) and of course the number one things you must visit when in Auroville, The golden dome of the Matrimandir Meditation Center. The walk from the center to the dome will be about 1km so make sure you have some water with you.
Where to eat in Puducherry:
-La Terrasse, for a quick western lunch close to the beach.
-Satsanga continental cuisine but also has some traditional Indian dishes
-Kasha Ki Aasha, great breakfast pancakes
-Zuka, to indulge in chocolates and cakes
And once more. THE BEACH!! Auroville has it’s own beach as well and you could also check out many others along the coast. I recommend renting a motor bike for about 300 a day with gas included and ride out to the coast and stop at several beaches and awesome costal restaurants, cheaper than in the center of the city as well and way more unique and of course, fresh fish! yuum We visited Silver and Serenity Beach for a walk amongs others and a took a quick dip on beach afterwards. The most popular spots are Auroville Beach and Mahe Beach but don’t you worry, there’s many other options! There are no changing rooms or toilettes in most beaches so come prepared with what is needed and maybe skip drinking too much water.
Where to eat in Auroville:
I always recommend eating whatever you find along your ride or walk that looks good of course! But I was able to check out certain of the more popular spots that were pretty good.
-Head out to Farm Fresh for some great burgers and pizza, they seem to run out on ingredients by the evening so try to make it out for lunch.
-Ganesh Bakery, hidden in the jungle. Head out here for breakfast and get some eggs, fresh juice and/or chocolate dosas.. Yep, you heard right..
-You can also head out to Well Cafe, Frite corner, Le Morgan or Solitude Farm; they were on my list but I wasn’t able to make it out.
Where to stay in Auroville:
We headed out here already knowing a guy who owned a guest house so I didn’t have to do much research but you are more than welcome to give him a call and stay here. You will be staying in the upper level of his house which is a big room with AC, TV a huge balcony, bathroom with showers and a kitchen and dining area. Like a little home. We fit 8 people in there so it’s more than enough space.
Kathirs’s Home Stay TEL 91-413-2622621 CELL 9943999132 EMAIL email@example.com
Things to do in Auroville and Puducherry:
-Head out to Promenade Walk on Goubert Ave to walk along the coast and check out the Gandhi statue.
-Take a break at Bharati Park with trees that will provide shade from the sun.
-Visit the cafes and patisseries at the French Quarter
-Meditate at Sri Aurobindo Ashram
-Visit a hindu temple, Arumilgu Manakula Vinayagar
-Shop around the markets on MG Rd.
-Head out to Paradise Beach
-Visit Matrimandir Meditation Center and make sure to get your tickets a day in advance.
-Head out to Auroville’s coast and visit the beaches
-Visit Svaram instrument school, hidden in the outskirts of Auroville.
-Visit Auroville Bamboo center to check out some awesome furniture and sculptures made out of bamboo.
Tips for Auroville and Pondicherry>>
-Don’t be afraid to ask around, I know you might be scared from what you hear of the cities but everyone is extremely nice and will go out of their ways to help you.
-Reserve a day in advance to visit Matrimandir center, it’s a must
-You can travel solo here and you won’t feel unsafe at anytime
-The bus will take you between Auroville and Puducherry for about 10 Rupees
-A lot of the beaches don’t have toilettes or changing rooms so I recommend having your bathing suit underneath
-No bikinis, not because it is not allowed but you will be getting tons of attention for being a foreigner I don’t think you want anymore so wear a full suit.
-Tons of sunblock (day) and insect repellant (at night).
-Best way to get around in Auroville, rent a motor bike No need for a license.
Total Spent >>
Between Puducherry and Auroville 1536 Rupees ($25 USD dollars)
Return Bus Ticket 1380 Rupees ( $22 USD dollars)
Total with transport 2,916 Rupees ($47 USD dollars) for 2 days