Pondy is a one day affair unless you fall in love with the promenade or Auroville. Most places, except Auroville, can be reached by walk. People are most helpful with directions. Auto charges are steep (up to Rs 20 a km), but that's the case with all tour
I made a day trip to Puducherry (aka Pondicherry) from Bangalore on Saturday. I decided on the spur of the moment and, hence, travel tickets were not easy to procure.
All buses were packed and there are limited trains to the coastal state on the east. I even considered starting early on Saturday morning, but was daunted by an eight-hour day journey. Though Puducherry is just about 350 km away, a bus takes up to 8 hours to cover the distance. It's around 5 hours by car. For those who are interested, a KSRTC Volvo departs Bangalore at 8.30 am (cross-check timings).
Then, someone suggested the once-a-week Garib Rath Express (Fri-Bangalore, Sat-Puducherry). Why we have a Garib Rath from Bangalore to Puducherry only Laluji and Mamatadi can explain. I easily got a berth as over 900 berths in the 18-coach 3-tier AC train went abegging.
The train was to depart at 2315 IST, but eventually left at midnight, with great reluctance I might add. It halts in Banaswadi, Hosur, Salem, Vridhachalam and Villupuram. The interesting bit is the number of times the engine changes sides. Once at Vridhachalam and again in Villupuram.
Vridhachalam is one of those beautiful stations that is in harmony with its surroundings. You can see trees, greenery and monkeys on the platform that is clean. As long as the monkeys don't take a liking to you or your belongings, it's a place you could spend the day just watching trains pass by or taking a nap under one of the trees.
Our train reached Puducherry just after 9.40 am. In the station, I booked the return ticket and checked out the retiring rooms. There is a dormitory and two AC rooms with twin beds. Neat and clean. Didn't appear like they had seen many guests.
The two main attractions of Pondy are the promenade and Auroville ashram. The first is 10 minutes walk from the station and the second is about 15 km away.
The station ends at the southern tip of the French Quarter. So, if you choose to walk around, like I did, you start off with the beautiful parts. You come across many hotels with a few facing the sea. The rest are in the lanes behind the promenade.
The other way, of course, is to book beforehand. Many of the hotels can be found on the Net.
But if you choose to walk, better find a hotel quickly because it can get pretty hot and humid in the day. After a break, you can undertake a trip to Auroville and return in the evening. I chose to walk around the town.
The French Quarter is neatly laid out. The doors to some homes were right on the street. With the French windows and all, a very pretty sight. Once I left the pretty French Quarter, it is like any other town in any part of India.
Many restaurants in the French Quarter serve continental fare and you will find a lot of cafes that allow you to chill out the French way.
Reserve the evening for the promenade. It's the best thing to do in Pondy. Everyone is out...walking, looking far into the sea, chatting. I noticed that vehicles were barred from around 5 pm, which only enhances the beauty of the place as people took over completely. Benches and beach huts have been placed at regular intervals.
You cannot venture into the sea as it is rough. Boulders have been placed to protect the promenade from the waves. Wonder what happens when the sea gets rougher.
As the sun set, I went to Le Club for dinner. The ambience and food are good. Once I had my fill, I walked towards the railway station, which is less than 10 minutes away.
This time, the train left on time (2205 IST) and reached Bangalore at the scheduled time (0820 IST).
Pondy is a one day affair unless you fall in love with the promenade or Auroville. Most places, except Auroville, can be reached by walk. People are most helpful with directions. Auto charges are steep (up to Rs 20 a km), but that's the case with all tourist towns that see business only during the weekends.