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falkenbach Pondicherry - A travel report by Aleksey
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Pondicherry,  India - flag India -  Pondicherry
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falkenbach's travel reports

Hidden gem of Tamil Nadu

  17 votes
The unique place in Tamil Nadu where European person can feel homelike. Former French domain and really nice city, Pondicherry and its satellite - Auroville - definitely have a welcoming spirit, where tourist or curious mind will be treated like a guest.


Pondicherry botanical garden
Pondicherry botanical garden
In general Tamil culture is too strict and alien for the foreinger, at least I had such a feeling. Beaches with no swimming suits, local fishermen which pay at least mega-annoying attention to any European woman, the lack of infrastructure like grocery stores or any advanced services. All of this may create a feeling like you should run to the 5-star resort to feel yourself comfortable. But Pondicherry is different, mostly because of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville. Travel guides mentioned em as spiritual centres, which is true, but also you can find here friendly international community with a lot of activities to participate and a lot of fun things to do. Plus a beach with almost none curious locals, which is important for any woman traveller (and for a man if he travel with wife or girlfriend). Also you can find here just a FANTASTIC price-value ratio, may be the best one in India. 50Rs for the basic (but good quality) accomodation at Aurobindo hostel and (optional) 20Rs for daily meals (three times per day, vegetarian but good quality, big and tasty).

Favourite spots:
View from Repos Beach - city seemed to be near, but actually its about 11Km away
View from Repos Beach - city seemed to be near, but actually its about 11Km away
Nilgiris supermarket at Mission street, Daily Bread cafe at Ambour Salai, Repos beach

What's really great:
Free movies at Ashram Playground.
More explanation on this - according to the city guide there is 7 cinemas in Pondi, but the problem is that its really hard to find any english-language movie to view. Most of movies made in Tamil Nadu and speaking about quality... better to be silent to not offend Tamil peoples as they really like their movies. For me it was fun for five minutes, boring for next five minutes and painful for the rest of the movie ;-) So I had a few options to watch movies: TV, rent DVDs or visit Ashram Playground. TV is OK, but movies will be mostly old (like middle of 90th) and aint that much - I have seen only like 3-4 good channels with Hollywood movies (HBO, Star Movies, AXE). Strange but same goes for available DVDs. But in Playground you can watch free movie each Saturday, there is no seats, just a big square with the sand, where peoples come and sit youga-style to watch movie ;-) During our stay we watched Shrek 2, Batman - The Return, etc... ;-)

Sights:
You can feed elephant too, except bananas
You can feed elephant too, except bananas
Got a blessing from trained elephant at the Vinayagar Temple entrance. Give 1Rs coin to elephant and she will bless you by touching your head.
However be careful with special events at Ashram - there is so called Darshan days, when special events related to the Ashram life celebrated - for obvious reasons several days before and after the event its really hard to get a room at Ashram hotel and really much peoples attent dining room to eat. Over such days its better to stay at some usual hotel (you can find a good options at Mission or Chetty streets). In this case pricing is usual - from 200Rs to 500Rs per double (depends on the comfort). So keep it in mind and dont forget to check the list of Darshan days at http://www.sriaurobindosociety.org.in/ca---lendar.htm

Accommodations:
City at evening, rooftop view
City at evening, rooftop view
Visit Aurobindo Ashram information center to get information about available hotels. Best place to stay on arrival is the New International guesthouse. They charge 170Rs for the big room with two beds, small table and chair. Hotel is located in the center of the city, so you will be within walking distance from the all places you will need. Hotel provides free drinking water from the special machine near the entrance, if you will change the hotel pls check if free water is available and if so, is it DRINKING water or FILTERED water. Drinking water is filtered and also cleaned from bacteria, and filtered water needs boiling or additional processing to kill bacteria. You should ask hotel manager for the LODGING PASS if you want to be able to visit movies and meditations at Ashram. If you want to eat at Ashram, you should purchase FOOD TICKETS from hotel manager daily, eating time is scheduled to certain time of the day, and you will need to visit special building to eat.

Restaurants:
Daily Bread at Ambour Salai offers european bread and a wide choice of the good food (dont mistake it with Hot Bread downstairs). Auroville's Bakery offers a best bread and cookies in area.

Other recommendations:
Best cyber cafe located near The Immaculate Conception church - it called E-Zone, equipped with LCD monitors, comfortable headphones and 256Kbs connection. At time of visiting (2006) they charged 20Rs per hour.

Published on Thursday April 27th, 2006


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Thu, Apr 27 2006 - 08:32 AM rating by eirekay

Aleksey, this is a terrific first report and I like your opening photo! I hope you fill it in a little more - I like your style and would love to know more about this intriguing place!

Thu, Apr 27 2006 - 08:32 AM rating by marianne

Aleksey, Pondicherry is quite different from other Indian cities that’s exactly what you convey in your report. I am sure you didn’t run off to a 5* resort. Maybe you could tell what New International Guesthouse was like. How much did you pay per night? The free movie sounds interesting. Was it a Bollywood movie? And in what langauge? When I was in India we were also blessed by an elephant. But first I put a coin on his trunk. The mahout took it away and the elephant hit me on the head, quite an experience. I would love to see some more photos as we did not visit Pondicherry on our trip. It would be nice if you added a few more details to your report so that it is a kind of mini guide.
Marianne

Thu, Apr 27 2006 - 05:19 AM rating by davidx

A very good first report that promises more to come - I HOPE. What a pity you couldn't put in more photos. You seem to get a bit tired after the first section. It's often sensible to keep it invisible for a bit so that you can add.

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