Pondicherry (also known as Pondy) is a city and union territory of Southern India. Though small in geographical size, it was the largest French colony in India. There is a strong French influence on the architecture of the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean-style houses and bakeries.
That said, Pondicherry remains a very much Indian city. Pondichérry is very much a city with a dual personality: crossing the central canal from the east to the west reveals two different cities with very different character.
The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. French is still understood, and the whole city makes for a pleasant mix of the East and the West.
Pondy is also known as The French Riviera of the East (La Côte d’Azur de l’Est). If you have spent some time in Tamil Nadu (Chennai area) and approached Pondichérry by land, you will very likely experience mild culture shock on discovering French architecture and restaurants serving steak and good wine.
Things To Do
Visit the many temples and churches in Pondy.
Temples and Churches
- Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Devasthanam
- Manakula Vinayagar Temple
- The ancient Kalatheeswarer Temple (Chetty kovil) in the heart of town. You can worship most of the Hindu Gods here.
- Sri Aurobindo Ashram
- Villianur Thirukameeswarar Temple
- People also often visit Auroville from Pondicherry City.
- Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
- Our Lady of Lourdes, Villianpur (7 km from Pondicherry)
Meditate at the Auroville
You can also do some serious meditation at the Auroville, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, or going to Bharatanatyam performances that are often organized there by the Auroville Cultural Exchange in the local temples, or at major hotels.
You can also go fishing in a Catamaran or while away your evenings at the Rocky Beach. You can also hire mopeds and go on long drives for the sandy beaches that dot the coast line.
You can also experience staying in a traditional ‘Parapachai’ house – an affectionate name given by connoisseurs to traditional green colored houses. A unique experience.
Casablanca and Titanic, Mission St. must see shopping. the latter is a factory outlet of the former.
French Quarter Architecture, the other side of the canal road to the coastline.
There is a great range of corals, lion fish, grouper, kingfish, moray eels, eagle and manta rays, parrot fish, sea snakes, triggerfish, butterflies, angels, bannerfish, crustaceans, and if you’re lucky, even sharks, whale sharks, turtles and dolphins.
Kallialay Surf School offers surfing lessons and surf board rentals.
The main language spoken in Pondichérry is Tamil, though French is also widely spoken. Telugu and Malayalam are the other two official languages, but their use is generally confined to specific districts.
English is spoken by most educated people, and is the lingua franca between people from different linguistic districts. If you know English or Tamil, you can survive your visit to Pondichérry. French alone will not help. In addition to these Hindi, Bengali and to a lesser extent Oriya languages are also spoken.
The best way to see Pondichérry and its surrounding areas is by renting out a “pedal cycle” or a “motorcycle” or “gearless scooter”. But as traffic increases, it is increasingly difficult to walk in many streets as they are crowded. There are several rental outlets on Mission St and MG Rd.
You may be asked to provide some identification document and as well as an advance for renting.
Make sure you check the cycle thoroughly before taking it on rent. One traveller reported that a cycle they rented at Sri Durga Parameshwari rentals on Mission Street developed a puncture within an hour of riding it; they speculated that was probably due to a problem with the tube itself. Many of the rentals also provide delivery and pickup at the hotel which is very useful.
Note: The motorbikes are easily available in a couple of two wheeler rental shops in Mission Street. The Pondicherry tourism development corporation has daily bus services for tourists and it covers all the important tourist spots to be seen in Pondicherry. It is the best and most economic way to tour Pondichérry.
Always carry passport with you and put a sticky note inside it with phone number of your travel consultant. Never pay anyone upfront, especially to agents or drivers.
Never exchange money with unauthorized foreign exchange dealers. Ask for receipt after exchanging money with the broker.
Don’t get trap in the narcotics trading, as no one wants to end his journey in prison. Switch off your mobile phones while in museums, temples and churches or they will be confiscated.
Wifi can be surprisingly difficult to find in Pondicherry. Many restaurants, even fancier ones, simply do not have wifi at all. This can make planning difficult. Cafe Coffee Day on Boulevard Sardar Vallabbhai Patel (Boulevard du Nord) is one of the few reliable cafes with wifi.
May 23, 2018 4:08 pm
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