A Trip to Pondicherry with my extended family
Perfect Weekend Getaway – Pondicherry
I have traveled to Pondicherry once on my own and once with a couple of friends. But never with my family, rather my extended family. And the opportunity came soon when my uncles, aunts, and cousins joined my parents and me for their 30th anniversary weekend. With such a big group, we were contemplating on how to travel. After a lot of searches online and offline, I figured that if you are traveling in a large group, it is better to go for a tempo traveler hire in Chennai. That way, all of us could be together throughout the journey.
We made our bookings at a lovely sea view resort, a little outside the main town. It took us about three and a half hours to reach Pondicherry. The combination of the quaintness of the old French colony and the modern version of Pondicherry city is always a fascinating experience.
Most people might think that Pondicherry is a place for hipsters and artistic souls. But that’s not what this charming town is all about. A major part of the city has managed to preserve its colonial heritage, which serves the needs of traditional travelers.
Once we reached, the kids (my cousins and I) were ready to hit the famous Serenity beach. Two of my cousins are avid surfers, and they have treaded the waters in different parts of the world. Although I don’t know how to surf, it is no less fun to watch them in action. It was late afternoon and the late winter sun was perfect for a day on the beach. There were a lot of surfers on the beach, taming the waters with their own surfing tricks. I lazed there under the sun while the kids enjoyed the waves. Later, parents joined us and we spent the evening at the Pondy Marina watching the sunset from the famous boardwalk. We finished the day with an elaborate dinner off the vintage menu at Villa Shanti and bringing in my parent’s anniversary. This is perhaps the oldest and the most classic place of Pondicherry that defines its food culture, and one of my favorite places to eat in the city.
Next day, we decided to go for a day picnic to Paradise Beach Island. To reach there, one has to rent a boat from the Chunnambar Boat House on the Chunnambar Road. They had long wooden cruise boats for big tour groups, ferries, and small motor boats. We split into two groups and rented two of the motor boats. The vessel sped through the Chunnamar River and soon left the mainland behind and touched the waters of the Bay of Bengal. Although I had been here once, it felt like the first time all over again. The endless stretch of white sands covered the beach, with almost no sign of any commercial site. There were these little cabanas made with palm leaves and coconut tree logs, which served as a resting place for travelers. Paradise Beach was surely true to its name. The endless, blue bay on one side, and thick coconut groves on the other, with the sandy beach separating the blue and green; just like the ones on a wallpaper. It was mildly cloudy that day, so we could walk along the shores for a while, taking photos and walking through the shallow waters. I coaxed my parents into riding a banana boat, while a couple of us rented a kayak and rode for a while.
We spent almost the entire day having fun on the beach before it was time to head back to the mainland. Later in the evening, some of us rented bicycles and went around the town, shop hopping and stopping by local eateries. I find this to be a great way to discover any place. Walking or riding a bike gives you a completely different perspective than what you would see on a guided tour.
Now, no trip to Pondicherry ever feels worthwhile a visit to Auroville. While the town evolved as an exciting travel destination, spirituality is at the core of the town’s existence and defines it to a great extent. Established by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh- a preacher, philosopher, yogi, and a nationalist, along with Mirra Alfassa, known as The Mother, Auroville is one of the most unique communities of India. A city within a city, Auroville is home to people across all races, nationalities and social statuses, who have managed to create a world different from the world we know. It is a tightly-knit community of creative people, naturalists, welfare enthusiasts, and caregivers. The entire area is surrounded by acres of forests and barren lands, keeping it away from the mainstream society. We took a tour of some places where tourists are allowed and waited for the evening prayer session at Matrimandir.
Pondicherry always makes for a great escape from the metro life. Despite having visited a few times, every experience feels different and so it was with family. And even though I had seen it all, I can never have enough of the peace and quiet this place offers, leaving me revived and rejuvenated every time.
- For a solo traveler, you could hire a cab, since the Chennai to Pondicherry taxi fare is quite reasonable.
- Avoid visiting during peak tourist seasons, especially when with a large group.