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Itinerary: 5 Days in Pondicherry

Trip details:

I'm going to Pondicherry for 5 days from Dec 24-Dec 29 alone. I'm going from Bangalore. I'm looking forward to exploring Pondicherry's French Quarter, shopping, spending some time in Auroville (take a meditation course if possible). I'd like to stay in one of the heritage properties but not splurge too much (up to Rs 5k per night is ok). Also note that I'm a single girl, travelling alone. So any safety advice is appreciated.

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Dec 24 :

Arrive at Pondicherry. Check in to hotel. You can have breakfast here or head out to Le Café on Promenade – this is the Beach Road. The food is average but it is looks out at the ocean. It can get really hot post 10am, so be prepared for that. You can head to the Aurobindo Ashram – here you will find the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. There is a book shop; the books are mostly spiritual. You can also purchase photographs etc.


Aurobindo Ashram


Close to the Ashram, there are a few shops where you can purchase handmade paper, boxes, incense sticks, candles and more, which Pondi is known for. You could check out Fleurs et Flacon, The Red Courtyard Boutique.


You can have lunch at the Ashram dining hall. The food is really simple and healthy but also delicious.


As you will be here for a really short time and want to see Auroville as well, head to Auroville’s Visitor’s Center. The autos charged me around Rs.250 from Pondi to Auroville (this was in 2012). Cab costs around Rs.300 (2013). It is around 20min from Pondi. You can also rent a moped or cycle – it will work out cheaper than a cab or auto.


Auroville is not a touristy place, it is more about the way of living. You can visit the Matri Mandir here but you need follow the protocol to access it. At the Visitor’s Centre, you can watch the video that gives you a good idea about what Auroville is about and what to expect. You will then be guided to a viewing platform. It is about a km from the centre. Here, you can see the Matri Mandir, take pics and spend some time before coming back to the Centre.


Matri Mandir


Only after you do this and are interested, you can make  a booking for the Matri Mandir’s Inner Chamber for Silent Concentration. And it is totally worth it and nothing like you have ever seen – both the experience & the architecture. They may ask you to come back after 2 days, maybe 26 or 27 Dec. A slot will be given, usually at 9am.


There are also two boutiques here as well as book/CD shop. You will find clothes, bags, lifestyle products that are made here. They also have mail order. There is a café where you get the usual café fare, meals during lunch and beverages. You will not find any alcohol or meat in Auroville.


You can head back to Pondicherry. Most places close up around 5.30pm in Auroville and it is not safe to be out alone.


There are a lot of places to eat out if you prefer to, like Madame Shanthe’s and Rendezvous.

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Dec 25:

Start early. Walk down the Promenade for the sun rise and check out the war memorial, statues of Joan of Arc and Gandhi, and the old lighthouse. It is a good time to walk around the streets. Lots of photo ops. Beautiful houses and buildings like Ecole Francaise d’Extreme –Orient, Notre Dame des Anges Church, Town Hall.


Promenade


You can catch up on more shopping, visit the Manakkula Vinayanagar Temple, visit the exhibition at INTACH; its heritage walks are a good way to know the stories around both the French and Tamil quarter. A good place for lunch, if you like Italian, is Don Giovanni.


Towards evening, you can head back to the Promenade for chaat by the ocean. If you enjoy cakes and pastries, head to Baker Street.

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Dec 26:

Head to Auroville to visit Matri Mandir. You will be taken with a group. An Aurovilian will give you an introduction to Matri Mandir before you are led in for a 15min silent concentration in the Inner Chamber. It is supposed to be the world’s biggest crystal ball.


There a couple of shops on the main road, you can stop by Mark’s Coffee or the Main Bakery.


To do a course/workshops in Auroville, check the activities at – Verite, Pitanga, Quiet Healing Centre.


While here, you can go to Repos or Auro beach.

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Dec 27, 28, 29:

You can visit the Tamil Quarter. Or go on a day trip to Mahabalipuram.


Mahabalipuram


I have never had any unpleasant experience while travelling solo in Pondi though the last time I was there, I didn’t see too many women on their own. Of course, I make sure even if eat out I don’t stray too far from the hotel and the usual precautions but it is safe. I would strongly advice you from venturing out on your own after dark in Auroville. I heard quite a few women have been assaulted and you can see why. Most places shut down by 5.30 and there are no street lights and the roads are deserted. Otherwise Auroville is a lovely place, the people here are open and friendly, and you meet some interesting people here.

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Hi By Anuradha Prasad
Replies (+)

Anuradha Prasad wrote:  

Hey Priya..just back from Pondi/Auroville and this is a great time to visit...I am on it...please check back on Sunday...cheers!

Priya Rai wrote:  

Hi Anu. Sounds good. I would like to finalize the accommodation asap, so please help me with that first. We can work on other details later.

Anuradha Prasad wrote:  

Hey Priya

Here are a few heritage properties in the French Quarter that will fit your budget –

Hotel de l’Orient – http://hotel-de-lorient.neemranahotels.com/

Gratitude – http://www.gratitudeheritage.in/guidelines.html


Le Dupleix is a great place but its starts at over 5k per night and rates go up during this time of the year.

If you are okay with staying in the Tamil quarter, you can consider Anantha Heritage Hotel.

 

Let me know how this works out.

 

Anu

Anuradha Prasad wrote:  

Also check out these places – Reve Bleu, Villa Bayoud, Villa Helena, Hotel du Parc, Maison Perumal

Priya Rai wrote:  

Thanks. All of the ones that have online reservations (neemrana, le dupleix, anantha, maison perumal) are all full for my dates. :(

I've written to the others to check for availability. Will keep you posted in case I need more help with finding accommodation.

The itinerary looks great at first glance. I'll go through it in detail and post any questions later today. Thanks!

Priya Rai wrote:  

Reve Blue and villa bayoud are also full. Hoping one of the other two will work out. Do you have any more suggestions that I can try contacting?

Anuradha Prasad wrote:  

It will be tough as Dec to Mar is the peak season and you are planning to go during the holidays. I stayed at L’Escale last year. The tariff didn’t include food but it was comfortable but they have only 6-7 rooms so I am not sure if it will be available. http://www.lescalepondicherry.com/english/

The Richmond - http://www.therichmond-pondicherry.com/

Calve, A Welcome Heritage Hotel http://www.welcomheritagehotels.in/

Villa Shanti http://lavillashanti.com/ (the price seems to be over your budget)

Patricia Coloniale Heritage Guest House - http://www.colonialeheritage.com/

Esperan Heritage - http://traditionshotel.in/esparan-heritage.htm

Priya Rai wrote:  

Ok, I've got 2 nights booked at the Richmond (they only had availability for Dec 24, 25). 26th at Villa Shanti  - 8500!! :(

Esperan is available on all 5 days but I didn't like the looks of it, so I booked it for the last 2 nights. But they're quite cheap (2.5k) so I guess I'll make up some of the money lost at Villa Shanti. :P

Thanks so much for your help. Will look forward to your advice on the other things (Mahabalipuram, scooty rentals, etc.)

Anuradha Prasad wrote:  

Fabulous! The rentals - cycles will cost you around Rs.50 a day and scooters around Rs.200-300 per day. Check with your hotel (s) or you could try Vijay Arya. Mahabalipram - i am not sure about luxury buses but they do have AC buses operating every hour

Priya Rai wrote:  

Thanks. I googled Vijay Arya and found them. Will contact them for the scooty.

About the Mahabalipuram buses - AC is fine - can you share details about where to book them, reliable operators, etc.

Also, once in Mahabalipuram, do you have recommendations for someone who conducts guided tours of the place?


Shopping By Priya Rai
Replies (+)

Priya Rai wrote:  

Hi again Anu,

I've heard there are really good places to shop in Pondi. Besides the boutiques in Auroville, can you suggest some places I can check out (esp for good bargains on clothes, accessories, etc.). I've heard Hidesign has a factory outlet here. Any others?

Priya

Anuradha Prasad wrote:  

 

Hey Priya

 

The Auroville boutiques are expensive but on the approach road to Auroville, there are quite a few shops that you can check out – you also have clothes shops here where you can pick up kaftans, harem pants etc.

 

In Pondicherry, some of the shops you can head to are:

 

Fleurs et Flacon, St.Gilles Street

The Red Courtyard Boutique, Chetty Street – Clothes and accessories

I O Boutique, 13 Rue Surcouf – Café and boutique

Play Clan, Rue Suffren First Floor – Clotehs and accessories
Titanic Factory Outlet – International brands, Mission Street
Casablanca – Department Store on Mission Street
Via Pondicherry, Rue Romain Rolland
Hidesign, Nehru Street

Nirvana, Rue Suffren – kitsch stuff
Grand Baazar is a food market featured in Life of Pi
Head to Nehru Market, MG Road and Mission Street

All ashram-related shops are closed on Sundays

 

Priya Rai wrote:  

Thanks so much, Anu. I think I have all the information I need for now. Will let you know how it went. :)

Anuradha Prasad wrote:  

Sure..enjoy your stay in Pondi..and do share your experiences...if you need any more info, ask away :)


Getting around:

Cycles will cost you around Rs.50 a day and scooters around Rs.200-300 per day. Check with your hotel (s) or you could try Vijay Arya.


For Mahabalipram - i am not sure about luxury buses but they do have AC buses operating every hour.

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Stay options:

Here are a few heritage properties in the French Quarter that will fit your budget –


Hotel de l’Orient


Gratitude


Le Dupleix is a great place but its starts at over 5k per night and rates go up during this time of the year.


If you are okay with staying in the Tamil quarter, you can consider Anantha Heritage Hotel.


----------------------


Also check out these places – Reve Bleu, Villa Bayoud, Villa Helena, Hotel du Parc, Maison Perumal


I stayed at L’Escale last year. The tariff didn’t include food but it was comfortable but they have only 6-7 rooms so I am not sure if it will be available.


The Richmond


Calve, A Welcome Heritage Hotel


Villa Shanti (the price seems to be over your budget)


Patricia Coloniale Heritage Guest House


Esperan Heritage

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Very good advice. Could be more detailed.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and found Anu's advice very helpful in choosing the right places to stay and planning my time. I did feel that I needed to prod for details sometimes (like bike rental place or things to see in the Tamil Quarter or transport options for Mahabalipuram, etc) It would be excellent if Anu had thought of some of these herself and given details before I asked for them - because sometimes as a visitor I might not know what questions to ask, and it would be good to know that the Travel Ninja is thinking for us. But overall, I'm really happy. Highly recommended.

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