Pondicherry

Pondicherry Travel Blog

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The view from our balcony

After the totally depressing Chennai and the suprisingly disappointing Mamallapuram we allowed our optimism to build up our hopes for Pondicherry. The bus journey from Mamallapuram was relatively uneventful, the usual rickety decrepid bus, crazy driver sounding the ultra loud horn every few seconds and stares from Indians along the way. Arriving it was searingly hot and after the usual attempts by the autorickshaw drivers to rob us we negotiated down to a reasonable price and headed for our chosen guesthouse the 'Park Guesthouse' which is owned by the local Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

The view from our balcony
We were lucky to get a room but could only stay for three nights as it was fully booked up after that. Before choosing the guesthouse we had read another Travbuddy's blog on the place and by sheer coincidence we were put in the same room called 'generosity'. Considering there were 64 rooms we thought that was a bit weird. The room was fantastic. On the third floor with a great balcony overlooking the garden and off to views of the promenade and sea. Being higher up we had the benefit of the breeze which was just as well as there was no aircon. The ashram set lots of rules that guests have to follow such as no smoking, no alcohol, a 10pm curfew, no music, silence after 9pm and such. Whilst there was no obligation to visit the ashram it was clearly set up to encourage us to do so and the stair wells were lined with the supposedly profound words of Sri Aurobindo and his French sidekick called 'The Mother'.
The view from our balcony
They didn't really come off as profound as much as stating the totally obvious. Maybe we have no soul but it's always a suprise to us how many desperate people fall for this sort of rubbish. I suppose it's the same as any religion or cult (same things really) but those who believe feel the need to reinforce that belief at the exclusion of all rational thought. Still it was amusing to watch the 'devotees' meditating on the lawn getting bitten by the mossies at sunrise. The garden was very attractive and well cared for by the local workers and on one sweltering afternoon one female western devotee decided that she would try and deprive a local Indian of work by doing the job he gets paid for for free. He'd just mowed the lawn and was sweeping up the cuttings so there she was sweating buckets with her little brush, luckily doing the worst job ever, so he'd have to do it again anyway.
The streets of Pondicherry
Still we're sure she felt great about herself!!!!

We took a walk up to the ashram to see what it was all about but there was a very dodgy atmosphere about the place so we ducked out of it, on the way we had to pass a Hindu temple with a collection of Saddus and beggars out front as well as a chained up elephant which looked very forlorn indeed. Strange how Hindu's are supposed to 'revere' elephants and yet they are happy to see them suffer so!

The area closest to the sea still contains many old French buildings and was actually quite pleasant to walk around,  you could almost forget you were in India until some idiot shouted taxi or rickshaw at you! Cross over the stinking covered canal however and you are right back in the squalor of India, roaming cattle, stray dogs, beggars, leering men and rickshaw drivers coming out your ears.

The streets of Pondicherry
Walking along the seafront promenade, it is easy to subscribe to the ultra feminist perspective that all men are rapists. Honestly, we know it sounds really bad but when you see the promenade, which is full at all times with groups of local men on the lookout for women to ogle, photograph or worse and especially when you make eye contact, you can't help but believe that the majority of local men are rapists waiting for an opportunity. Truly vile specimens. Not really men at all, they must be so sexually repressed and frustrated to behave in such openly disrespectful ways towards women. 

We found an amazing vegetarian restaurant called Surguru which was so good we ended up having lunch and dinner there most days. Fantastic Masala Dosais, Tomato Utthapums, Sambar Vadas and huge lunchtime Thalis.

These two followed us for a considerable distance; our very own entourage
Best yet it had fantastic aircon!

We had a bit of a shock when we went to book our onward train tickets to Madurai as we found we could only get tickets on the 'wait list'. A system where you have to pay for the tickets in full but have no idea if you will get on the train or not until 10 minutes before departure. That and the hour plus wait in the queue with several little Indians trying to push in all the while leering at Stephanie was pretty much when we decided that India is simply not for us. We started working out our escape route and had a plan in place to rush back up to Chennai airport and fly out to Goa but Sod's Law meant that the next morning when we went to the station our tickets had been upgraded and we were no longer on the wait list. We grit our teeth and decided that we'd give India a fourth and most definately final chance. Gutted we lugged our packs onto the train for the journey south which is a tale to be told all of its own.

 
stephandadam says:
With all the gang rape incidents going on in India and the street protests by Indian Women's groups it is very weird to look back and recall how threatening it felt at times.
Posted on: Mar 19, 2013
Vikram says:
I don't know what you meant by men looking like rapists and stuff... half the time it's just curiosity and nothing else. Frankly, if you DO compare the rape rate and domestic violence in India to the West, you'll find it's negligible despite the fact that India is 3x the population of the US.
Posted on: Apr 22, 2008
snpontour says:
Hi, just found your latest entry. Looking a lot better!! Still not sure about taking the shoes off, those dogs get everywhere!
Posted on: Apr 05, 2008
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The view from our balcony
The view from our balcony
The view from our balcony
The view from our balcony
The view from our balcony
The view from our balcony
The streets of Pondicherry
The streets of Pondicherry
The streets of Pondicherry
The streets of Pondicherry
These two followed us for a consid…
These two followed us for a consi…
The streets of Pondicherry
The streets of Pondicherry
One of the gorgeous Indian taxis
One of the gorgeous Indian taxis
A sign on the lawn at our Ashram-r…
A sign on the lawn at our Ashram-…
Local women soaking themselves in …
Local women soaking themselves in…
Adam in our Guesthouses garden
Adam in our Guesthouse's garden
Gandhi statue on the promenade
Gandhi statue on the promenade
Sunrise from our balcony
Sunrise from our balcony
Early morning meditators
Early morning meditators
The Promenade
The Promenade
A dog that followed us almost all …
A dog that followed us almost all…
Pupps hanging out on the artwork t…
Pupps hanging out on the artwork …
One especially lazy dog
One especially lazy dog
One of the pearls of wisdom adorni…
One of the pearls of wisdom adorn…
Pondicherry
photo by: joehobo