Monday, May 02, 2005

Pondi-cheri!

I spent the last weekend in Pondicherry. It was no Goa, but I had been warned to not expect one. No surprises there. That said, it was a great weekend. After a long time I got to do a long drive (well, not so long maybe -- total of 300km in two days) on a decent road in India!

I flew Air Deccan down to Chennai. They gave me tickets at a reasonable price with just one day's notice. Air Deccan turned out to be a pretty decent experience though I have been told of horror stories from others. They are a new one in the family of inexpensie airlines around the world (Southwest being another; I've heard of similar ones in Europe).

We rented a car from Hertz and luckily we got to drive the car ourselves instead of being chauffered around. We headed out from Channai early morning and hit the East Coast Road in no time. Before we knew it, we were in Mamallapuram (aka Mahabalipuram). A short visit to the Five Rathas and the Shore temple and we were on our way again. In hindsight, the temples were quite fascinating. At first sight they seemed really "fresh," if you understand what I mean. I was told later that these temples were cleaned and somewhat touched up recently.

Pondicherry itself is a mix of any other town in south India and a sleepy, quaint French neighbourhood that is reminiscent of New Orleans. There is a visible influence of Aurobindo on the town. We stayed at one of the rest houses affiliated with the Ashram. We also paid visit to the ashram as well as the Auroville. Besides that, there was little to do there (or we found little to do). We did check out a couple of restaurants. Rendezvous was great. We also tried "The Club" -- it has apparently morphed into three restaurants, and we ate at the bistro. It was ok. The bakery "Hot Breads" was quite good -- and it was the only one open at 7 in the morning.

The best part of the trip probably was the drive from Chennai to Pondi and back. Great road, very little traffic and a decent scenery.

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