Pondy (aka Pondicherry, puducherry) trip! whoa!

I thought Goa was the most beautiful place, but not anymore! I could be wrong, considering the fact that:

  • It’s been an year since I went to Goa (This year’s Goa trip is pending!)
  • I got a lot of time to explore the place and experiment in my newfound passion for photography in Pondy.

Lesson from the trip: The next place you visit is always better than the last place you visited (or the last time you visited the same place)!(considering you return home alive)

Pondy (a.k.a Puducherry, Pondicherry)
It all started when a friend of mine came to my cubicle (yes, in office) and said “My roommate wants to do a trip to Pondy”, I asked “When?” and he said “Now!”.

It was a Friday evening, 6:30, and that’s how our Pondy trip started. I went home, packed my stuff, picked up my camera and we were off. In my friend’s couple-of-weeks old Swift diesel!

The route we took


View Larger Map

Chennai Traffic
Oh!, the Chennai traffic. By the time we got out of Chennai, it was 8:30 PM. We ordered dinner at Dominoes and had it in the car.The route is pasted above, but if for some reason it doesn’t load, use this link.

Travel
Due to the car being new and we driving it at night, we took our time to reach Pondy. The pace increased as soon as we heard from a friend of mine that the bars close (Ya, they close!! even at Pondy) by 11:00 PM. We reached there by 10:50 and the guys were able get some bottles before the shutter was down.

Hotel
We checked into a hotel called Surya International – NOT GOOD. They charged INR 1650 for double-bed room with an extra bed (for three of us) and the place was crap! Since it was late, we decided to bunk there.

Pondy
We put our stuff in the hotel and went to the – where else? – beach, at midnight. I was clicking snaps and friends were holding a bottle each and walking on the beach. Cops!! They said we can’t be at the beach from 12 to 6. So we walked to Le Cafe! YAY. That heritage place is open the whole night!

But we guys were really tired and took a long, peaceful, awesome walk back to the car. By the time we reached our hotel, it was 1:30. We ordered something to eat and slept off by 2 AM.

The best places
Some noise… getting louder. “what, where am I??” thinking that while I got up. Barely awake, switched off the alarm and got out of the bed. It was 5AM. I was determined to get the sunrise and the beautiful Pondy pier! Got up, took the car keys, drove to the beach road (just take any road east in Pondy, you are most  probably going to end up at the beach) (Photos)

The beach
It was beautiful, was just about dawn. Parked the car at the end of the beach road (the end that’s near the Secretariat building) and walked all the way to the pier. Took some shots while waiting for the sun to rise. It got brighter, more brighter and some more and then I realized it’s too cloudy and sun is almost pretty much up and I am not gonna be able to photograph the sunrise.

The Drive around the city
I had a map of Pondy printed out the previous day. I wanted to photograph the French architecture and the old buildings. I drove through almost every street in the French part of Pondy. Such a serene, amazing drive  (not to be compared to the awesome ghat roads we drove through during the Goa road trip, different experience!). Took photos as I went through the quiet roads, past the colorful walls, past the beautiful old building, past the cyclists, past the Rue Saint Louis.

If you were to ever go to Pondy, just take that walk through those streets and believe me, you don’t need any ashram to attain peace.

By the time I was done with all this, I had lost track of time and it was 10 AM. I called my friends who were still sleeping in the hotel. They had gotten up and I went back to the hotel, freshened up, checked out and we guys headed to Chunnambar boat house. We went to the beach by car. Being from Chennai, that beach didn’t quite interest us guys.

Exit
We left from the simmering heat of the beach in 15 minutes and headed back to Chennai!

It was 12:30 PM, Saturday, by the time we exited Pondy.

Yes, I know I haven’t seen all the “tourist” place in Pondy. I am planning another trip and will try to cover more “tourist” places and blog on that later.

All the Pondy photo are available here.

cheers

Road trip on a bike vs car

First let me establish my credibility on this subject of road trips (RT). I do a lot of them! I’m addicted to travel. The longest car drive I’ve gone on was a 900 Km drive over 4 days and the longest I did on a bike was the recent Masinagudi trip – 1400 kms in two days. I have done close to 6 car trips and 2 bike trips.

I’ve never done a LONG RT in a bike, so this Masinagudi trip was the first. I had quiet an enlightenment of the differences between bike trips and car trips.

  1. Bike is much smaller than it looks. I was in a bullet and even that seemed smaller to all the stuff I was carrying. I had a backpack filled with biscuits, water, juice, two sets of clothes, rain protection gear and MY CAMERA(DSLR). (And the other rider just had shorts and raincoat in a pouch! ) I didn’t have lot of space in the back. But I was able to adjust due to my thin frame.
  2. Take two plastic covers, big ones.  One, to keep all the stuff in when it starts to pour and another to put the trash in. Believe me, India is beautiful. Some of the places I’ve gone through is so beautiful, I can’t begin to describe it. Hence, I carry a cam to show everyone that. So please keep the place clean, wherever you go. 
  3. It’s a bike, you need more protection. Wear shoes, jeans and a tough denim jacket if you do not have professional gear. Most importantly, wear a helmet. It might be no one’s fault when an accident happens. But, better safe than sorry. 
  4. If it’s not a high-tech helmet you are wearing, the chances are there is no provision for ventilation. When you are riding/sitting pillion for quiet some time, you begin to feel sleepy for two reasons – highways are smooth, so monotonous and the when you have the visor of your helmet closed, you don’t get fresh air in. So to avoid falling asleep, and eventually falling off the bike, you better open the visor for some time after an interval of time
  5. Take all the time you need to gear up before you get on that bike. Gear up well
  6. Bum is gonna hurt so bad after a long ride on a bike, you wont even want to sit for at least 3 days after the ride, unless you are an IRON BUTT. 🙂

please add more tips for bike RT’s, if you got any!

cheers

    Masinagudi Trip

    Masinagudi, a beautiful small little hamlet in the middle of a Jungle. Optimum Stay: two nights and a day.

    The first one hour was nice. I was telling myself “This is easy!”. The next hour, it got numb. I said to myself “This isn’t all that bad!”. And then it started – began to burn.
    It refers to the part of the body that’s on the seat! Yes, I went by Royal Enfield from Chennai. 1400 kms, two days. I had a good time, partly scary – was the pillion when the bike was doing 120 kmph and mostly awesome – great place, great ride (my whole body will agree except for the cells that had to sacrifice sensitivity by constantly rubbing against the seat and some muscles in the back), great photos.

    The route we took (google maps)
    Chennai – Krishnagiri – Hosur – NICE road – Mysore – Bandipur – Masinagudi

    We came back :(google maps)
    Masinagudi – Gundlupet – Asanur – Chamaraja Nagar – Dhimbam – Sathyamangalam – Salem (dont get into erode, take the bypass) – Krishnagiri – Chennai

    Experience and route!
     On the way to Masinagudi, the roads till Mysore are boring – wide, monotonous. From Mysore to Bandipur the road is a bit narrow but the view on the sides is great.
    Bandipur to Masinagudi stretch is pure bliss, why wouldn’t it be, its surrounded by forest and we were lucky to spot a tusker, Wild Boar, Bisons, Peacock/hens, Deers. And the weather was awesome.
    PLEASE DO NOT LITTER.
    And then we entered Masinagudi. Small hamlet, beautiful place. We didn’t have anything booked in advance so we had to settle for something not that great. The climate was awesome- slight drizzle and cold – a welcome change for Chennaites.

    Coming back:
    Next day morning, we started from Masinagudi by 9 AM, Went through Gundlupet which has a lot of old temple ruins, we didn’s stop as we wanted to reach Chennai by 10PM, at least. Stopped at a home mess, Banneri Amma mess, in a small village and had delicious idlis for breakfast. Entered forest roads and were on it till Asanur. We had no luck with sighting animals. Then to Dhimbam, Bannari (famous temple there) and superb ghat roads.

    We reached Sathyamangalam by 12 noon, took a thirty minutes rest and left for Salem. Took the Erode bypass and reached Salem by 2:45. Had yum lunch at Hotel Raja’s and left Salem by 3:30 and reached Krishnagiri by 5 and then Chennai by 9:15.

    More photos taken during the Masinagudi trip

    Cheers

    Pichavaram Trip

    If you are in Chennai and want to go on a trip for a weekend or a long weekend (say 3 days), Pichavaram + Pondicherryis a pretty good plan.Some facts about Pichavaram first:
    • You should be prepared to spend 3 hours in a boat
    • If you can’t swim and are afraid, don’t worry, the water is only 3 to 5 feet deep
    • If you are afraid of snakes, the TTDC rooms at Pichavaram are NOT the place to stay
    • The last one hour of the boat ride is really boring
    • There are NO crocodiles in the backwaters – So they say!
    • Bonus fact: The Pizza hut in Pondy serves BEER!! 🙂
    There are two ways to do a trip – one, do it our way (the wrong way) and the other, learn from our mistakes and YOU do it the right way!Right Way – From Chennai to Pichavaram!It will take 5 hours by car, from Chennai to Pichavaram. That time includes a quick 30 mins for breakfast. The earlier you reach Pichavaram, the better. The reason you might be going to Pichavaram is the boat ride through the mangrove forests. It gets really really hot and humid. So go early, if you start from Chennai at 5 AM, you can reach Pichavaram by 10 AM. Finish the boat ride by 2 PM and head back to Pondicherry.
    Or if you can manage the heat (its really hot!), you can start late from Chennai.
    Start from Chennai @ 7 AM Saturday. Have a good breakfast at Pondicherry (Pondy) by 9 AM (If you are really hungry, then you can stop at some restaurant on the highway). Have breakfast and start from Pondy @ 10 30 AM and reach Pichavaram by noon. Do what you went there to do and bail out of there before sundown. Leave Pichavaram by 5 PM. Reach Pondy by 7 PM. Book a place, have dinner, take a walk with your girl friend (oops.. getting carried away, are we!). You can start from there Sunday morning or afternoon and reach Chennai by sundown.hope that was helpful!

    What we did! The wrong way! 🙂

    Will tell you how we went about the plan to go to Pichavaram

    We(4 people, 2 could drive) started from Chennai, by car, on Saturday morning at 7:30. The plan was to go Pondy from Chennai via Thindivanam, as the roads are better, bigger. We reached Pondy by 11:30, stayed there till 3:30 and reached Chidambaram (We overshot Pichavaram, which is 6 Kms before Chidambaram) by 5:00. The road is two-lane and have to be careful driving on those. Even though Pichavaram is only 70 Kms from Pondy, it takes one and a half hours to reach.

    There is a hotel at Chidambaram to stay. Take that choice if you have to spend the night there, its a much better and safer option than spending the night at the Pichavaram TTDC room. Since we were four guys and didn’t know what Pichavaram had to offer, we started from Chidambaram at 5 30 and went to Pichavaram. That’s a 6 Kms from Chidambaram and then Off-road (almost) for another 10 Kms. It goes through small villages. Picturesque! yes. But safe, no! goats, kids, people in the middle of the road. And the road is 1.5 lane I guess! 🙂

    We went to the TTDC guest house. Built right on the banks of the backwaters. Beautiful view! They serve dinner there and the rooms cost INR 400 for 2 beds. Its poorly maintained. The plaster on the wall is peeling off and there was snake in the bathroom. That was the next day morning. Wait… will get there in a while!

    We had dinner at the TTDC place. I could see only 4 rooms and only two of those were occupied (that too by us!). We heard that we might get to meet the occasional fox or snake(s). The electricity went off for a two mins, I guess, twice. And THAT IS SCARY. So, Please don’t go with family. FREAKY!! That’s when we realized why there are no occupants.

    We were told that the boat trip lasts for 4 hours – 3 hours on the water and 1 hour at the beach.

    So we decided to go boating real early @ 7 AM so that we can be back by 11. We were planning on having lunch at Pondy.

    A row boat, that can accommodate 4 people + 1 boatman, costs INR 600. Motor boat costs INR 2000 and motor boats are not allowed to go through the mangrove forests, so we were told. We took the row boat and had to “gift” the boatman another INR 400 to take us through the mangrove forest.

    It takes close to 1.5 hours to reach the shore. And an awesome beach. It’s a beautiful place to be… worth all the trouble – power cuts, drive, money, snakes. Had lot of shells and some skull too 🙂

    You can spend an hour at the beach. It gets really hot. And we hadn’t had anything to eat too. We got only water bottles and cola with us. After spending an hour at the beach, we went back on the boat, which was really boring this time. We reached our rooms by 11 AM and took a quick shower before leaving for Pondy. And as entered the bathroom, from the corner of my eye I could sense some movement at the corner of the bathroom – a snake!! Got my camera out and shot a pic- the sole reason many of you are here at this blogspot!

    After a quick shower from another bathroom, we pushed off to Pondy for lunch. We reached Pondy by 1:30. After lunch guys got “carried away”. So, we started from Pondy at 5:30 and reached Tambaram, Chennai at 7 PM. It took us 45 mins from Tambaram to Guindy 🙂

    And that was the trip that we did! – Wrong Way BUT FUN!!

    and saw a big crab too..

    More of Pichavaram pics will be coming up at potofshots.com

    cheers

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    Tanjore Trip

    It was good! 🙂 One of my team mates (colleagues) got married on 27th Jan. First of all, Congrats to him and God bless his married life!The reception was on 26th Jan. That being a national holiday, we guys (from office) decided to go for the reception. We started from Chennai on the 25th night by train. I have to mention that Indian railways has gone really bad now. Earlier it used to be only rats, now there are rats and the resident cockroaches. But then there is an improvement too, to be able to charge laptops and mobile phones. So I was able to watch a movie till 4 AM. 🙂

    We reached Tanjore by 7 o’clock in the morning of 26th Jan. We got out of the train and were greeted with this wonderful view.

    Went to the hotel (The Oriental Towers)

    Its a real good hotel for a town like Tanjore. Eight storey, I guess.

    Well maintained, has a swimming pool and if you get a room like mine (room no. 715) then you can have beautiful view of the temple top.

    Then we went to visit the periya temple (means “Big Temple”)and yes it is really big!
    Built by this Chola Raja


    Some better Tanjore pics are available here.

    Then we went to the Tanjore Sivagangai Park. Not much to see there, but if you are going with kids, it’s definitely a great place. There is a mini zoo with peacocks (and Peahens), foxes, deers, Guinea pigs, rabbits, pigeons, parrot, oh and lots of “love birds”... 🙂

    park pics are available here.

    On our way back to the hotel, we had lunch(very good lunch) at the marriage hall and slept blissfully at the hotel for four hours before going to the marriage hall for the reception.

    Chennai to almost so many places!!

    Chennai to ooty / Gokarna / Coorg / Nagarhole

    This time when my good friend Deepak made his visit to India, we thought we will do a trip. The plan was to go to Blore, pick up Andy and then decide on where to go.

    And you will read on to understand the title of the blog and my pitiable state of my health. 🙂

    Deepak and me started from Chennai on Saturday at 9:30 AM, reached Blore by 2 PM. I had a bad burger (didn’t know that then but it did taste different ) at McD Blore. Over the BAD burger we decided we will go Ooty, by the end of that BAD burger two things happened:

    1. I felt like puking
    2. Somehow, someone suggested we go to Gokarna. Seemed good, so we all agreed on that. It was only 480 Kms from Blore and two out of the three of us could drive.

    Thus Ooty got cancelled. And Gokarna began.

    We walked around for a while and my whole body started aching, which generally means I’m gonna crash down with fever. The cool evening breeze didn’t help the cause either.

    By dinner I had fever and with one of the drivers down there was no way we could have done the 480 Km drive. So we decided to go some place closer – Coorg.

    Thus Gokarna got cancelled. And Coorg began.

    We started out from Blore by close to 10 PM. On the way I started shivering and the fever started. We figured a stop at Barista would do us good. Nice place on the highway.

    As we sat there and discussed about the route, we realized the roads were real bad for a night drive. So we decided to go to Nagarhole.

    Thus Coorg got cancelled. And Nagarhole began!
    🙂

    We began from Barista by midnight. The roads had lots of bumps and some part of it didn’t dividers. So Deepak had to go slow. At some places there were no sign boards and of course no soul on the road to ask.

    Sign boards, sign boards everywhere, not one useful one!!

    Somehow we managed to reach Hunsur by 4 AM. All the while me shivering and the body temperature increasing. It must have been close to 104 degrees fahrenheit. At 4 AM we saw a “Coorg Cafe” open. We went in to get something hot and I was almost blacking out. My mouth started tasting funny and I knew it was coming. So had run out of the cafe and puked. BAD BAD McD BURGER!! We were in the middle of a freaking forest, no hospitals nearby and I was burning. Guys decided its better to get back alive than stay there and have one of us dead. So by 5 AM we found a malayali lodge (There’s a malayali everywhere. Thank God!) It was dingy but had bed and we were happy for that. We took a 3 hour nap and drove back to Blore, reached by 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

    Thus Everything got cancelled !!

    That was the account of how we almost went to Ooty / Gokarna / Coorg / Nagerhole. 🙂

    Cheers

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