Pondicherry – Oct 2008

“A good traveller is one who knows everything about the destination, but an ideal traveller is one who forgets home”

The above quotation at the Park guest house travel desk sums up our visit to Pondicherry during Diwali vacations in Oct 2008. We never missed home and seven full days in Pondicherry seemed insufficient. Some people find it quite unbelievable that a 7 day vacation can be enjoyed at a single location.

View my Pondicherry Photo slide show

Park Guest House (PGH) – We stayed here and I feel its the best place to stay in Pondicherry. Its cost effective, very neat, peaceful and located at one of the best locations in Pondicherry. All the rooms have balconies that open to a majestic view of the Indian Ocean merging into the horizon. We spent a lot of time on the easy chairs in the balcony. The magnificent sunrise that reinforces my faith in the supernatural,  the roaring waves and gusty winds through the day gradually transforming into darkness as evening descends, the huge tidal waves hitting the rocks with with immense power and thundering sounds – a natural grand show, performed live, on a limitless screen, is an experience that can never be captured by man made devices.

Lotus at PGH

Lotus at PGH

I liked many more things at PGH. I’m sure you can guess why its called Park guest house. Its got a park called The garden of positive vibrations.In fact PGH has positive vibrations all over. People don’t talk much but the rocks in the garden, the stairs, the water cooler, the travel desk, the adenium bonsais, the unique creations in the canteen and reception counter communicate with you.

Aurobindo Ashram – This was my second visit to the ashram. Its unlike other religious places or ashrams in India. There are no temples, deities, hawkers, loud-speakers blaring religious songs based on popular bollywood songs, offerings, pujaries, paid Prasad, long queues and struggling devotees. The most striking feature of this ashram is the calm and quiet in a flood of humanity, the beautiful and naturally fragrant flower decoration on the Samadhi. You just need to close your eyes to be alone. People talk in inaudible whispers, you don’t hear their foot-steps, cell-phones don’t  ring – this is nothing short of a miracle. The place is abound with beautiful man made creations and unique designs like planters, bamboo gardens, stone carvings, small water gardens with lotuses, lilies, aquariums etc. Surely, you need time to explore and an eye for beauty, as the creations are not placed strategically with placards, as exhibits in a museum and there is no guided tour that takes you from one artifact to another.
I don’t know the the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo or The Mother – I think I’ll be able to read and appriciate it sometime in future – but I liked my stay at the ashram and found it inspiring and soothing.

Walking and Cycling – I’ve not seen a city in India that is more cyclist or walker friendly, especially the French colony area in Pondicherry. Its a joy to walk or cycle on the clean paved roads, lined with footpaths, vintage buildings and colonial architecture, blooming bougainvillea, elegant galleries and drooping trees. We hired bicycles from PGH

Paved paths of Pondy

Paved paths of Pondy

at Rs. 20 per day. Though old, the cycles were very well maintained and we rode them effortlessly. It was a very cost-effective and non-polluting mode of transport.

Autocare – I strongly recommend using Autocare services for traveling in and around Pondycherry. Its the most reliable and desciplined travel agency I’ve ever come across. I found their charges the lowest and booked their services by E-mail. The vehicle was in time, well maintained, the driver well mannered and the drive comfortable & restrained. Nobody ever asked for cash for toll taxes or diesel or any kind of tips, our luggage always handled willingly and with due care. We paid just the pre-decided amount at the end of our journey. I feel a definate influence of the ashram or the french culture on the people of Pondicherry.

View my Pondicherry Photo slide show
… to be continued.

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