Famous for its French colonial past and Auroville international community, Pondicherry is a cute coastal town located east of Bangalore, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Curious to see the French influence still present in the city and looking for a relaxing getaway, the Leave UR Mark volunteers decided to travel to Pondicherry, or Pondy, as it’s affectionately called by the locals, for a weekend excursion.
Our trip started full-force on Friday night as our sleeper bus whisked us away at highly efficient (read: crazy) speeds from Bangalore towards the eastern coast of India. Sleep did not come easy on the bumpy roads, but because of the cozy layout of the bus, we all had a good time socializing on our bunk beds.
We arrived in Pondicherry bright and early on Saturday morning and spent a good part of the day cooling off by Auroville beach. Unlike most touristy beaches, the scene in Pondicherry was refreshingly local – families strolling on the beach, children hunting for shells, fisherman pulling in the morning catch. The beach itself was not the cleanest, but it was fun helping the fishermen reel in the nets and the water was good for swimming in.
The rest of Saturday was spent exploring the French Quarter of Pondy city – an area marked by tree-lined cobbled streets with names such as Rue Dumas and Rue de Boissy. French is still largely understood by the locals and the area is popular with tourists from France. We also found out why the town is famous for its food and drink, and any trip here should not leave out a visit to the delicious French Bakery.
On Sunday, we visited Auroville, a famous international and spiritual community that has settled in Pondicherry. Approximately 2,200 people from 43 different countries live in Auroville. There is no typical tourist attraction at Auroville that will “wow” the visitor. It does not consider itself a tourist attraction but rather is an interesting place to learn about (the origins, the way of life, and more on the people it attracts that live there). It is considered a ‘human experiment’. Those interested in ecological restoration and veganism can also visit ‘Sadhana Forest’. An Israeli couple runs this community of hundreds of volunteers and interns who help re-forest the land, grow and cook their own food, live “off the grid”, and involve the community in a multitude of sustainable programs. In the evening, we did some souvenir shopping back in Pondy city and lazed by the beachside promenade, leisurely waiting to catch our bus back to Bangalore.
All in all, it was a charming and rejuvenating weekend excursion. The laid-back vibe, good company and interesting mix of Indian and French culture made this a memorable trip for all of us. We recommend going to Pondicherry if you’d like to experience a “non-touristy” weekend excursion.