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Travel Point…. Experience Corner….. down the lane of Memories


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Pondicherry: A refreshing weekend getaway

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“Live in the sunshine, Swim in the sea, Drink the wild air !” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My recent relocation to Chennai might give me the opportunity to explore the south, in a thorough manner. What better place can there be to start the journey than Pondicherry (Puducherry). Earlier I had been to south just once covering Cochin – Munnar – Alleppy – Kanyakumari – Rameswaram. There is a lot more to explore here. This was a short trip to the colorful city of beach, booze and bread !

How to reach Pondicherry (from Chennai):

There are various ways available to reach this lively destination. Some significant ways are cab or rented bikes. This is one of the top routes in India for road trip as the highway just runs by the side of the east coast(ECR). We were a group of six friends : Arpit, Prabina, Abhishek, Britto, Navya and myself. Britto being a localite took the charge and planned it. Here as language is a little barrier, so having a localite by your side can save much hassle. A lot of govt/private AC/Non-AC buses ply to Pondicherry. We had to catch a bus from Koyembeddu bus stop, but by mistake we(Arpit & Me) entered a wrong bus-stop in Uber that left us around 3km away from the actual bus-stop. And the bus was just about to leave. As a result, we could have been found running in and out Koyembeddu bus stop with a pic of bus’s number(TN01-AN1539 – see I still remember :p) in our hand. Finally, we boarded the AC govt. bus (fare INR 170 per head) from CMBT bus stop around 7 AM and reached Pondicherry around 10AM.

Bikes : best way to explore Pondicherry

We then directly moved to a bike rental provider(Vijat Arya 2 wheeler rental service) nearby. The owner briefed us on the sightseeing options there at Pondicherry, famous food joints to try out and basic traffic rules. We were reminded to be careful of the one-way routes there. The charge was around INR 400 per day per bike(Activa/Vespa) with min 2 days hire. We moved to our hotel(Hotel Corbelli, located around central market) and after a short refreshment , the journey started.

Paradise Beach:

Paradise beach was our first destination which is the top tourist spot at Puducherry. The last mile to Paradise is to be travelled by boat (to-fro ticket price INR 200 pax).

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One can travel there between 9AM – 5PM as the last boat leaves at 5PM. We reached Paradise beach around noon and the sun was at its peak.

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The sands on the beach had absorbed enough heat by then to roast our foot. Without any further delay, we jumped into the waving water of Bay of Bengal. The beach was extremely clean and well-maintained, but there was nothing available except coconut water 😦 After some 2 hours of gruesome face-to-face with the salty tides, we decided to return. The pointed shells on the beach had injured all of us by then in some way or other.

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After this salty bath, there is a rain-dance facility also available to refresh at a cost of INR 50. Then we returned by boat to the entry point.

At this point, there was just one thing in everyone’s mind : Food. We went to ‘Hot Breads’which was just beside our hotel and had a sumptuous meal of Pizza & Pasta. The food was good and cheap (as tax levied).

Rock Beach:

After a short rest at our room, we moved to Rock beach through the French colony which was just 1km away. The place is well-structured and maintained. This was an Indianized version of Dubai’s famous JBR(Jumeirah beach walk). The road was broad and only walkers were allowed after 5PM. One can sit there on those rocks and watch the sea splashing onto those black rocks leaving a few droplets on your face. The atmosphere there was just serene. There is a small fast-food market there just near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. We tried some Masala Pani Poori, Chat and some fruit salad out of the vast options available there. There is a café (Le Café) just by the sea-side which remains open(not in reality) for 24 hours. A nice place to try some french drinks, coffees or shakes. After chilling there for some more time, we returned to the hotel. The dinner party went on till 2AM at our room and everyone except two went to bed shortly. Prabina and I decided to pay a visit to the Rock beach.

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The beach was deserted, a but a few group were there; some sitting & gossiping, some lying just in wait of the sunrise and a few other in their deep sleep on the benches. The atmosphere couldn’t be explained in words, but can only be experienced: the tune of gushing sea water doing away with the quietness of the surrounding. After enjoying the soft breeze to the core of our heart, we returned to hotel with a hope of getting a glimpse of the sunrise next morning.

Auroville:

I guess that was some high hope :p We woke up around 9AM in the morning. We moved to Shri Aurobindo Ashram first. Then we moved to Auroville. It is a whole world in itself. After watching the short video, we walked till Auroville view point and clicked some pics.

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Shri Aurobindo Ashram

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Auroville

There was a lake around 8km away. We had planned to cover that too. The last 2km was a real pain. With road work under progress, there were only boulder s on the road. But after this when we reached the lake, it was disappointing. It was like a left-out lake due to lack of maintenance.

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We rode back to main city. After enquiring, we got to know there was just one AC bus yet to leave, but all the seats were already booked. The cab was too costly for a one way ride. There were some private AC buses in the evening, but the price was nearly 3 times. Luckily, we came across a bus which had come from Dingul and was on its way to Chennai. Three went to book the seats and the rest went to return the bikes. To utter dismay, the lock of the bikes was found stuck and couldn’t be opened. There were a wallet and some luggage in that. As it was a Sunday, so the repairing shops were also closed. We were running out of time. The bus was about to leave in 10 mins(at 3PM) and there we were, stuck with a lock. Then in desperation, we pulled the seat up and Britto slipped his hands into it and dragged the wallet and other stuffs out. The rental operator was kind enough not to charge for that. We literally run to the bus stop where the bus was on the verge of leaving. Some were even limping with their injured legs. With the grace of Almighty, We boarded the bus at the eleventh hour and that was the end of this awesome and happening journey.

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The Group

Some Other Sightseeing Options:

  • Basilica Church
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral
  • Arikmedu
  • Museum
  • French War Memorial

Some food joints to try:

  • Café Xtecy – for wood fired Pizza
  • Le café- for some soft drinks
  • Hot Breads- for authenticate French bread, Pizza & Pasta

PS: And there is one thing very cheap at Pondicherry, need I mention: p

Tips:

  • Protect your foot at Paradise beach from the sharp shells. If possible, take some band-aid’s with you.
  • Booze is not available at Paradise beach anymore, neither you are allowed to take any. Plan accordingly.
  • Be careful of the one-way routes and don’t park your vehicle near Rock beach side after 5PM.
  • Take a soap/Shampoo to paradise beach if you are planning to take a dip in the water.
  • For rented bikes, go to Vijay Arya if you haven’t researched properly.
  • To visit the inner sanctum of Auroville, apply for pass prior to 2-3 days of the visiting day.

 


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A Trip To God’s Own Country – MUNNAR [Part-1]

After a number of  planning, rescheduling, postponement; finally the trip to Kerala-God’s Own country turned to reality on 2nd March. I, with my friend, Soumya set off on the most awaited journey to God’s own land.

The First destination was Munnar situated 1600 m above sea level. It is also called “The Switzerland of India“.

The Switzerland of India

The Switzerland of India

Journey from Bhubaneswar(Odisha) to Munnar(Kerala)-

Plan-

Jajpur Road to Chennai – By Coromondal Express[12841] (SD-7:36 PM; SA- 5:15 PM)

Chennai to Coimbatore- By Nilagiri Express[12671](SD-9:15 PM; SA- 4:50 AM)

Coimbatore to Munnar- By Bus/Taxi via Udumulapet

We had booked our ticket in Coromandal Express(12841) before two months to be in safe side and had completed background research of our targetted area of visit.Everything was set. It was time for action… !!

I boarded the train at Jajpur Road(JJKR) at 7:55 PM on 2nd March. The train was running late by 20 mins or so. My friend joined me from Bhubaneswar(BBS). We had dinner and settled to our respective seats. The chill of the AC was starting to prevail. I was engrossed in Ashwin Sanghi’s Chanankya’s Chant. After hitting a century(ofcourse of pages !!), I went to sleep. The next day we reached at Chennai nearly around 5:20 PM.

Our next train to Coimbatore was at 9:15 PM.There was ample time. So we thought of going to Chennai’s famous Marina beach. We went to park town station i.e. just opposite of the Chennai Central Front Gate. From there we caught a local train and got off at Thiruvallikeni station that comes after Chepauk.One can clearly see the Chepauk stadium while travelling by train. From there , the marina beach is just a stone’s throw way.The cool breeze at the beach was so soothening. We sat at the beach for some time , clicked some photos, had tiffin at the nearby food-stalls and returned to Chennai Central.

Evening at Marina Beach, Chennai

Evening at Marina Beach, Chennai

Marina Beach, Chennai

We had dinner at Sarvana Bhavan. Good quality south indian food. The train had arrived on the platform by then.We boarded the train and the journey continued.

The next day, the train reached at coimbatore at 5 AM. Coimbatore is an excellent well-planned and well maintained station. We completed our daily routine at 1st class AC waiting Hall cum railway dormitory. Just infront of the station, there is a “High Class Resturant“. We had our breakfast there (Idli + Eddyyapam + sambar +Chatni + kadal). The quality of food  was very good and the budget was also nominal. From there, we took an Auto to Ukadam Bus stand which was just 2km away and reached there by 7AM. The location of the bus stand is near a lake. We were planning to take a bus to Udumulapet(Runs in each 5 mins) and from there to book a cab or to find a bus to munnar. But we found that from ukadam bus stand , direct bus plys to Munnar. And the bus leaves the bus stand at 8:14 AM. It runs via Pollachi-Udumulapet to Munnar. Another bus was also there on the schedule that leaves the station 2:30PM. But it was not running at the time due to some problems.

Suzlone Made Windmill on the way from Pollachi to Udumulapett

Suzlone Made Windmill on the way from Pollachi to Udumulapett

In between Pollachi and Udumulapet, one can see many wind mills(Suzlon made). The bus reached at Udumulapet at 10 AM. Passengers had tiffin there. It left at 10:40 AM from there. After 30 mins of travel, it entered Anamalai Wildlife sanctuary. When it crossed Kerala border, the name changed to Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary. Except a few monkeys, one could hardly see any wildlife there.  Then it passed through Marayoor Sandalwood forest. On the way , large size of tree plantaions could be seen on both side of the road. The hilly-curvy road and at both side tea plantaion’s greenery will make the ride interesting. On the way  a few cottages, water falls, trekking point could be seen. The entry to Eravikulam National park also falls on the same way. South India’s highest peak Anaimudi(8841 feet), Luckom Water falls, Tata Tea Museum, Nyamakad water falls, Thoovanam water fall can be seen on the way.

From Udumulapet to Munnar Way

From Udumulapet to Munnar Way

Excellent Scenic Beauty on both side of the road

We reached at Munnar at 2:30 PM on 3rd March. Checked into a Lodge-KALI NIVAS located at the center of the market. The room was decent. We freshened  up and went out. We had lunch at the nearby Mahavir Resturant. One of the few places at Munnar where one can find North-Indian food and most importantly not made of coconut oil. Then we went to room , took rest for half an hour. We then came out to explore the near by places and the local market.

Mount Carmel Church– This church is situated in the center of the Munnar city. A good place to kill some time.

Mount Carmel Church

Mount Carmel Church, Munnar

DAY-1 SightSeeing

Top Station route is the main attraction of Munnar. But one of our friends was supposed to join us at munnar the next day.  So we had to change our preplanned schedule. We thought of taking the other routes that day i.e Kochi/Madurai route. We covered the following locations that day.

Fun Forest Adventure Park–  This is located in the Kochi-Madurai highway direction a few kilometers away from Munnar bus stop. A good place for some warm up and adventure activities. Mostly suitable for youth. They have a  variety of activities like Multi Vain, Horizontal Ladder, Free Walk, Tyre Walk, Spider Net, Burma Bridge, EPGP, Earthquike, Zip-line, Valley Crossing , Rock Climbing, Rapling,  Buggy Ride. The price starts from RS 100/- to RS 500/- per head and depends on the activity. One shouldn’t miss out Valley crossing, Spider net if going to this place. There is also a Tree-House and the scenic view from it is spectacular.

Valley Crossing

Valley Crossing

Tyre Walk

Tyre Walk

View from a Tree-House

View from a Tree-House

Lack of regular maintenance and modification has deterioted the park’s ambiance. A few massage centers are also there near by to the Fur Forest park. Various types of massages are facilitated depending on the need and interest of person. The price varries from RS 400/- to RS 2000/- or more. After registration, they will take you to there massage center by Jeep.

Dreamland Fun Park– This park is around 4km away from Fun forest park. They provide various fun packages. Elephant ride or camel ride can be done here. There are a few other activities like Water-ballon walking, Rubber jumping etc. The whole package includes RS 900/-. For only elephant ride, they charge RS 400/- per head. But the time limit is extremely less. Only about 5 minutes. They have only 2 elephants and 1 camel. These two elephants must be the laziest elephants in the world. The old man at the ticket counter acts like he is the busiest person in the world and hardly listens to anybody. This place is mostly a hotspot for lovebirds and couples.

Dreamland Fun Park

Dreamland Fun Park

Attukad Water Falls– The Attukad water falls is a few km away from the dreamland fun park. It’ll take around 20 minutes to reach there. On the way to the water falls, excellent scenic beauty can be seen on both side of the road. A few good cottages are there on the way like Aranyakam Cottage. The view of the water fall amidst these tea-garden is just spectacular. Cardamom, Coffee and Pepper plantations also could be seen on the way.

Attukad Water Falls, Munnar

Attukad Water Falls, Munnar

Pothamedu View Point– This is the best view point at Munnar. Long Stretched tea-plantation garden getting faded  to the distant misty mountain, the lush green view, the series of mountains dancing to the tunes of nature under the grey-umbrella of those clouds will make you spellbound. Sitting there on the edge with a cup of coffee in hand and enjoying the beauty with the chilled weather will give one a feeling of heaven no doubt. Down the lane tea, cardamom plantations could be seen. The place was so mesmerizing that we sat there for more than an hour just looking at the splendid view. The view of sunset from this point is an out-of-the-world-view.The time seemed to stop for a while.

Pothamedu Viewpoint, Munnar

Pothamedu Viewpoint, Munnar

Blossom Park- This park is situated near the Munnar town. Only 2km away from the market area of the town. Though one could hardly see any blossom of flowers, but no doubt it is full of blossoming beauties :P. There is facility for a no. of fun activities also in the park e.g Water-Ballong walking, Air Gun, Bow & Arrow etc. A good place to kill some time. Ofcourse, an excellent place for lovebirds and couples.

Blossom Park, Munnar

Blossom Park, Munnar

It was already 5 PM when we came out of the Blossom Park. That was the sightseeing for the day. We returned to our room, got freshened up . As I have missed the lunch that day, I was so hungry, I could eat a horse.. We went to the same Mahavir Resturant and had a stomach-full lunch. Then we took rest for a while at our room.

In the evening, around 7:30 PM we visited the nearby market. We both ate an omlette each, tasted Raw-Banana Chop, Ripe-Banana Chop and ofcourse Masala Dosa with sambar-chatni. Then we paid a visit to the local market. The jackets were so cheap there. As next day, we were going to the Top station, so I bought a jacket for just RS 750/- which will be around 2000/- if bought from the city shops. We then had paratha and egg curry at one of the resturant. As here large no. of christians and muslims reside, so in most of the resturants beefs is also made. So one should be careful in chosing a resturant. What we used to do !!? We would first go to the resturant and ask him if they serves beefs ? After confirming that there is no touch of beef at the resturant, we would sit. Munnar is also famous for its home-made chocolates, home-made wine and home-made spicies. So make sure you don’t miss out these on your next visit to munnar.

In my next post, I am going to post the sightseeing locations on the Madupatty Route.