For a North Indian, spending vacations in Chennai that too in sultry summers is a defining moment of life. Language, peoples, weather, eating habits, daily routine, architecture and nearly everything is so different. This diversity of India is so estimable that you feel righteously proud to be its citizen. Being on-road by nature, I was itching to explore its surroundings. Having heard of the splendor of East Coast Road [ECR] we decided to pay our beautiful Pondy [Pondicherry] a visit.
We had an early morning breakfast at Adyar [Restaurants at Chennai and all of South open early] we headed towards ECR. The 7th century Murundeeswarar Temple on the way was a big surprise. After paying tributes to Lord Shiva we continued with our journey.
ECR is 4 lane state highway [SH 49] now. As the sun rose the road was glistening with all the signs and markings glowing against the black background of the road. Enjoying the ride draped in cloth from top to bottom to avoid any sunburns caused by the humid coastal climate we would occasionally come across gleaming blue back waters.
Within an hour we could see the yellow sun bathing structures of Mamallapuram [earlier known as Mahabalipuram]. A historic town is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Built in 7th century the temples generally depict the Mahabharat episodes and are in the form of chariots or open caves. The efforts of craftsmen of that era are awe aspiring.
Back to ECR after the detour Pondicherry [Puducherry]was only 100 Kms away but with heat and humidity it seemed to be agonizingly far. Along the road we could see the heaps of salt announcing the presence of salt cultivation in the area. Unfortunately it was not only visible but we could feel it on our skins too.
Devoid of any eateries we took only couple of short breaks. The sea shore sightings were becoming frequent and very soon we passed the white gate that announced our arrival at Puducherry. In the city we quickly made our way to Hotel Surguru.
In the night we made rode to Le Café to have the first glimpse of the beach in Pondi. In pitch black night as we took sips of coffee we could easily see the milky white waves as they made their way to the shores. As they struck the noise was deafening and their decibel level made us realize the might of the sea [read water bodies]. Sitting on the beach you are dragged into deep philosophy of life and how weak and fragile we humans are.
The thing that is apparently noticeable at Pondicherry is the distinct division of the city. One part is Tamil dominated while the other part is a French colony and both are class apart. The old French colony boosts of good quality bakeries, restrobars and multi cuisine restaurants.
Next day we were off to Paradise beach. A small stretch of bike ride and we were at Chunnambar from where a short boat ride on back waters took us to the beach. The beach is shallow and a wonderful place to enjoy with the family. Beware of the tide warnings and the timings [9 to 5 pm strictly].
Evenings were spent in enjoying road side sea food, foreign cuisines, coffee and yes, the drinks. Unlike other places in India, drinks are served in almost all the restaurants.
While returning, as we left Pondicherry, a shiny globe fascinated us so much that we left ECR and traversed 4-5 Kms to reach it. We later realized it was Auroville [French words for City of Dawn]. It belongs to some experimental sect that believes in universal unity. The golden ball is known as Matri Mandir.
Another 4 hours and we were back to Chennai.