365 plus 2 days since the Beautiful Pondicherry - A Vacation to Repeat

It's been a year and 2 days since I landed in the beautiful Pondicherry. I took a much-needed family vacation to this quaint southern town on March 28, 2018. 

I remember it like yesterday. 

The heightened level of excitement was almost at its breaking point. The long-awaited vacation is here. And to a new place too - Pondicherry.

So with the handover list promptly handed over and the auto-response email set, I bid Au revoir to my colleagues and left for the day with wishes of Happy journey and Enjoy for us too’.

With an early flight, we awoke at 3:00 am and left our home in an hour with nothing but excitement and our luggage. We made it just in time to the airport with the first flight to Hyderabad scheduled at 5:45 am. Boarding the flight was nothing short of a mad MAD rush at the domestic airport in Mumbai.

Beautiful sunrise witnessed from an airplane window on the way to Pondicherry, India
Good Morning from the Sky
Once settled on our seats, it was smooth flying while greeting the new day in the summer skies. Now in Hyderabad, we had a couple of hours to kill, in which we walked around, had coffee and cake and generally passed the time dreaming about the stuff we would do in Pondi.

The next flight was a smaller craft and, I must say, quite cute like my little travel companion - my daughter.

Once in the air, it was all excitement and gleeful commentary about the plane, sky, seats, beaches, and pools and on and on. I wish I had that kind of energy!

The minute we spotted the beaches on the decent, it was absolutely breathtaking - the turquoise ocean against the pale sand and the horizon of emerald green. Truly a picture postcard.

Once on the ground, it was on to the Club Mahindra Puducherry Resort. A 40-minute drive to the 24-acre sea-facing resort was smooth and devoid of the traffic & pollution woes of the big cities and towns. A fun fact about the resort: The use of titanium oxide in the building construction, glass coverage, and tropical dry green forest makes it eco-friendly.
Family on vacation toasting with drinks at a restaurant in Pondicherry
With a traditional welcome of Chandan tikka (sandalwood paste) on our brows, and a welcome drink (the name escapes me), which was awesome and refreshing, we checked into our rooms, a short walk from the reception. While walking down the rustic path, the sounds of the waves and the wind were music to our weary ears.

A short rest in our rooms was followed by a lunch of traditional delicacies and soothing summer mocktails. Next, a walk around the property to make a to-do list (little one’s idea) checking out the pool, beach, play area, games zone, places to visit and on and on. Once again I found myself wishing that I had that kind of energy.

Day 2: Lets head to the pool

The eagerly waited day to jump into the pool is finally upon us. The temptation of the cool blue waters with a lovely Frangipani tree in the centre was just too hard to resist against the hot and humid summer weather. So with a big splash, we all turned aquatic.

Different colored shoe flowers of Hibiscus Flowers are the resort in Pondicherry.
Shoe Flowers
And we stayed there until the skin on our palms looked like raisins and our tummies began to rumble. Once out and dry, we couldn’t help but take the long scenic route back to our room, turning into explorers. We spotted a small stable with a couple of horses, shoe flower (hibiscus) plants in a range of colours, and the local birds. A hidden paradise!

Towards dusk, we took a leisurely stroll along the beach and sat on the beach couches beneath a tall thatch-roof. While on the couch, one just could not help but gaze up at the numerous wood and clay wind chimes. I could reminisce about their soft tinkling sounds anytime, anywhere.

Day 3: A day out

We headed out on a 4-hour tour of Pondicherry the next day.

Entry gate to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
We first visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram located in the eastern part of Pondicherry. A spiritual and peaceful community ashram which grew out of a small group of disciples who followed Sri Aurobindo after he retired from politics to settle in Pondicherry in 1910. The Ashram itself was founded in 1962 and grew from a small group of two dozen disciples to a large diversified community it is today.

We were advised to maintain silence and switch off our phones so the calm aura was not disturbed. Photography was strictly prohibited so we could experience the tranquillity IRL.

The beauty of the garden landscape, with the creepers and the flowers, was just stunning. A path from the entry leads into the tree-shaped courtyard with the samadhi, a white marble shrine where the mortal remains of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are laid to rest.

Although located in a busy city and having the appearance of a quiet retreat, it is, in fact, a vibrant centre of life in an urban setting. The very process of meditating and looking inwards opens up the mind to experience our true nature which is peace, happiness, and pure bliss.

A perfect place to just sit with one’s own thoughts.

Next, we drove through White Town or the French section of the Pondicherry. One is transported a century back while admiring the street names and the quaint structures. The simplicity of the architecture and their bright exteriors just pop against the Indian summer.

In it only in this part of town one can truly understand why Pondicherry is called the French Riviera of the East.

Family on vacation posing for photographs on the Rocky Beach of Pondicherry
Rocky Beach Memories
The next destination was the Rock Beach which is a seaside promenade. Not unlike the Bandra Bandstand or the Queen’s necklace of Mumbai, this is a popular stretch for both locals and tourists to take leisurely strolls by the ocean. The Mahatma Gandhi statue and the pillars are the iconic structures of the promenade.

With our stomachs rumbling, it was time to head on to a French cafe for a quick lunch. We headed to Baker Street, a little cafe in White Town. And what a treat too. They were preparing for Easter with all the chocolate eggs, chicks, and bunnies. It was quiches, sandwiches, and croissants for us. Followed by some yummy ice-creams.

For the last stop, we went to the Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper factory. Once again, photography was not permitted inside. But the display area was a heaven for the paper and stationery addicts.

Family posing outside the gate to the Sri Aurobindo Paper Factory in Pondicherry
The Gates to the Paper Factory
All paper is made by hand and with locally sourced organic materials like cotton rags, tea leaves, rice husks, gunny bag rags and so on. The rags are beaten and turned into pulp which is then poured into lifting machines to get the individual sheets. Each sheet is then lifted, set on felt cloths, drained, hung to dry and then smoothened out. Voila, the final paper is ready.

Besides the regular paper, the factory is also well known for the marbled paper it produces. Each sheet is unique and represents an array of colours and designs. Their inspiration is the ancient Japanese art of Suminagashi or ‘floating ink’ which is the art of marbling. And they truly live up to this inspiration.

And with this, we end our day about town and head on back to the resort for a brief respite.

It's off to the beach in the evening to bathe in the cool waters of the Indian ocean and building sand turtles adorned with seashells.

We stayed there till closing time which is 6:30 pm and headed on for a quick bath and it was on to dinner at the resort’s beach-side restaurant. Our appetisers preceded with fun magic tricks by the chef. We loved the seafood with our feet in the sand and the sky as our roof. 

Day 4: Lets hit the pool again

And with that, we plunged once again into the pool and swam till half past noon.

On to a quick change and lunch, we set out to enjoy the various activities on the property like the mechanical bull ride, trampoline, and air hockey.

In the evening, we witnessed a splendid fire show on the resort lawn with performers spitting and swallowing the hot flames like dragons and jumping through small hoops that were set ablaze.

Day 5: Au revoir Pondicherry

We bid our farewells and checkout of the resort and headed to the airport on Easter Sunday.

We bid goodbye to the wonderful Pondicherry from the skies as we saw the shimmering golden orb of Auroville rising from the greenery in the distance.

Once again, we were at the Hyderabad airport and had a really long wait of about 5 hours till we headed back home. While killing the time, we had a happy coincidence of bumping into family who was also on their way back to Mumbai.

Once in Mumbai and in the cab ride back home, we all vowed that we would head back to Pondicherry for another opportunity to enjoy the French Riviera of the East.

Two pairs of feet standing on a mandala design on the street in Pondicherry
Where will our feet take us next?