Solo Trip to Pondicherry
Pondicherry, the destined destination for my first solo trip. Before this, I had traveled to various places alone, but this time, with the sole motive to explore. I had planned on a solo trip to Himachal a few months before this trip, but could not make it. Somewhere my fear for traveling alone stopped me. As the travel date starts approaching the excitement level starts decreasing and you start getting nervous until you start your journey. Solo traveling is for people like me, who like to pause the moment relax, understand the culture, meet new people and explore. So this time, I was determined to make my first solo trip to Pondicherry.
Lay beside a lonely beach alone and do nothing, is what I always dreamt. Hell yeah! The freedom to do what you love to do and I was enjoying the Auro beach to the fullest. The whole day I was there at the beachside lying down in a boat nearby. I stayed in a small guest house near the beach, and the view from there was splendid. It was a simple place with a few very friendly foreigners residing. We were chatting at night for hours, discussing our cultures, lifestyle, and thoughts. People do see solo travelers differently. Since I had changed my plan to relax near the beach the previous day, now I had only one day to explore Auroville, the town built for human unity. People from 50 nationalities are permanent residents and knowing their way of living was a different experience. I had asked one of the French girls staying in my guest house to drop me till Auroville. I was on foot the entire time after that. It is a very peaceful place, and you will feel the vibrations. It is not a place to go for a holiday; there are no tourist spots, and they do not encourage tourism. They want that people come and stay there for a few days at least and understand the culture. I visited the Matri Mandir, but could not go inside as it was completely booked for the next two days. After visiting the various buildings each made for a different purpose, I decided to attend a session on chaos. Multiple sessions are conducted simultaneously in each building. I missed the discussion on Zen meditation as I hadn’t planned the itinerary well. After spending about 6 hours in Auroville, I started realizing the meaningless rat race I was a part of. We need to take a break once in a while and introspect. Most of us are living life without giving it a thought. A nice way which I learned there was to set a reminder tone of every half an hour and pause and see what and why we are doing. I also met a guy from Chennai, who was working in Infosys and had ditched his friends to travel alone. So the next half of the day I was with him. Surprisingly we had very similar interests and our thoughts matched. The beauty of traveling: meet new people get to know each other and know the greater world. We were exploring Pondicherry on his bike, sat near the beach and had an excellent dinner. We even did not other to know each other’s name even though we were talking like we were friends since ever. Now I think that we should have shared our contact details.
The next day I headed for Pondy. There is not much to do except for a few awesome places to have food, a few beaches, an Ashram and a church. I was happy as I wasn’t in an adventurous mood or an exploration spirit. After two days of peace and solidarity, I did not wish to do anything. The French colony is a silent place in the crowded city and a good place to for a walk. After the stroll there I sat on the rocks of the rocky beach. The Bay of Bengal is very aggressive compared to the Arabian Sea. The spray of water from the waves hitting your face is the best feeling, probably better than the feeling of love. It wasn’t an empty place but wasn’t noisy too. The view and sound of the waves hitting the rocks are something which I could stare and listen for hours. As the sun started to set more and more people started pouring in. It became a crowded place, but it was nice. It was nice to see people enjoying, chatting and spending time. Such an ambiance is needed especially when you have spent a few days near the lonely beaches. After a good meal, I needed a good sleep desperately and the next day my return journey began.
Overall Pondicherry was an excellent experience and a perfect destination for solo travelers. With not many tourist spots it is a place to enjoy a peaceful stay, understand the culture and meet new people. I was lucky to bang into so many awesome people as I still hesitate to start a conversation. Don’t go to a place to visit various spots, go to a place to be a part of it.
Food in Auroville and Pondicherry
Just for your information, Zomato is available in Pondicherry. I got to know that the last day. So you should get all the information about good food joints there. But, a few ones not to miss are Tanto Pizzeria and Auroville bakery. Sadly, I could not make it to them as I was not aware of the timing of the restaurants. Heard a lot about both of them from the locals too. The Solar Kitchen in Auroville is also a must visit, though a bit costly and requires pre-booking. The overall food is decent there. You may not find much of non-veg food in Auroville, but there are a lot of good places in Pondicherry for that. I had also seen a group of foreigners asking local fisherman residing near the beach to cook seafood for them. They said it to be the best food they ever had, so you can give it a try if you eat pork and fishes. In Pondy, Surguru is the place to eat South Indian food. I ate two dosas and an idly when I was there. It’s a huge place, and it is not too costly. Since I had missed Tanto, Café Xtasi was a good alternative. They also bake pizzas on wood rather than the oven. Try talking to the local people to dig more information regarding the eating options according to your preferences. Figure out topics to talk to local people, they are very friendly though the language is a problem. One of the shopkeepers gave me his own charger as I needed it more than him. Being there do not miss the authentic south Indian food, they are a must try.
Stay in Auroville and Pondicherry
For the stay, there are various options depending on your preference. I had a dream to stay near a lonely beach and I did that. Samuthira beach guest house is the place to be if you like the same with a direct view of the beach. This place is about 6km from the Auroville’s visitor’s center. It is walking distance from the main ECR road where the bus will drop you. There are many guest houses on the same lane. This area is also about 6kms to Pondicherry town. You can also prefer to stay in the main Auroville center, depending on the duration of the stay and purpose. If you want to experience the Aurobindo culture more and get the feel for the place stay in the center. Though I would suggest staying near the beach if you are there for only two to three days. Rent a bike and drive up to Auroville. Staying on the beach is an excellent experience. It is like you enter a different world. But do remember to take your towel, soap and mosquitoes repellent if you are staying in some guest house. In Pondicherry, there is not much to do. Try to remain in the heritage town or Whitehall. The beach and ashram are walking distance, and also, you can see the French culture from there.
Starting from Chennai, if you want you can make your entire trip within a few thousand and travel how a solo traveler is supposed to travel; not the luxurious way. During this trip I tried to mix both and compare which one suits me better. I retired at a place in a hut that had just a mattress (no bed), a table fan and a small bulb for two days and also tried a 4-star hotel for a day (I got it at a price of a guest house, thanks to goibibo). Believe me, the people staying in big hotels are arrogant, the only people with whom you can exchange a smile or talk are the people working there, who are trained to do that. I still regret not staying in the hut for another day. To know more about my stay and people I encountered with, read the other sections. I spent a lot on the food, tried everything I could and ate until I could not move. For traveling, I preferred the public transport or relied on hops and lifts. Bikes, cycles, and scooters are also easily available to move within Auroville and Pondicherry (do take, I missed it); the rentals are cheap. The rickshaws are very costly, the minimum they charge is Rs. 80 even for 3kms. From Chennai to Pondy a cab would cost about Rs. 2500 so I preferred a govt. bus. Private buses are also available and are not that costly, would cost you from anywhere around Rs. 250 to Rs. 500 per seat. You need to pre-book them, and be on time for the bus. I had no fixed plans and timing and would do anything I wished to, so I took the govt. buses which ply every 10 min (non-AC) and every hour (AC) though they are very crowded during peak hours (I did not mind that). The journey from Chennai to Pondy would take approximately 3 to 4 hours. So a brief breakdown of my expenses are:
Travelling Rs. 500
Accommodation Rs. 1800 for 3 nights
Food Rs. 1000
I was forced to wander, having no one, forced by my nature to keep wandering because wandering was the only thing that I believed in, and the only thing that believed in me.Roman Payne