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Published: December 11th 2014
Pondicherry bus terminal
I have always wanted to see Pondicherry which used to be a French enclave within India. So when we were in Chennai, we took a bus to visit this charming coastal city in the Bay of Bengal.
After we got directions from our hotel in Chennai, we took a cab to the bus terminal. When we got there we had to wait for about an hour to board the bus to Pondicherry. It was a comfortable air conditioned bus. Along the way we saw the sea at stretches along the highway. The bus was an express bus so we didn't stop anywhere, passing through small towns and villages before we reached Pondicherry in about 3 hours.
The bus terminal in Pondicherry was a very busy one. There were people departing or arriving from all parts of India. There was also a restaurant and a number food stalls at the terminal, and I had the most delicious vegetable samosas
from one of the stalls. They were quite cheap too, I think only 2 rupees each. After the samosa
lunch, we walked over to the taxi stand where all the three wheel cabs were parked. As soon as they saw us,
Pondicherry railway station
a group of young cab drivers mobbed us and asked us where we wanted to go. They were all smiling and seemed very friendly. I told them we wanted to go around the city and stop at interesting places to take photos After chatting among themselves in Tamil (Pondicherry is in Tamil Nadu state and Tamil is the main language there) we finally settled for a flat rate which we thought was reasonable.
So with our driver/tour guide we set off in his three wheeler. The guy spoke fairly good English, so we didn't have any problems communicating with him. He also turned out to be an amiable fellow, and even gave us a running commentary of the places along the way! Indian city with a French heritage
Pondicherry was for a long period of time a French colony until 1954. One can still see a lot of French influence even today, as many of the streets in the city continue to be known and called by their French names. There are also a number of colonial-era buildings, churches and statues. There is even a marble statue of the famous French heroine Joan of Arc, plus a
Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Pondicherry
French War Memorial. A French school is still in operation and I even met one of the teachers near the school and greeted her with a friendly 'Bonjour' which she returned with a big smile! For local residents who want to learn French, there is Alliance Francaise which conducts French language classes throughout the year.
Our knowledgeable "guide" took us all over the city, and we visited the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the French Quarter, the Cathedral of our Lady of Immaculate Conception, the waterfront, etc. The ride in the three wheeled taxi was quite an experience by itself, but we enjoyed it very much as we had a much clearer view of the surroundings from the open car.
Our return journey to Chennai was uneventful as it was dark already and we couldn't see much along the way. So we just slumbered on and off on the bus, and mentally prepared for our next adventure in India.
Footnote: The Indian government officially changed the name of Pondicherry to Puducherry (meaning 'new town') some years ago. However, many people still use the old spelling, and is affectionately known as 'Pondy' by the locals. But
On the grounds of Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Pondicherry
whatever the name and/or spelling, it continues to be a popular tourist destination in India, and dubbed as the French Riviera of the East by many Europeans.
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