Pondy, Puducherry, whatevs

Anyone who tells you that ‘Pondy’ is calm and peaceful hasn’t been to the real Pondicherry.

The Pondy everyone raves about is a few blocks wide and a few blocks long, and yeah, it is noticeably much more quieter and peaceful than the rest of the city. Most of the antiquated buildings are, as the LP put it, in a charming state of déshabillé (although a lot of places are undergoing renovations).


There are a handful of restaurants in the area, and a few lovely cafes, all with exorbitant prices for very basic snacks and dishes, if you’re willing to pay for the ‘atmosphere’.

But that section isn’t backpacker friendly, as we found. Especially when you arrive on the weekend.

The sprawling Park Place Hotel was “full” and only had one room left, with 5 beds and a price tag equal to that. We decided to keep looking.

The manager of the next hotel looked me up and down before saying, with a snide look on his face, “full.” I resisted the urge to smack that smug smile off his face, and left without the usual ‘thanks for your time’.

After a few more places with prices only going higher and higher, we caught up to two shabby looking (by Indian standards, not traveler standards) foreigners (from Spain, it turned out) and asked how much they were paying for their room. 400 rupees, but those prices were only found across the canal that divided the ‘French Quarter’ from the rest of Pondy. We walked northeast and, after several more stops, finally settled for a moldy room for 500.

Turns out there was hefty competition, since there was a holiday coming up and people were pouring into the city to celebrate.

Pongal is a four-day harvest festival, an important Tamil holiday, and welcomes the changing of the seasons. We came up with a catchy jingle and for days we were singing, “we wish you a merry pongal, we wish you a merry pongal, and a happy new pooja!”

I absolutely loved the gorgeous colored chalk drawings that appeared on the boardwalk Sunday morning, and spent a great deal of time poring over them all.


Notice the hearing aid?


Overall, I enjoyed the salty sea breeze and discovering the delicious Tamil food the real Pondicherry had to offer (besides the jam pancakes, which are most decidedly French).