Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Poppin' in on Pondi

This past weekend I once again left Hyderabad to continue my exploration of the Indian subcontinent. Myself, Diana, Alanna, Marianna, and Trudy went to Pondicherry to visit one of Marianna's friends, who is studying there. Kaia had friends coming in from Norway, so she met them in Goa and we were without her.
It looks like this, but not as nice
We left Tagore on Thursday afternoon to get on an overnight train, which I was not looking forward to. I traveled on several overnight trains the last time I was in India and I have not been eager to repeat that experience. Everything is just very crowded and hot, and of course, everyone stares at us. There aren't actually compartments, just two benches facing each other, and the back rest of the bench raises up into a bed. So eventually there are three beds on top of each other and facing each other with no privacy. I don't want to say that I prefer overnight buses to trains, because neither is all that great, but I just really don't like the overnight trains.
Anyway, we woke up on Friday in Chennai, got a quick breakfast, then took a bus to Pondicherry. According to Lonely Planet the bus ride was supposed to be around 2hr, but it actually took closer to 4hr. We had all the windows down to get a breeze, but that also let all the dust in. By the time we got to Pondicherry I literally had black streaks on my cheeks from all the dirt and grime.
We found a hostel, showered, and went to dinner. As we were asking the hostel "receptionist" how to get to the restaurant we met a German named Paul, who was traveling alone and was also staying there, so he joined us and tagged along for the rest of the weekend. It was weird because the five of us, usually six, are used to all traveling together without guys, but as the waiter at the restaurant was repeating our orders he directed everything at Paul, who we'd only known for about 15min.
After dinner we met up with Marianna's friend who led us to a liquor store, where we discovered that Pondicherry doesn't have an alcohol tax. We all got wine and beer and went down to the waterfront to drink. Eventually we split up, but Diana, Trudy, Paul, and I stayed on the beach/rocks for a while and then tried to make our way onto the pier we saw in the distance. Unfortunately, it began to torrentially rain and we could never find the pier, but not for lack of trying god damnit!!
Pondicherry used to be a French colony, so it's quite western with a lot of French influence. For breakfast the next morning we went to Baker St. Cafe (on Baker St. with a Sherlock Holmes logo) and had real coffee and delicious pastries. We met back up with Paul and wandered around for a while until we heard from Marianna's friend. We ended up going to her friend's school, which is basically a Norwegian school in India. The school was incredible and looked more like a 5star resort than a university. There was a pool, spa, restaurant and cafe, and it was all on the beach! We spent all afternoon in the water, jumping into the waves.

I jumped in too shortly after taking this

Once we got back to Pondicherry we met up with some friends from Tagore, who left on Friday rather than Thursday, and walked along the Promenade/beach front.
Pondicherry's Beach Promenade
After a short shower break, we all (the five of us, Paul, Paul's friend, Marianna's friend, and the other Tagore foursome) went to a recommended rooftop restaurant. They offered a selection of Western and Indian food, so I went out on a limb and ordered steak with a creamy mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. It's borderline heretical to eat steak in India and I didn't know what to expect from the mashed potatoes, but I threw caution to the wind and ordered what potentially could've been a very expensive mistake. It wasn't. In fact, it was incredible. The steak was delectable and the mashed potatoes were wonderful and fluffy and buttery. We sat around for a long while after dinner and then wandered back to the seaside and hung out there for a while.
Sunday morning we all met up again for the last time and had breakfast. We didn't go to Baker St. Cafe, but the place was still cute and yummy, despite the terrible service. After that we all went our separate ways. The Tagore foursome were taking a train back to Hyderabad that night, so they left for Chennai before we did. Paul and his friend were taking a day trip somewhere, so they went on their way too.
We went back to the hostel, showered, packed, and then got back on the bus to Chennai.
Of course, Sunday was also when I needed to get my third (out of five) rabies shot, so once we got to Chennai and got a rickshaw to take us to the airport, we stopped at every pharmacy we passed on the way. However, since it was a Sunday they were all closed.
We were able to get a cheap flight back to Hyderabad, which is why we flew rather than train-ing it, and we got back to our city of residence around 9pm. Thankfully, the third pharmacy our taxi driver stopped at on the way back to campus was open, so I still don't have rabies!! I showered and crashed as soon as we were back. I was exhausted and was genuinely glad to be back in my own, uncomfortable, bed.
Pondicherry was a good time, but overall I didn't feel like it was all that spectacular of a city. The food was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. I'm just really tired of going to areas of India that were colonized for the majority of "modern" history. Because of the colonization, most of the places we've been, other than Hampi, have also been predominately Christian. I am just really tired of seeing churches, I mean, I get enough of that shit back in the South.
 Unfortunately, last night I was peer-pressured into going on a trip to Goa, which is where everyone in India, tourists and locals included, go for beaches, sun, drinking, and partying. GOD, my life is so hard....

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