Submerged in Space between Thoughts -Ocean Expedition in Pondicherry.

“Every time you leave home, another road takes you into a world you were never in. A new silence goes with you. If you listen, you will hear what your heart would love to say.

…And, I forgot for a moment to worry about how I was supposed to be, because I was perfect right then. Everything was. Nothing scary. Just steady. Fast. I wanted the music to last forever.”

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I’m having the worst kind of hangover! A Vacation Hangover! Something that I love suffering from because of the memories re-lived recurrently. Also, at the same time, making you want to go back to that place. What’s the best part about my recent trip to Pondicherry, you ask? Well, it was my first solo trip. What was even better, you ask? I went DEEP SEA DIVING – Oh So Liberating!!

How about you imagine a quaint little town, it’s perfectly structured roads or ‘Rue’ resembling the names of streets in France, pretty clean beaches, street shopping, Aurobindo Ashram, Heritage Property Stays, locales of Pondicherry peddling their cycles which mostly seem like they are going on a Jolly Ride, Memorials, Temples, French men speaking Tamil (Sigh!) and of course, THE FOOD! All types of food – Croissants, Fresh Baked Breads everywhere, Best Caeser Salad, Pastas, Wood Fired Pizzas, Waffles, Pancakes, Ratatouille, Gelato, Asian, Steaks – You name it!

Pondicherry is a French Colonial Settlement which is now a Union Territory that runs along Bay of Bengal. This is a laid back town with very less ‘things to do’ as a tourist, but, as a traveler, you will be left with lot of things to explore. The ‘French Colony’or ‘White Town’ is centrally located with very close proximity to Promenade Beach. IMG_0891.JPG

Promenade Beach is a 1.5 kms beachfront stretch also known as ‘Rock Beach’ mostly because of the rocks on the shore. This beautiful pathway is always alive with its abounding places that might be of interest to many. As you enter the street, one can find the pathway along the beach on the right hand side. Towards the left, one can find a Gelato store in the beginning. This, was my favorite part ! I’d take a big bowl of Classic Dark Chocolate Gelato and eat it all up while taking a stroll on the beachfront stretch. One can also find food joints, handicraft stores, exhibitions that also sell their merchandise and the War Memorial. You will also find a statue of Mahatma Gandhi along this stretch.

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One of the most coveted cafe – Le Cafe is situated right next to this statue. This place offers an assortment of delicacies from breakfast till dinner that will leave people spoilt for choice. This places earns extra brownie points as compared to any other restaurant in this town because of its breathtaking view of waves crashing onto the shore while you sip on a Cuppa Coffee and gorge on heavenly food.

I had only one purpose of this Solo Trip – Deep Sea Diving! This being my third dive, I was very confident and took a leap  of faith to travel alone. Having all three days of the trip to myself, none to talk to, none to share my room with, none to share MY food with (Yes, I don’t like sharing my food at all!), speak less, observe more, share thoughts with myself in the mind. I’m not a loner but, always like my happy space. I’m a little difficult to understand that way – Simply, the thought of  all this was thrilling!

I started off with my journey to Pondicherry from Hyderabad. The most convenient mode of transport for me is A/c Sleeper Bus. One can alternatively take a flight to Chennai and then proceed to Pondicherry by hiring a cab or taking a bus. Airports and flights always gives me enough panic attacks, so I chose the former. The bus dropped me off at New Bus Stand, Pondicherry. The temperature was burning hot and I already knew the tan that would come along with this trip.

I had my first day planned. I checked into Hotel De Pondicherry, took a quick shower and head to Temple Adventures for my Scuba Diving Pool Training. I was late by 15 minutes. However, I got a warm welcome from Das, Rob and Arvind. After changing into my wet suit, I got into a tank of water where I practiced underwater breathing, equalizing ears, underwater sign language, techniques to clear out water from masks et al when in the ocean.

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Post this, I took a rickshaw back to the hotel, dropped off my ‘Captain America’ bag that almost everyone eyed  on! The hungry baby that I am, I head straight to DisDis & Co. for a relaxed afternoon meal. Beautiful garden cafe caught hold of me instantlywith it’s ‘All white’ ambience, delicious food and drink menu, hospitable staff and goooood music! This place was the BEST as compared to the rest of the  places I visited during my trip.

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Next, in the scorching heat, yet the trees spilling its shadow on the roads, led me to explore the French Colony by foot. After hours of walking, I was stunned at the French Architecture. One can hire a local guide who will take you around the colony and also, explain in detail about the history of the buildings. Tout Pondi is a good for this. One can also go on a cycle tour to explore the colony through Pondi Cycle Tour. They arrange for Photography tours which I think is amazing! I’d definitely want to do it the next time I visit. I also got to visit few antique stores that put up unique and rare collections.

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After a long walk, I got back to my cozy little hotel room where I rested for a while to charge up for the evening. It was set right with a long walk till Mission Street where I found some great deals on Street Style Shopping. Also, rented a bike with great difficulty considering the long weekend it was. In case you plan to rent a bike/ car/ cycle, you can reach this person (I don’t remember his name) on +91 9443212524. Ah! An evening of Jolly Ride, some thin crust pizza and a stroll in the night along Promenade Beach made it a totally perfect day.

I head back to my room around 9 :30 pm and snuggled into my bed to catch up on some good sleep I missed out for a long time!  Such a liberating day, I say!

The next morning, I was scheduled to leave at 5:30 am for the dive. Reported on time, I got introduced to my dive partners on the boat . We were briefed about the day by Akhil and Rajesh who were our dive instructors for the day.

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Cruising through Bay of Bengal!

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My dive partners!IMG_1059

Oh! Look! I have fins!

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Butterflies!

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That doesn’t stop me from a Classic Shameless Selfie!

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This being my third dive, I’d say, was ‘one of it’s kind’ of an experience. One realizes that there is a whole new world out there, under water, to be explored. You find calm in the chaos, a fear untold that vanishes, twenty thoughts, hundred feelings and its all gone in one dive. You can check  the short glimpse of my dive here : Facebook or Instagram.

I was under water for about 40 minutes where my instructor, Jay took me cruising upto 40 feet. Swimming with thousands of different types of fishes was Ah! May! Zing!

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Now, for all of my friends who have been telling that they are scared because they don’t know how to swim, let me tell you, you don’t need to know swimming to start off as a beginner. Unless, you  want to go for Open Water Diving and swim with Sharks.. Just kidding! You SHOULD GO!

Did you know!? It’s very rare that Sharks attack humans. Very Rare, unless they think you are a Turtle of some sort when they look up and find you on the water surface. They tend to get confused. It usually happens often in movies.

When I told this to a friend, he trolled me with this and got me cracked up!

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The moment when the comment is funnier than the caption!

I was done and dusted and returned to my hotel room at 11 am. Post which the entire day went off in visiting quaint cafes that served Ratatouille, Waffles, Cold Pressed Juices. I wouldn’t mind doing this all over again. As the sun set, I hit the beach for a stroll with my Classic Dark Chocolate Gelato, in my own world, not having anyone to talk to (of course, not in real but the virtual world doesn’t let you be aloof, right?) and shopping to end the day. If you are a spendthrift like me who can never get enough of clothes shopping, you get very good bargains at Mission Street. Also, Hidesign offers great deals at its factory outlet.

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While I slept through another night thinking about the good things in life, I woke up to a beautiful morning. I already had that sinking feeling again, where you start getting used to a new place, you would probably want to call it ‘Home’. Alas, I knew I had another day left to make the best of the small town of Puducherry. I started my day with breakfast at  Le Cafe. Next, I went to explore the monuments, the rock beach (yet again) and lunch at Cafe Xtasi with some lip smacking Wood Fired Pizzas.

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I head to  Aurobindo Ashram to pay devotions and meditate for a while, Aug 15th being Aurobindo’s birthday. I picked up some books that I have been reading. Great Place. Must visit.

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On returning back to the hotel, I had my cab waiting. I knew it was time to bid adieu to a wonderful place that stole my heart and kept me craving to come back for more. The next time I plan a trip here, i am most definitely going to stop by Mahabalipuram to learn Surfing.

I cannot wait for  my next dive trip with my gal pal Niveditha at Netrani Islands.

P.S : Below are some of the restaurants / Cafes that you should definitely plan on visiting in case you wake up one fine morning and find yourself in Pondicherry 🙂  I have tried a few mentioned below and a few cafes I visited, but couldn’t get a table. The chances of getting a table at a restaurant was 1 out of 5. After getting pushed away from four restaurants that were packed, I used to land up in a place where they could accommodate a single hungry soul. 🙂

Le Space
Cafe Xtasi
Villa Shanti
New Banana Cafe & Restaurant
Umami Kitchen
Le Club
La Maison Rose
Kaasha Ki Aasha
Rendezvous
Tanto
Café Des Arts
Le Dupliex
Artika Café Gallery
Satsanga
La Pasta World
Baker Street
Madame Shante’s
Carte Blanche
Intalia Wood Fired Pizza

Do let me know your thoughts in case you have visited Pondicherry. We probably might be going to the same place together, the next time.

Have a nice day!

Love,

Pooja Prahalad.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kanchan Chadda wrote says:

    Such bliss in reading your blog. Seems like a live experience with all intricate details about the trip. You go girl!!! Waiting for more.

    Like

    1. Thank You Kanchan! 🙂 I look forward to travel with my darling Ansh and you sometime soon so that I can write about the mischievous yet cute little things he does 🙂

      Like

  2. Maitri Banerjee says:

    What inspires a diver to decide to make her passion shared as a personal mission .. You my scuba superhero pooi … Being to Pondicherry how could I miss diving … In our upcoming trip ( hopefully should get materialised ) I too want to find myself breathing from a small air pocket of my own exhaust bubble under water & capture as many fish as we find … Your pics were enough to take my breath away ❤️

    Like

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