Welcome to Pondicherry...

also known as Puducherry, which means "new village", located in the south east of India. It is on the coast of the Bay of Bengal and is also referred to as the French Riviera of the East. It has about 1 million inhabitants and has a very pronounced French influence.
Give Time A Break

We are greeted by the sign Peaceful Pondicherry – Give Time a Break. It's an interesting sign because we usually think that time should give us a break.

We're quite happy in our Pondicherry hotel, called Calves Heritage Hotel. It's probably the huge copper bathtub that most impresses us. It has been squeezed into this side of the bathroom with nary a centimeter to spare.

copper bath tub

We're on a little street in the French quarter of Pondicherry, a row of houses in the original Tamil style that have been preserved. The only problem is that we're overlooking the street, which means that we're part of the experience of the street. That translates to all the honking of horns that happens as two cars attempt to pass each other on the narrow street, or the trash tractor who comes by early in the morning with its women trash collectors. They pass the garbage to a man standing in the rear collection vehicle who then sorts through it pulling out all the plastic and recyclable items.

collecting trash

Or it's the early morning rush of people going to work. Who says you can't do computer business from your Tuk Tuk?

PC in Tuk Tuk

Even earlier than that, you can hear the sound of women cleaning the streets with water and their brooms. They are paid a very small monthly stipend by the government to keep the streets looking nice. This happens only in the French Quarter where the streets are paved and remarkably free of trash.

Our room is filled with switches for the lights. Each light and combination of lights has its own unique switch. Here's a photo of the switches from the restaurant. This was for only one side. Each side had its own panel. A little crazy...

Aside from the noise, we're happy with our accommodations and even happier with the restaurant, which has the reputation of being one of the finest dining spots of all Pondicherry. Here are some of the food items that we enjoyed from the Maharaja's Kitchen: Palak Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese with Spinach), Kai Kari Mandi (Vegetables in Cashew Gravy), Aloo (Califlower in flavoury spices), Paneery Goli Kebabs (Cottage cheese and potato balls served with green chutney), Bhindi Jaipuri (Crispy fried okra and onions tossed with chillie, dry mango and cumin), Tandoori cooked vegetables and the most delicious Mushroom and onion pulao rice. The Indian food journey has begun...

Here's a typical breakfast of scrambled eggs, dosas, uttapam, sambar and chutney...
Mindypod is delighted with the coconut water that is available on lots of the street corners. For only 10 rupees (about 20¢) a woman hacks off the bottom of the fresh coconut with her machete-like knife, pokes two holes in it with the hopefully clean tip of the knife, inserts a straw and we're in heaven.
We met an Israeli couple named Gadi and Imball. She was 6 months pregnant and they had their 15 month son Tom with them. They've been traveling throughout Nepal having done a one month trek and now are in India for 5 months.  They go home end of March, so she can have the baby end of April.  Her husband was doing a funny monologue on how strict Imball is at home about using a car seat and NEVER taking the baby out of it, no matter how much the baby screams.  Well, it's very different here. Check out this extremely typical family. It is very common to see families with 3 and 4 kids on the same motorcycle. We've even seen a mother holding her brand new baby and sitting sidesaddle without holding on, all while her husband maneuvers through insane traffic. It's unbelievable!

Here it is rare to find working seat belts in a car. There may be shoulder seat belts, but no place to snap them in, or else there are the buckle attachments, but nothing to put in them! The driving is absolutely insane. Horns honking constantly, bikes and motorcycles weaving in and out and all the while, the hierarchy of castes, i.e. dog, goat, hand cart, pedestrian, cow, ox, bicycle, motorcycle, Tuk Tuk, car, bus, truck, is absolutely respected. It seems like a big video game that someone is playing from high above. Don't know how there aren't more accidents. Once in a while we'll see a huge truck flipped upside down on the side of the road, but there really should be many more accidents based on how the people drive. And twice now we've had to be driven quite a distance at night. That is brutal! Best to close our eyes and do our prayers because watching the road is like being in our worst horror nightmare.

Here in the South of India, almost all of the women wear saris or punjabis, the long tunic top with matching pants. No matter whether they live on the streets and beg for a living, work on a road crew hauling concrete or tend a shop, they all dress this way. They look so elegant and beautiful and it's always such a delightful sight to see them. We just can't figure out how they don't get their saris caught in the bike spokes as they whiz past us...

sari women
We also spent a few nights at The Dupleix Hotel in Pondicherry - which was very French. Good food, interesting decor. Most of the other guests in the hotel were French, which was trés fun...

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