Pondicherry-Where France meets India

I’ve been to Pondicherry or Pondi as people fondly call it, a couple of times.The first time was when I was in college.I remember hitting the beaches of Auroville, and almost drowning.

This visit thankfully was a bit less dangerous than the first one.After the wedding revelry in Chennai came to an end,me and my college friends decided to head to Pondi for a very small weekend getaway trip.

We didn’t have a lot planned honestly, as this was supposed to be a weekend where we did absolutely nothing. So after having a quick breakfast at our stay(Coromandel heritage), we headed to Pondicherry Museum. Now, I’ll be honest and say this. It was an absolute let down. The place was in shambles, and the artefacts were in various states of decay.If you’ve got a short visit planned like us, then by all means please avoid the museum.

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We then ambled around, took a few photos in front of the governors residence which I may add is a beautiful building in itself, and also stepped into a church on the way.What I do love about Pondicherry is that at times you feel like you are in some part of France. You’ll catch small bits of conversations happening in French,pass by street names in French, beautiful French architecture, and also savour French food.The remnants are everywhere.

Later,we headed out for a boat ride that was arranged by a local near Promenade beach.On arriving, we found that we would be getting into a fishing boat with no life jacket whatsoever.The memories of me almost drowning did come to mind, but I pushed through it. After all,what else can you expect for 1500Rs, so we got onto the boat.It was definitely worth it, and we got to see a close up of the old harbour.After two hours of getting burnt in the sun, we headed back to the hotel,freshened up and then walked to a little french cafe called cafes des arts. We were infact the only Indians in the place when we arrived, and so assumed the food would be authentic.I can’t speak for the others, but I did like my crepes.

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The rest of the evening was spent doing nothing. We walked to the promenade, sat there for a good two hours, and then ambled along.We happend to glimpse upon the Alliance Francaise in Pondicherry, and lo and behold, they were playing a French movie. So we got in, and spent the next hour and half watching the movie(which had sub titles thankfully). By the time, we stepped out it was around 11, and realised that all places would shut soon. So we ran from restaurant to restaurant and got kicked out by everyone of them, until we found one place that would take us in for 20% extra. We took the bait.

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The next morning, my friends woke up early to catch the sunrise(I slept in), and then we headed to baker’s street,the famous french cafe. Unfortunately for us, the service that day was horrible, and the food wasn’t as great as expected either.

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What followed after was another lazy day, followed by driving down to Chennai to catch our respective flights, trains and buses to head back home.

A slice of Cambodia in two weeks

I know I’ve not been active as I promised I would be. It’s been a busy month, and November started on a high note.Me and my boyfriend have been in a long distance relationship for over a year now and we had finally decided to meet up after 7 months of being apart. Since I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have a cash inflow, we decided to go to Cambodia(read cheap).My budget for the whole trip was around 60000 Rs, and fortunately we were able to stay within the budget.Here is how we planned our trip.

Flights and Visa

Our flights were booked 3 months in advance, and were booked separately. He was flying in from Paris,France and I was flying from Bangalore India.The flight from Bangalore to Phnom penh cost me about 220000 Rs. Once that was settled, I got my visa from https://www.evisa.gov.kh/ and the process was super simple, and cost be around 3200 Rs.On landing at the airport,all you have to do is show your e-visa along with your passport and voila, you’re in!

Phnom Penh

Day 1-2

Day 1
So here’s the deal. We didn’t really plan our trip or have a strict itinerary in mind.The idea was to just go with the flow. The only thing pre booked was our stay for 2 nights at PP. So, on arriving at the airport, we got a local sim for 15 dollars, and then got us a cab( I still had some dollars remaining from my US trip). The cab from the airport to our hotel cost us 12$.

We had booked the okay boutique hotel at PP(33 $ per night). The location is pretty ideal, and was at a walking distance to the royal palace, central market and the riverside. We didn’t have a lot planned the first day, so we just explored the central market(Ben got his currency exchanged), and then had dinner at the riverside.The plan for the next day was to visit the S21 and the killing field museum.We got a half day trip planned courtesy our hotel for about 16$( not inclusive of the entry fee).

Day 2
We started by visiting the Choeung Ek Genocidal center. On entering, this is the first thing you see.Majestic, isn’t it. I would highly recommend taking the audio tour. The visit was a humbling experience as well as an emotional one and one that should not be missed.

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Once we were done with the tour, we headed back to our hotel so as to plan our next destination. But before you leave, make sure you visit the Foreign correspondents club or FCC. Yes, it’s expensive, but we loved the place and the ambiance.

Day 3- Kratie

Ben was hell bent on dolphin watching, so the next thing we did was to catch a bus to Kratie. Again, we booked this from the hotel. We got a Sorya bus at around 7 in the morning, and reached kratie by around 3pm.(cost us 20$) We had booked a hostel the previous night, and I don”t remember the precise name(i think it was dolphin hostel) but boy, it was awful. The rooms, the halls all smelled of toilet water, and the it cost us around 18$. Fortunately, we had booked only for a night,so the plan was to check out as soon as possible once we were done with the dolphin watching.

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The food we had so far

Day 4

The next morning, we first went for a trek in the mountainous area with a temple nearby and then headed out to watch the dolphins.Was it worth it? Heck yes! It was fabulous to watch the dolphins in their natural habitat without humans feeding them.

Once that was done, we checked out and headed over to Le Tonle Guesthouse.It was slightly more expensive but the rooms were clean, and comfy and the food was to die for.Don’t forget to try out their Amok!

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Day 5-Off to Siem Reap

There isn’t a direct bus to Siem Reap, so we took a bus till Kampong Chang and then took a connecting bus to Siem Reap. The bus ride was arduous and long, and by the time we reached the hotel, it was around 7pm. We had booked 3 nights at the Angkor Orchid Central Hotel. Once again, the location was ideal, and was extremely close to the night market. Since we didn’t have a lot of time, all we did have dinner and call it a night. The temples were beckoning us for an early start next day.

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Fried Tarantulas at Kampong Chang

Day 6-Temple Hop and Insect Eating time!

It was finally time to visit the one thing that Cambodia was most famous for. The temples. In order to visit the temples, you have to head to the ticket center first, and get your tickets. You can choose between 1 day ticket, 3 day ticket and a 7 day ticket. We chose a 3 day ticket simply because a two day ticket didn’t exist. It cost us 40$ per person.The temple tours start from 5am and end at 5pm. Once we had our tickets, we headed over to the first stop, which was the most famous Angkor Wat temple.Guides are available for hire at the spot, but we decided to go ahead without a guide.The day was hot and just after an hour we were covered in grime and sweat.Few of the complexes we visited that stood out were Pre Rup, and Preah Khan. The sight of the gigantic tree roots growing through the ruins is definitely a sight that is both stunning and mind boggling and was quite unlike anything we had seen before.

One word of advice:The temple visits can get difficult in bad weather since there is a lot of climbing to do, and by 5pm, we were dead beat. However, ben wanted to hire a bike for the next day, so we walked around and finally managed to rent a bike. (you have t submit your passport in order to rent a bike)

After this we took a break and then headed out to the Siem Reap market to find a cafe where we could try out some bugs. Yes, you heard me right. Bugs! I never thought I’d say  this, but it was delicious!! Definitely a must try. The night market is bustling with activity, and pubs are open till late at night. I loved the vibe of the place, and it definitely is a great place to let your hair down.

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