Nearly after 6 months down the lane when we had been to Kodaikanal we decided to have another such family outing. The destination was pretty much decided to be Pondicherry and the surrounding places if time permits.
We had decided to leave early in the morning. We were ready to leave at around 6.15 am. Drove through the Outer Ring Road upto Bannerghatta Road and then took a right to reach the Nice Ring Road(Diversions are a bit confusing though) in order to join the Hosur Road(NH-7).
After joining Hosur road the drive was smooth 4 lane road. But we were directly driving towards the rising sun which made the matter a wee bit uncomfortable. Drive to Krishnagiri was smooth with a slight traffic jam experienced at Hosur.
After the Krishnagiri toll booth there is a huge board directing the people to Chennai and Pondicherry's direction. Took a left at this point. And just after taking the turn within a couple of Kilometers there is diversion to the right to travel towards Pondicherry on NH-66(One more 6 and it would have been a ride to hell :P). Anyway the road was smooth apart from a few hiccups here and there in the form of deep and deadly potholes. In short, smooth roads encourages people speed up and these sudden potholes results in screeched braking.
Anyway the route was good apart from the already mentioned potholes. The major headaches along the route the totally congested Tamil Nadu towns we encountered in between. These were a nigthmare to navigate through(read Tiruvanamalai). Encountered the beautiful Gingee fort just of the highway.
Just as we approached the Pondicherry border the scene drastically changed from the dirty, drainage overflowing 2 lane roads of Tamil Nadu to landscaped 4 lane beautiful road of Pondicherry. These things can only happen in India :P.
Thus we entered the "French Riviera of the East". One of the cleanest cities in southern India. Driving through the calm streets of Pondi we were able to experience leisure driving within city limits long forgotten in the streets of Bangalore. Time was around an hour past noon taking a total of 7 hrs for the drive from Bangalore in our humble Maruthi 800. Started looking for some rooms to stay, and found the Hotel Continental just around 400 m from the Pondicherry beach. Pretty decent one and within our budget. From there started the search for a decent veg hotel and got one. Food was nothing spectacular so don't remember the name :(.
Returned back to the city by nightfall and started to explore the city by foot and also to find some good restaurant to have our dinner and found a place called "Bilva"on MG road. Food, ambiance and service was very good. A must visit for vegetarians coming to Pondi.
Overall a point to remember for those planning on a vacation to pondi is that there are not many places to visit (beaches, ashram, museum). Its best for those who want to just chill and relax in this laid back city and do nothing :P and this was perfect for us on a family vacation.
Our next destination for the day was Mahabalipuram. A town famous for archeological excavations having structures built by the pallava kings dating back to 7th-9th century . Moved along the East coast road, a 2 lane highway connecting Chennai. Paid the required toll tax and whizzed along this smooth highway with the Bay Of Bengal giving constant companion along the right side of the road.
With our tummies rumbling sans no breakfast we went to a hotel "Mahabalipuram Tiffins" and had our breakfast. Mahabalipuram is in fact a very small town with the major revenue earner being tourism. There are 3 sites for visit. First is the Five chariots, and if we move along the same road within 500 m or so we get the second site which contains a huge number of excavations including the Mahishashuramardhini Temple,Krishna's butter ball, Varaha Devi Temple, Arjuna's Penance etc. In short there are nearly 10-12 structures in the second site and they are placed at some considerable distances taking nearly 2-3 hrs to explore all of them in a relaxed manner. Even then some depictions like Arjuna's Penance didnt make any sense to me :P.
Also a mention to the Archeological Survey Of India which has done a good job of maintaining all these structures and increasing their aesthetic value by maintaining beautiful lawns, flowering gardens around these centuries old structures.
Went to have darshan at the temple, but to our bad luck it was closed for another 90 mins or so. So considering that we have to reach Bangalore we left Kanchepuram and joined the Chennai-Bangalore Super Highway :P. Ride along this route was smooth with our Maruthi 800 doing 130-135 kmph at some stretches. Reached Bangalore at around 7.30 pm and again took the NICE road to reach our home bringing down the curtains on this laidback vacation.