Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Chennai and Pondicherry

I am back from a week long trip to Chennai and Pondicherry. We had work with the University of Madras which was successfully completed. Thanks to your good wishes.

The campus has a lovely, subsidized canteen which serves tea for Rs 3, fresh fruit juices for Rs 15, onion/masala dosa for Rs 12, South Indian snacks, veg cutlets, samosas etc.
For information on Train timings -
Sight-Seeing - The Marina Beach is bang opposite the University (in Chepauk) which was quite crowded even on a sunny afternoon on a weekday. The sea is lovely. There are stalls leading up to the beach and little fruit salad stalls selling a mixture of pineapple, papaya, watermelon for Rs 10 . This pic has been taken from Anna Salai park - of Marina Beach which can be seen to the right in the distance.

Marina Beach is at a distance of 6 kms (15 mins) from Chennai Central. Auto rickshaws will quote Rs 50 to take you there. If you are lucky you might get a chap who will agree to go for Rs 40 which I think is the actual fare. They don’t go by the meter. We asked our hotel for their advice on the fares.

Entrance to Anna Salai -

Right next to the beach is Anna Salai (which is a landmark too). This is a park cum Samadhi to Dr. M. G. Ramachandran. It is a peaceful and calm place where one can spend a few hours enjoying the cool breeze under the shaded structure built on the periphery of the park.
Lodging We stayed at the Picnic Hotel at 1132/1 Poonamallee High Road, Tel – 25388809, email – The hotel is within walking distance from Chennai Central.
The directions to the hotel are as follows – as you come out of Chennai Central Railway Station, turn right, walk straight for 2 mins till you see a row of restaurants facing you (Velu was where we had most of out meals), turn left whereby you come onto the main road i.e. (Poonamalle High Road) and turn right past the subway, walk straight till you reach Picnic Hotel which will be on the right pavement. The total walk from the station to the hotel is approx. 5 – 10 mins. Please do not take an auto. It will be a waste of money. Touts will approach you as soon as you step out of the station offering hotels rooms at Rs 300 – 400.

Picnic charges Rs 600 for a double room, non AC and Rs 850 for an AC double room. The hotel is typically of a budget category if you know what I mean. It is passable, nothing too great.
As you step out of Picnic and walk right, past the Corporation (building) of Chennai (Ripon Building – a white structure) you will come to a signal whereby we noticed a lot of guesthouses and hotels which can be considered. Bang opposite Picnic was the Hotel Howrah and Hotel Central which seemed to be middle to high end.

Eating - The local train station – Park station is opposite the Chennai Central. There is a South Indian restaurant selling idiapam, curd rice, vada, idli, dosa, fruit juice (for Rs 15), chapatti bhaji, pastries, Indian sweets, sponge cakes and mineral water (Rs 12)

Hotel Buhari (bang opposite Chennai Central) serves a wonderful, finger-licking fish curry, fry fry, falooda. If you take a plate of each, parotas and a plate of steamed rice, your bill will total upto Rs 200.

Velu’s near the station (towards your right) sells wonderful egg curry, chicken biryani, hot puris and aloo bhaji.

Shopping - We were advised to go to T-Nagar to shop for clothes, jewellery or banana chips. The auto fare is Rs 80 – Rs 100 from Chennai Central. The shop to go to for banana chips is Hot Chips which has their branches all over Chennai. One branch is about 20 mins. walk from Chennai Central (turn to the right on the main road, walk along straight). The famous Woodlands Hotel (for authentic South Indian fare is also located in T - Nagar. They have a website too and a branch in London) .

Freshly fried banana chips in coconut oil is available at a shop just behind the subway (near Picnic hotel).

The shop next to it sells soft sponge cake (Rs 45 for 250 gms, 10 pieces) and soft chocolate plum cake.

Conducted Tours – We didn’t get a chance to go sightseeing in Chennai but there are a row of travel agents bang opposite side Chennai Central providing local sightseeing, places outside and surrounding Chennai. They charge Rs for local sightseeing and Rs 300 (to and fro along with sightseeing to Pondicherry – 1 day trip – 8 am to 8 pm).

Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC), No. 4, EVR Salai, Phone – 2538 4356, 2538 2916, also has its office there opposite Chennai Central railway station, providing conducted tours and rooms for lodging at a nominal price. Email : , online booking Half day sightseeing from Rs 125 – Rs 200.


Local bus no. 15B leaves from the bus stop near the Park local train station for Koyambeddu bus terminus from where plenty of buses are available for Pondicherry.

We, however, went to Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus in the Koyambeddu area of Chennai which is about 30 mins by auto from Chennai Central . The auto fare is Rs 100.

The bus leaves every 5 mins for Pondicherry and takes 3 ½ hours. We took the 10 am bus and arrived in Pondicherry around 2 pm. The bus took the ERC (East Coast Road) which was very picturesque. The bus fare is Rs 55 by the PRTC (Pondicherry Roadways Transport Corporation). Otherwise, one can take the 15B bus from the bus stop near the Park Stn subway to CMBT.

What does this term "mofussil" mean? It is an Indian-English term used mainly in the Indian subcontinent. In Tamil Nadu,India , mofussil refers to the suburbs and rural areas, especially transportation to these areas.

[ Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus, the biggest of its kind in South Asia, is located along the Inner Ring Road (Jawaharlal Nehru Salai), in Koyambedu, Chennai.
The terminus features 30 arrival and 150 departure terminals apart from separate bays for omni buses and private operators. The lounge can accommodate 600 people at a time; other facilities include restaurants, shops, drinking water out-lets and toilets. A city bus bay in the front offers connections to various parts of Chennai. The bus terminus is just 2.5 km away from Vadapalani. The bus station operates deluxe, express and fast buses to various destinations in Tamil Nadu as well as to the neighboring states of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Regular services are available to Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Nagapattinam, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Erode, Kanyakumari, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Hotel Pranav, Hotel Ambica Empire, Hotel Maurya International and Radha Park Inn are at a short distance from the terminus. Chennai International Airport is 12 km to the south. Chennai Central Railway Station is 13 km away. ]

On arrival, we enquired at the Bus Terminus for hotels and were directed to Hotel Sapthgiri and Hotel Sree Meenakshi In. which was on the main road once you come out of the bus terminus. The two hotels are side by side.

We took the latter i.e. Sree Meenakshi In., 239, Maraimalai Adigal Salai, (opp. Bus Stand) Phone – 0413 – 2206966 . We Rs 750 (off season rate) for an AC double room. The hotel itself and the rooms are very clean and comfortable. I will recommend it to everyone. A good place to stay. We were there for 2 days.

On our return trip to Chennai, we took the 6 am bus which arrived at CMBT at 10 am. (buses leave every 5 – 10 mins). We then took an auto to Chennai Central to catch our train to Bombay at 11:45 am. Train timings, availability, route can be found at

Places to eat - There is a subsidized restaurant at the Pondicherry Bus Terminus (Hotel Kaushik) serving South Indian food but no tea, only coffee. Hotel Buhari (opp the bus terminus) has tasty and wholesome Egg/Chicken Biryani for Rs 15 a plate. Further down, is a South Indian restaurant who has a softest plain idiappam, prawn fry, parota and omelette. You will be able to spot it by the fellow making the parotas and omelette outside the shop. The shop is close or almost behind the walkover bridge.

Transport – Share taxis (big oversized autos carrying 12 persons) charge Rs 3 from the Bus Terminus to the Beach (Promenade). They stop along the way. The taxis are available from the main road outside the bus terminus. They follow 2 routes. One to the Beach and one to the market.

If you are planning to go to the Beach, get down at the last stop, turn into the lane towards your right, walk straight till you come to Bharathi Park, pass it, carry on straight (landmark – Inland Books), till you reach the Beach. You will see the famous Le CafĂ© as you approach the Beach (Promenade). Fresh fruit plates for Rs 10 available here along the beach.

Pic above - Bharathi Park is just opposite Inland Books, walk straight. The little blue signboard on the right, on the wall says Rue Suffren (the road on the right) where Fab India, The French Villa (hotel), Alliance Francaise etc. is located. Map to be found at

Pic above - a part of Rue Suffren (street). The French Villa is located between the two yellow painted buildings.

to enlarge these 2 photographs, click on, go to Photos options.

We couldn’t do any local sightseeing here either except visit the Beach and walk along Rue Suffren which has all these French style villas and bungalows, many of which have been converted into Hotels, colourful houses in pastel shades and free from traffic.

The parallel street is Rue Romain Rolland which has a few shops like Via Pondichery ( ), Fab India – ( Opp Alliance Francais - Pondicherry - Retail Shopping - Apparel - Handlooms and Handicrafts Store Timings: 9:30 am to 7:30 pm; Mondays closed ) etc.

pic above - Mother Mary's grotto in the courtyard of Sacred Heart Church, Pondicherry

For more information about Pondicherry visit : -
Hotels, sightseeing etc -
Map -


Anonymous said...

Thank you for giving us so many wonderful information about Chennai and Pondicherry. I am so glad you had a good time. I can't wait to go there. Excellent blog.


Simran said...

Wow! Looks like you had a great time.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you had a good time in Pondicherry.
It shows with all the Photos and all the detailed in formation u really enjoyed your self.

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Gaurav Dubey said...

Chennai is nice place,but pondy its amazing i had spended there 3 years and enjoyed much

Gaurav Dubey said...

nice place pondy, i spended there 3 years

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