Breakfast was different this morning… we wish! Today we took a break from teaching and took an excursion to shop for saris and kurtas in Pondicherry- a French influenced coastal town 2-3 hours drive away. We boarded the bus at 9.30 and as always anticipated a rather bumpy ride. The bumpy bus lived up to its name and we endured the usual high speed overtakes and undertakes; fewer stops to ask for directions today mind.
We knew we were approaching Pondicherry when the sound of horns rose and the traffic certainly got heavier.
We decided to stop for lunch before exploring the town and Naveen (Raja’s son) stopped the bus at a restaurant he recommended. Before we could enter the restaurant Brett insisted on carrying out his routine inspection to ensure it passed the rigorous selection process consisting of only one question: IS THERE AIR CON? It had passed with flying colours and we entered the cool restaurant and enjoyed a selection of rice and curry dishes.
Following lunch we headed off to shop for our traditional dress and arrived at the 5 floor department store in the centre of Pondicherry. As soon as we stepped through the door, the spectrum of colourful saris captivated our eyes and the air conditioning throughout he store was an added bonus. Aided by Victoria and Amalie (the cook at Amala and Raja’s wife), the girls headed off to get lost in the sea of saris whilst Brett lead the guys to seek out our kurtas’. The 2 experiences could not have been more different; the guys enjoyed watching each other attempt to squeeze in and out of their tunics to decide on the size; meanwhile, the girls were in meltdown mode over choosing the right colour of fabric and navigating their way through the surprisingly complicated payment and collection system.
After we had all purchased our clothing, we split up into groups to explore Pondicherry for a couple of hours. After an hour and a half of looking for the seafront, a blessing on the head by Lakshmi the elephant and a wander through a lovely French garden, we finally reached the Bay of Bengal where we were met by a 4 metre statue of Ghandi and the rest of the group. We all enjoyed sitting on the rocks watching the waves crash heavily until the photo shoots with the locals began. We posed with babies and men by the dozen until we left to grab a cold drink at a restaurant down the promenade.
After our drink we walked to the meeting point to get on the bus; however the bus was not there due to a mix up and the prospect of walking any further did not go down so well. The bus would be ready at 8pm, meaning we had 2 hours to spare to explore more of the town. “Pondicherry by night” sounded like another one of Dutton’s tours – luckily this time there were no cows or lions to cause confusion. Brett ensured morale was kept high by stating that Pondicherry is “just like Scarborough” and that we should just “go with the flow.”
We decided to fill time with a trip to the bazaar and it is exactly what it says on the tin! Before even reaching the market we managed to become split up from Brett and 6 other students due to heaving streets and chaos in every direction. We carried on towards the market and on multiple occasions turned into chickens making mad dashes across 4 way junctions dodging tuk tuks and mopeds.
After walking through an unassuming entrance we came across the bazaar. From bangles and bananas to spices and scarves, it was not for the claustrophobic. We finally escaped the market and made our way back to the meeting point just after 8. We were reunited with Brett and the others and boarded the bus back to Amala. During the journey we stopped off for a light supper in Cuddalore – most of us favouring masala dhosa or garlic naan.
After a 3 hour bumpy ride, we arrived back at the home, looking forward to a great nights sleep.
– Elliot and Sophie