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Review: Baul Mon Resort – Shantiniketan’s hidden gem

Review: Baul Mon Resort – Shantiniketan’s hidden gem

Shantiniketan is West Bengal’s soul of art and literature and a world famous tourist spot as well. Given its popularity over the years Shantiniketan has several hotels and guest houses, but it is difficult to guess which ones to stay at. The ones already popular don’t come cheap and the ones good but not too popular are not easy to find due to lack of information on internet and booking websites.

During my search for one such place that would provide me the rural life experience I came across this resort called ‘Baul Mon’. Best not booked via online booking website, since even though the resort is listed in a few booking websites but they do not officially take bookings made via booking websites. Best is to book by calling them, details available at www.baulmonn.in .

The main building

The Space: The resort is just the kind of place you would want to stay in on a trip to a country side place like Shantiniketan. Abundant with green trees and ample space, the resort has cottages as well as rooms in 2 storey buildings. Rooms are big and clean. There is a restaurant as well serving all 2 meals, but the restaurant needs to be informed in advance if you want to have your meals the restaurant.

Cottage I stayed in

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What I liked: Abundant space to chill, a stage for Baul singer performances that take place on evenings. There is also a huge cage with pretty love birds and they also have a bunch of rabbits and a dozen pet dogs. It is a great way to spend the mornings watching the pets and feeding the rabbits. The backside of the resort is a huge rice field and as the night sets in, there is pin drop silence and all one can hear is the sound of fire flies. In winters, ask the resort staff to light a bonfire, and it is even such a lovely experience to enjoy some time in the midst of peace and calm. Personally for me I would definitely return back to this place to stay.

Feeding the rabbits in the morning
The rice fields behind my cottage
A sculpture in the Resort garden
Lovebirds in the garden
Pebbled lanes inside the resort
Pet dogs in the resort napping in the afternoon

What is not there: Of course as described above, you might have guessed this is a no flare place, so it would be unreasonable to expect flare and show. The resort is simple and neat with all basic amenities and justifies the essence of the Shantiniketan, simple and peaceful. I personally feel that coming to Shantiniketan and wanting to stay in a fancy hotel or resort takes away the spirit of enjoying the rural country side experience, although this is just my opinion.

Shantiniketan – An Art Lover’s Paradise

Shantiniketan – An Art Lover’s Paradise

‘Shantiniketan’ meaning ‘Adobe of Shanti or peace’ is a place true to its name and a true art, nature and peace lover’s paradise.

Shantiniketan is home to the world famous Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Having stayed at a distance of 160 kms from Shantiniketan in Kolkata for the last 4 years and yet not having visited the place was something that was always at the back of my mind. So recently I finally ended up spending a weekend in this stunning abode of art, culture and literature.  Here I have shared some photos from my weekend stay in Shantiniketan.

The moment you set foot in Bolpur, where Shantiniketan is situated, the first thing one would notice is the vibrant red color of the soil, the reason why it is also called the land of ‘Lal Matti’ meaning land of red soil.

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‘Lal Matti’ – Red soil

In the evening I wandered over the nearby ‘Haat’ meaning flee market. The one is called the Biswa Bangla Haat with proper stalls selling handmade and painted things made by the locals put up for sale. Trust me shopping here is a dream, such reasonable prices and such beautiful work of art on sale, such as hand painted umbrellas and painted wall hangings.

Hand painted umbrella
Local hand painted wall hangings
The permanent shops at the ‘Haat’

After spending some time at the Haat buying local handcrafted things, while wandering around we came across this beautiful park cum boating area called ‘Shyor Bithi’. Not a usual tourist spot, trust me it  a lovely secluded park and a great way to spend sometime in nature. It also have a restaurant, and to my surprise it was serving all cuisines like indian, chinese, even Italian.

Entrance to the park
The beautiful park over looking the boating area

Next morning we left early to visit the very holy ‘KanKalitala’ temple, a hindu temple of great significance for the local people here. It is at a few kms from Bolpur and one can easily hire an auto to take you there. The trip to Kankalitala is worth even if you are not too keen about religious things, the ride to the temple is through untouched villages and fields and such a great way to enjoy the country and village side scene. The streets around the temple is usually buzzing with shops selling offering for Godess Kali, such as colorful hibiscus garlands and incence sticks.

Hibiscus garlands on sale
The village side scene

Finally in the afternoon I ended up in the Visva-Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore who called it Visva-Bharati,  meaning the communion of the world with India. First thing you notice once you enter the campus is huge trees and open spaces with study areas under the trees, one of the most unique things about the university is the concept of teaching under trees, which is still practiced today. There is the museum inside the campus with things Tagore used to use, his writings and other things related to his life on display. It takes well over a good 5-6 hrs to explore the entire campus along with the museum.

Open study areas under the trees
Museum comprising of a permanent display section and the five homes lived in by Tagore,
Art installations in the gardens inside the campus

Inside ‘Kala Bhavana’ a well-known and distinguished centre for Visual Art practice and research in India.

 

Further into the campus there is a section on display showcasing the huts and lifestyle of villagers from all regions in India like how the people in the villages in Orrisa live, how their huts are, etc. Other huts on display are from Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram,etc..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a tiring day spent exploring the University and museum, I headed off the the most interesting part of the trip, to the weekend ‘haat’ which gathers every weekend by the bank of the river there. Trust me you wouldn’t want to miss this for the world. As the evening commences so does the electrifying and infectious atmosphere by the banks of the river. The air is filled with local musicians playing baul music and it is such a festive and joyous feeling all around, almost as if you would want to tap your foot and dance and sing along.Don’t forget to grab an out of the world bengali lunch served in Lotus leaves in the hut style ‘Shakuntala’ restaurant right on the banks of the river beside the haat. Be sure to reach there early fr lunch else expect a long queue or worst id food gets over. I had the best mutton curry and shukto here. Such a great way to have lunch on the banks of the river amidst baul music and hands down delicious home style cooked food served on lotus leaves and terracota vessels.

Some  of the things for sale in the weekend haat. It is common for college kids and others with interest in art to come and sell their art work here. Its is a kingdom of art work, especially for me I did not want the evening to end. Home decor, fabric, bags, sarees what was not there to buy.  Rest assured I am definitely coming back here just to admire the sheer talent and art work display.

Local handircraft on saleAlas! after a soul satisfying trip of Shantniketan, I was off back home but not without visiting the newly opened museum ‘Gitanjali’ very close to Railway station that tells the story of ‘Gitanjali’ (the collection of poems for which Tagore received the Nobel prize) and Tagore.

 

 

 

Varanasi – Photo Journal

Varanasi – Photo Journal

Varanasi is the soul of spiritual India and one of the oldest living cities in the world. It embodies the brilliance of human existence and co-existence. Where else can one witness contrasting religions co-existing, Varanasi – the capital of Hinduism is home to an equally large population of Muslim weavers producing the highly coveted Indian fabric called Banarasi fabric or Banarasi sarees. Where else could one possibly witness the burning of dead bodies by the ghats of Ganges. A Hindu saint, a Muslim weaver and a stray dog can be seen sitting beside each other on the ghats with silent harmony, such is the spirit of Varanasi where each human being is equal just as nature would wish for it to be!

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One would either absolutely love the complex organised chaos of Varanasi or totally hate it. The essence of this city will rip your soul, the raw scenes of the bodies burning on the ghats will churn your brains inside out and compel you to re think about life and your existence. I have shared a few random photos from my time in Varanasi, it is better seen than spoken about!

Preparation for the Evening Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The famous evening aarti takes place on this ghat only starting at around 6:45pm every evening, essentially it is a form of worshiping the Ganges.

Many vendors can be seen selling flowers and diyas on the ghats, a diya along with flowers is usually sold for Rs 10, it is holy to light the diya and set the leaf bowls afloat on the Ganges hoping it will fulfill whatever one has wished for which lighting the diya.

The evening aarti in progress, its a magical and soulful experience t witness 7 pandits performing the evening aarti, all in sync with each other. The atmosphere is electrying with holy chants and the harmony of all the people there clapping together in tune with the chants.

Watch the Aarti:

Varanasi illuminates the moment the sun goes down, starting with the evening aarti and hundreds of diyas afloat, Ganges turns into a dancing beauty shimmering through out. The best way to indulge in this time is by a boat ride which will take you along the ghats. The boat men are usually well versed with the history of the ghats and double hat as a guide as well. For foreigners, my tip is do not settle for anything more than Rs 300 for a boat ride on the Ganges.

Manikarnika Ghat is one of the most famous Ghats is Varanasi, it is believed and it is true as well that the fire of this ghat never goes down, there is some human dead body being burnt here throughout the year. It is a unique, life changing and a  raw experience to witness performance of Hindu burial rituals in such close proximity.

At Manikarnika Ghat, clicked from the boat.

Varanasi is equally calming in the morning, the air is fresh and it is beautiful to watch the locals offering prayers in the Ganges and taking a holy dip. At Dashashwamedh Ghat in the morning, the boats are parked by the ghats awaiting to take tourists on boat rides.

From the boat:

The famous Indian local barbers, one can be seen below in the photo, sitting like a king while he waits for his next customer.

The one most popular visual from the ghats of Varanasi is that of a ‘sadhu’ drapped in saffron, I clicked the sadhu with the perfect pose! 

This below is the backside of Brijrama Palace, said to one of the oldest landmarks of the city perched on Darbhanga Ghat, the palace which is now one of the most expensive hotels in Varanasi at approx. Rs 25,000 per night dates back to 1812. It also has one of the oldest elevators installed in India in 1915.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most important and oldest temples in India with a dome still made of gold. Although photography is not allowed in the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple. There is now a newly built Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the sprawling Benaras University. 

Chaotic street traffic of Varanasi  – Nothing can get more thrilling than this, not even a good roller coaster ride :

Any trip to Varanasi is incomplete without indulging on the super delicious food on offer. Below is a drooling Maharaja thali, although this one is vegetarian, still it is one of the best thalis I have ever had at Kaiser Palace – Hotel Surya.

Do not, I repeat do not miss out on having the utterly rich and yummy milk based desserts and drinks, such Kulfi, Lassi, Rabri, Dahi and many more.

The best way to end a delicious meal is by buying yourself a what they popularly call in India ‘masala’ a form of digestive that can be found in several forms such a tiny bullets or flavoured or softened betelnuts, etc. Buying some as a souvenir is always a great idea.

Last but not the least, interested in shopping or  not, it is still worth visiting the local shops in dingy alleys selling stunning intricately woven Banarasi fabric and sarees.

Subtle and pain staking process of weaving a Banarasi saree:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My experience of visiting Varanasi was like a roller coaster ride – thrilling, sometimes a bit scary, mentally and emotionally consuming and definitely one that I will never miss for anything else.

Review: Hotel Surya, Kaiser Palace, Varanasi

Varanasi is the soul of spiritual India, it is one of the oldest city in the World. When I was planning my trip to Varanasi I was sure I did not want to stay right next to the ghats, I was looking for a heritage place rather. Usually heritage accommodation in Varanasi is expensive given the tourist inflow. Although I was lucky to have some credit point on MakeMyTrip App which I wanted to use.

Upon some research I found this beautiful heritage property Hotel Surya, Varanasi – Kaiser Palace, a small palace from the 1800s converted into a hotel and booked it.

The heritage building
Hall way of the heritage building

Pros:

Price: After discount Rs 1500-2000 per standard double room. It is definitely value for money.

Location: Location is at Cantt. area at approx 5kms (30 mins due to traffic) from the Ghats of Varanasi. But very close to the Railway station which is a plus, also pretty close to Sarnath since the location helps skip the city traffic. Getting an auto the ghats is not an issue as there is a auto, taxi stand right opposite the hotel.

Stay: The old heritage building is well maintained, rooms are spacious, clean and well maintained equipped with tea maker and hot water. Although the standard rooms donot have a mini freezer. Do not forget to ask for a lawn facing room while booking.

Standard room
Standard room
Hallways of the heritage building

 

Pool: Pool doesn’t have the cleanest water but not bad enough to not swim, drinks served at the pool which is a plus.

Pool and some Mojito

Food:  The hotel has 1 restaurant and 1 cafe and 1 bar:

Canton Royale – a fine diner (do not forget to enjoy a great Maharaja Thali here, I had ordered a vegetarian thali and this was one of the best I had). A good meal without drinks would cost around Rs 2000 for two.

Canton Royale
Vegetarian Maharaja Thali

Magi Ferra Cafe – A cafe and juice bar, a cool setup with a relaxes ambiance.

Sol Bar –  I loved the Sol Bar, colorful, vibrant and a great place to chill after a tiring great day of sightseeing.

Breakfast: Do not miss the breakfast here, it is served in the heritage building and the spread is pretty decent, great enough to start off the day!

Breakfast area

Cons:

The only con is that since the place is away from the Ghats its takes enough time to and fro, around 30 mins each way, costing Rs 100-150 per trip. Also since the hotel is located in cantt. area among other posh hotels, there aren’t any road side restaurants or eateries around the hotel for cheap meals, of course I wouldn’t suggest eating  all meals in the hotel if you are on a budget. So we made it a point to eat well before we came back to the hotel for the night or pack some food rather.

Overall, if you do not want to stay in the busy city of Varanasi this is a great place away from the noise for sure!

 

Banasura – Kerala’s Hidden Gem – Guest Post

In the South West corner of India, there is a land of rivers and backwaters named Kerala. A state considered by many as God’s own country because of its exotic wildlife, ancient historical structures and vast nature preserve. It’s history is that of fishermen who have, for centuries, awoken early in the mornings before sunrise, to set
out with their sons into the waters. They would spend the entire morning catching fish and would then bring back any successful bait to their families. The fish would be cleaned, salted and eaten with a small portion of rice, or garnished with crushed chillies and turmaric, if this could afford that as well. Any left-overs would be sold on
the market by mid-day, and after that, everyone would head to bed before sunrise to be ready for an early rise the next day.

Years ago, when I was in my teenage years, my family and I were spending a few weeks in India, visiting family and friends. Suddenly my father decided that we should go on a trip to a jungle in Kerala, and stay in a place called Banasura for a few days. Of course my sister and I were very keen about this and couldn’t wait to leave,
knowing we could futher explore the buzzeling city and it’s chaos when we’d got back. We left in a big bus with not just my family but also all my family’s old friends and their relatives. The journey was about twelve hours long which was funny because we hadn’t traveled more than 300 km. The length of the trip was due to the terrible Indian traffic and the fact that we were trying to navigate our way through a mountain with a 30 ft. long bus. But I must say the ride was well worth it because our destination was more impressive than words could describe. We were surrounded by green mountain
ranges covered with tea plantages, the sky had an unusual purple glow to it and here and there you could see enormous lakes with odd looking branches sticking out of them. It was only then I realized how much I felt aligned with nature by being this secluded, parted from the civilized world I had come from. It’s always an interesting
and sudden change when you step into nature from the busy city life.

Banasura Sagar Kerala by DP Photography

We ended up not doing very much throughout our trip. There was a campfire every night, I learned to play cricket, and also learned that I wasn’t very good at it. In my defense, we were playing on a cliff’s end, so everyone was rather cautious of not falling from it in the process of batting and running. All in all, it was a relaxing
holiday, unlike our usual city trips that include jogging from one museum to the other. Banasura however, was far more stunning than any historical building I’ve ever seen, in fact it’s possibly the most wonderful place I’ve ever been.

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Assam – The hidden beauty of North East India – Photo Journal

Assam – The hidden beauty of North East India – Photo Journal

Having grown up in Assam, and having spent a considerable amount of my childhood there, I sometimes really miss the greenery, the clear skies and untouched beauty of  this north east Indian state. The beauty of Assam can only be witnessed rather than described, it is naive and simple. Even a random walk in a village is would to etch ones memory forever.

These are a few moments I captured from my recent trip to Assam and the simplicity in the beauty is profound, see for yourself!


Inside Rang Ghar in Sivasagar, said to be one of the oldest surviving amphitheaters in Asia built by the royals of Assam, the mixed hues of green and brown are enough to tell a tale about how old this place is.


Cannons used during wars of the Ahom Dynasty in Talatal Ghar, Sivasagar. So much of history behind these cannons, yet they have withstood time. 


Out on a walk into a village around Sivasagar, I happened to capture what I would call a perfect image of serenity. I still have it up as my laptop wallpaper, in someways the gradual mix of the blue skies into the green fields relaxes my eyes every time I look at this picture.


Some places are like hidden gems, and this is one of them. Tilinga Temple in Tinsukia is mystical in so many ways. Tie a bell, small, big, medium whatever size you choose and and it is said your wish will be granted. I was amazed by the sheer volume of bells that were tied, bells were dangling from everywhere I could set my eyes on.


Lord Shiva is widely worshipped in Assam. How could I not visit one!


If one have ever read a little about Assam, they must have come across Majuli, the largest river island in the World, and soon eroding.


The most popular way of showing respect to anyone in Assam is to present an Assamese gamosa (kind of white towel with red borders). I was lucky to witness one in the making by the locals at a village.


Kamakhya Temple is one of the most famous temples in India and strongly believed upon by the Hindus. In itself it is a tourist attraction too.


Kaziranga National Park, the world’s only sanctuary with the largest population of the one-horned Rhinos. A visit to Assam is incomplete without a visit here. The landscape inside is untouched and stunning!

As I was about to leave the National Park after visiting the lazy rhinos, I spent some time with this pair of elephants, the mother and the baby.


Assam is spectacular, and these memories and many more will always capture a special little place in my heart!

 

Corner Courtyard – Review

India has a rich and long standing colonial past, and there are some gem of places where one can dine & wine in the company of such old world charms. One such place is the colonial looking pretty place perfectly named ‘Corner Courtyard‘ and conveniently tucked into a corner in Hazra, Kolkata. This place is often hailed for being one of the most romantic places in the city and I might as well agree!

The Space: If you are a fan of cozy, bright and white colored interiors, if colonial old world charms appeals to you, and if you are looking for a quiet romantic meal, this is your place. The place has a striking interior with white walls with mirrors and frames hanging on them, huge dangling lights, big windows and a shelf full of travel books of India and Kolkata, the most unique look of the place is the wall with a 100+ door knobs of all shapes and sizes, pretty chairs all in shades of pastel; all this put together, it works out to be a perfect place for a cozy family dinner or a romantic one with that someone special.

A wall full of mirrors
a quaint corner with a window
The interesting wall of Door Knobs
a fitting menu

Food & Drinks: The place specializes in continental cuisine, in fact one of the places in the city serving Italian and French cuisine pretty close to authentic. My favorites!core they serve really loaded and well done bruchettas, the pizzas and pastas can be ordered without second thoughts. Watch out for the Grilled chicken ‘The Californian’, it sure tasted as well as it sounds.

What’s unique: Definitely the huge wall full of colorful door knobs of all shapes and sizes, such a stunner!

Watch out for: It is best to ask the waiters for the best options available. I have tried to not listen to them and order as per my liking but I was kind of disappointed, so it is always to best to ask!

Pocket Pinch: The quantity is typically European in nature, by which I mean very measured and this left me with a feeling that the hit on my pocket was on a harder side. A dinner with drinks for a couple could be anywhere around Rs 3000+. Quite expensive with a rather not so full stomach!

Asia Kitchen – Review

Lovely Asian food on a lazy Sunday afternoon

Kolkata has the best Chinese in India, hands down, there is no doubt in that. So how does a new join in town surpass that? Well in my opinion Asia Kitchen just did. It is a fresh take on Asian cuisine by the same chain as Mainland China but at the same time with its own uniqueness. I have been there quite a few times since it opened, a few other times I did go but the long queue drove me elsewhere. But finally when I did manage to find a place in the restaurant, I knew what the huge queue was all about!

The Space: The first thing that struck me the moment I walked in is the fresh look of the place. It is spacious, with a mix of dark shades and green. It has a brilliant open kitchen, something which is a new concept in Kolkata, not many places have such a fabulous open kitchen.

Food & Drinks: Let’s go back to the long waiting queues I was talking about, it is precisely the awesome food they serve that is responsible for the long waiting time. The place has an extensive food and drinks menu, with a fresh and self take on the Asian cuisines, the food really plays around with your taste buds. Thoroughly impressed!  Some of my favorites: Lotus stem with black pepper, Dynamite prawns – must have, Khao Suey – probably the best served in the city, Thai red curry – couldn’t find one flaw with this dish. Apart from this in general the food quality and quantity is really impressive!

Khao Suey
Dynamite Prawns

Whats unique:  I am in love with their dessert innovation, apart from the taste the way the desserts are presented is an absolute delight. Do try the ‘Baileys Irish cream stones’ just for the presentation, super unique.

Baileys Irish Cream stones

Watch-out: Be prepared for long waiting queues, especially on weekends. One major downside is that the waiters need serious insight and info of the menu, although the food is so good but because the waiters are unable to explain a certain food item and what it is all about, it is an utter disappointment.

Pocket pinch: I must admit the rate is reasonable, since although a dinner for 2 with drinks would be any where more than Rs 2500, but since the food is so good and so is the quantity, it kind of compensates for the money one is shelling out!

Monkey Bar – Review

Monkeying around in Monkey Bar – Kolkata

On a lazy Sunday afternoon me and my friend were walking around Camac street when we happened to see a board for Monkey Bar near the Fort Knox building. I instantly knew Monkey Bar is finally in Kolkata. I had been a great fan of Monkey Bar during my days in Delhi and couldn’t wait to get in there.

The restaurant is located on the 9th Floor of the Fort Knox building, The building has a very tiny lift that took me to the 9th floor and a big entry door to the Bar awaited us there. The moment I entered it was such a relief to see high ceilings and a huge sitting area unlike the tiny lift that took us up to the building.

The Space: The place is divided into 3 sections as such, one with high tables with a stunning view of the Victoria Memorial on a clear day. The other side is the normal table of 4s and 2s. And the more beautiful section is the outdoor seating section, it ought to be the best place to sit on a lovely winter afternoon. I loved how high the ceiling and the space is and how airy the entire place felt so high above.

Food and Drinks: Now coming to the main part the food and drinks, I was pretty impressed by the Kolkata touch in the menu, drinks like ‘Toast to Kolkata’ & the very hilariously named ‘Trump card’ really got me amused. Although I tried Mama’s Girl and Curry Martini,  I must say both were equally refreshing with the right amount of alcohol. They of course have the usual beer, rum, whisky as well but I was too tempted to try the new cocktails.

A lot of RED! Mama’s Girl along with other things red, pun intended!
A refreshing watermelon and cucumber cocktail!
Martini along with – Love what is says – Lime is the new Mustard
The must have – Med Platter

About the food now, just like the drinks, the food menu is very tempting too. I was so happy to see the variety of cuisines like Mediterranean, continental, of course Indian served with their own take added to it. I opted for the Med platter, a lip-smacking wholesome meal, their signature Futterfly, mushroom bruschetta and liver on toast. Does not just the sound of it water your mouth!

Watch-out for: I know that I have already said a lot of good things about the place (which they deserve), although a couple of things that did not please me much were, as the evening grew and more and more people started dropping by, the music decibel started going higher and higher, to the point where I was almost screaming to be able to chat with my friend. I should add though that when requested the staff did turn down the volume a tad bit, so that helps.

Pocket Pinch: I have to admit the hit on the pocket is on an expensive side. A meal for a couple with drinks would cost something around Rs 2000 plus.

All in all I think this place is one of those that the city had been waiting for a long time. And what more could we want than a lovely evening over looking the Victoria with amazing drinks and delicious food.

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What not to expect from the French colony of India – Pondicherry

India has a touch of so many worlds, it has got a place for all cultures, people and religion and it is always a visual treat to witness such an amalgamation. One such place is Pondicherry, after years of wanting to visit this place, last month (February 2017) I finally found myself in this tiny French colony of Pondicherry.
How to Reach: Best way to reach is to travel to Pondicherry from Chennai. Chennai is at a distance of approx 170 kms. By bus or car its takes 3-4 hours. Best and cheapest option is to travel by bus, bus tickets range from Rs 100 – 400 depending on the type of bus. For a more comfortable journey you can hire a car for an expensive fare of Rs 3000 one way.
What not to expect in Pondicherry: 
Well, to be honest when we hear about Pondicherry we picture pastel colored French buildings and architecture, lovely bakeries and a hip culture. Upon visiting this place I realized that this is only partially true.
This is not GOA: Sometimes Pondy is compared to Goa due to its beautiful beaches and influx of foreign tourists. But unlike Goa, Pondy doesnot have shacks like Goa, nor a late night pub or club culture. The beach side cafes and restaurants close at 10:00 PM dot. The ones not beach facing have a buffer of 1 hour and close at 11:00 PM exact.
‘Tiny’ French colony: The most popular part of Pondy is indeed very very small with a capital S. The rest of Pondy except Heritage town in pretty much like a typical, regular south indian city,  so do not expect an extensive French town full of beautiful buildings.
Early nights: Pondy is not the best for the lazy souls. The beach side restaurants shut down at 10:00 pm dot or else expect to be almost thrown out. If you wish to push your nights a bit longer past 10 pm, best bet would be to dine and wine at one of the not so beach side cafes\restaurants to be able to chill till 11 pm. But! Do expect an annoying waiter to be over your shoulder every 10 mins reminding you its time to leave once it is past 11  pm
Language problem: In case you are not  able to find a hotel or accommodation in Heritage town, be ready to struggle a bit, well lets make it quite a bit owing to the prominent language problem. Hindi and English are not commonly spoken except for specific areas in Pondy. I being an Indian had a tough time moving around in the city, imagine what it might have been for someone not from the country.
A teeny weeny bit less hospitable: Okay this is only my personal opinion and no one needs to agree with it, also maybe these opinions are due to specific experiences I had, but nevertheless somehow I had instances in restaurants and hotels where I faced some reluctance or lack of warmth while addressing lets say an issue I was facing. Maybe its the influx of foreign tourists and dollars that has attributed to this or something else I am not too sure about.
I would like to add that hope this post does not discourage anyone from travelling to Pondy, rather it should help you from getting disappointed by setting the right expectations about this tiny lazy extremely pretty French city of Pondicherry.