Great weekend drive: Gingee Fort, Pondicherry, Mahabalipuram & East Coast Road

Continuing with my past travelogues, this is the second post (this was the first) on my road trips to the Union Territory of Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu (Wikipedia link, do read if not familiar with Pondicherry). As I mentioned earlier, I may not be able recount every name or for that matter, everything since, wellโ€ฆ. itโ€™s been a while!

Date: 8-9th December, 2007

Four of us, one car. One weekend, two destinations.

We left Bangalore around 6am on the same route as before. Soon after the Tamil Nadu border, we stopped at the A1 restaurant adjoining the Reliance Petrol station for breakfast (not sure if it’s still there now).

Hosur Road HP petrol bunk
The A1 restaurant was opposite the HP station on Hosur Road

The food was good, prices were economical, facilities were good (toilet, snack store etc.) and it was clean. By 8am, we were back on the good roads. Then we took the diversion on to the bad.

En route Pondicherry morning
The route is picturesque albeit, has its share of rough patches
En route to Pondicherry
The "highway" is narrow too

It was pretty much a non-stop straight drive to Pondicherry but we did take a break once we reached Gingee. I first noticed the hill on the way back from my first trip to Pondicherry.

Gingee Fort brick wall
Gingee Fort in the distance

This time, I made sure I checked it out. Only problem is, you have to climb quite a lot of steps to get to Gingee Fort. And it was hot.

Gingee fort pathI don’t remember if there was an entrance fee to the place but I did remember seeing a guy at the entrance. Either that or he was a beggar. Spare him some change anyway.

It took us nearly 20 minutes to climb to the top (we did stop at intervals for a breather and to drink lots of water). But once we got to the top, I didn’t regret the climb.

Gingee fort paddy field

Gingee Fort panaroma
Gingee Fort: A panorama comprised of 4 shots

According to Wikipedia, Gingee Fort was called the “Troy of the East” by the British and was well-fortified.

Gingee Fort door monkeyGingee Fort pillars

Gingee Fort panaroma
(A panorama comprised of 3 shots)

Gingee Fort templeGingee fort structure grassAfter spending around 15 minutes and after being sick reading some of the “___ hearts ____” messages that ruined the stone structures, we decided to make our way down.

Gingee fort temple structure
L-R: Ramesh, Loi and Joe

Gingee Fort treeIf you have an hour to spare and the stamina to climb a hundred steps or so, do make the effort to go to the top. Gingee Fort is not something you come across everywhere in India.

By 1:30pm, we were in Pondicherry and we drove straight to Beach Road — for two reasons. One, we were going to hang around Beach Road anyway and second, Loi was going to see an ocean/sea/bay for the first time in his life! For someone from a North East Indian state, the longing to hit the beach is one big aspiration. Though there really wasn’t much of a “beach” in Pondicherry city, the waters of the Bay of Bengal were good enough now.

Pondicherry Loi ocean
Loi's first taste of a 'coast'

After letting Loi enjoy his time (for a few minutes), we had lunch — decent, nothing worth recommending.

Pondicherry lunch restaurantAt lunch, we discussed our plans for the rest of the evening. The plan was to leave for Mahabalipuram that same day but we decided to take it easy and set off the next morning. Problem is, we hadn’t booked rooms. So after lunch and strolling around a bit, we tried all the hotels/lodges/guesthouses in and around Beach Road. Unfortunately, most of them were full or too expensive.

So we drove a bit away from town and found a resort where we got a hut for the four of us for around Rs. 1000 (sorry, don’t remember the name of the place). It was pretty basic but we took it as we only needed a place to crash for the night. After filling in the necessary paperwork, we checked in and then headed back to Beach Road. We hung around Beach Road until the sun set.

Pondicherry Le Cafe evening
Le Cafe on Beach Road, where we had our evening coffee
Pondicherry Ajantha sea view hotel
The Ajantha Sea View hotel on Beach Road

Pondicherry statue nightAfter our evening snack, we went around looking for… restaurants for our early dinner! ๐Ÿ™‚

We decided on the Hotel de Pondicherry — ‘cos it looked all classy.

Hotel de Pondicherry bar restaurant
It's a fairly high-end joint

After dinner, we walked a bit more to soak in as much as we could of Beach Road as this was our last night in Pondicherry.

Pondicherry door lightPondicherry street nightThe next morning, we checked out of the resort at the break of dawn and got on to the famed East Coast Road to head for Mahabalipuram. We wanted to get on to this road early to avoid the traffic and it was a good move. It was a beautiful drive!

East Coast Road MamallapuramEast Coast Road MamallapuramEast Coast Road MamallapuramEast Coast Road Mamallapuram fishermanEast Coast Road Mamallapuram boat morningWe had to stop at certain points on the journey to take photographs.

The drive from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram took us nearly 2 hours. En route, we saw the many projects that were taken up along this stretch to rehabilitate those affected by the 2004 Tsunami.

Once we reached the coastal town, our first stop was the Shore Temple.

Mamallapuram Shore templeShore Temple Mahabalipuram

Shore Temple MahabalipuramShore Temple MahabalipuramShore Temple Mahabalipuram Bay of BengalAfter the temple visit, we had breakfast from a beach side resort.

And then, hit the beach.

Mamallapuram beachMamallapuram beach sand

Mamallapuram beach Loi run
Loi doing the Baywatch run... he didn't get very far.

Mamallapuram beach statueAfter a while, we got a bit of drizzle from the skies, so we headed back to our car. We drove off to our next stop, the Paanch Rathas of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Paanch Rath panaromic
(A panorama comprised of 4 shots)

Paanch Ratha templeIt’s not a very big site so we were done in around half-an-hour. After that, we decided to drive down to the other side of Shore Temple for lunch.

Mamallapuram beach fishing boatsMamallapuram Santana restaurantMamallapuram Blue Elephant restaurantMamallapuram Tina Blue ViewMamallapuram Bizarre BazaarThis is a part of Mahabalipuram that can be best described as a “mini-Goa” with its funky-named restaurants and stores selling the hobo-wares. And if you haven’t experienced Goa (or didn’t get what I wrote)… here is where you’ll find a lot of restaurants serving sea food and where you can do your shopping.

It was close to the beach as well which made it a good place to hang out. I bought some stuff for a friend and then decided to lunch.

Mamallapuram Moonrakers restaurant
Moonrakers: We sat all the way up

The reason we sat all the way up is because they asked us to. You see, a lot of restaurants here don’t have the license to serve beer. But they still stock it and serve… but in steel glasses and only upstairs. So the officials don’t catch them.

Since it was quite hot, we really couldn’t do without a glass of chilled beer. The sea food at Moonrakers was obviously very fresh with the fishermen being so close.

Mamallapuram Moonrakers seafood
Left: Fresh sea food; Right: REALLY fresh
Mamallapuram Moonrakers lunch
Yum.

The food at Moonrakers was really good for the price (which was very reasonable).

After a satisfying lunch, it was back on to the ECR for Chennai.

Mamallapuram Chennai ECRMamallapuram East coast roadIt was yet another picturesque stretch. The drive on the ECR really is quite a pleasure ride… of course, that is unless you are someone who lacks lane discipline and ruins it for others.

We reached Chennai and then asked around as to how to essentially get out of the city and on to the Chennai-Bangalore highway.

After an hour or so in Chennai traffic, we finally made it to the outskirts.

And if you thought the ECR was the last of the good rides you’d get in Tamil Nadu…

Chennai Bangalore highway cloudChennai Bangalore highwayChennai Bangalore highway bridgeChennai Bangalore highway hillsChennai Bangalore highway signChennai Bangalore highway sunset… it’s not. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Chennai to Bangalore highway is one of the best roads in India and even though you have to pass through 4 to 5 toll gates, it’s worth the money.

Seven hours later, we were in Bangalore city.

It was quite a packed weekend. Left on a early Saturday morning and returned on a Sunday night. Saw quite a bit and yet, we never really felt rushed or tired. Probably because it was my second time to Pondicherry so we really didn’t go around there much.

Safe to say, if you want a good road trip in South India — this is definitely it!

Camera used: Canon Powershot A95; post processing done in Photoshop CS3, especially the blues which were cyan heavy

P.S: I know, twice I’ve been to Pondicherry and I still didn’t go to Auroville. Well, there’s always a third time! ๐Ÿ™‚

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11 Comments

  • Ramesh

    09/03/2010

    The A1 plaza attached to the Reliance petrol pump has now been taken over by Kamat chain now. Yet to get any review of the same.
    Btw, while driving from Bangalore, just after you pass A1 (on your right) there is an A2B restaurant attached to BP, which is also quite ok.
    PS. There are not other decent places after these 2 all the way up to Chennai.

    [Reply]

  • vivekanand

    19/05/2011

    i like the way u shoot the pondicherry and impressed with ur photography skills can tell what r the specification u kept fr this shooting (camera and etc)

    vivekanand mallick

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Well, it depends on the photograph Vivek ๐Ÿ™‚

    [Reply]

  • Gopinath P

    17/07/2011

    Thank you for adding so much of information about Gingee. ASI charges an entrance fee of Rs.5.00 for Indian Nationals and Rs.100.00 for others. The ticket is valid for both, Rajagiri and Krishnagiri forts if it is used the same day, although a climb to both the hills in a day is very tough.

    Gingee is a tourist town and a taluk headquarters, located in the Villupuram District of Tamilnadu South India. It is situated 150 kms south of Chennai and 65 kms west of Pondichery.

    We are pleased to inform you that our hotel – Hotel Shivan offers clean and good accomodation at reasonable rates for the discerning travellers. Our website – http://www.hotelshivan-gingeefort.com would provide you further details.

    P.Gopinath
    Proprietor
    Hotel Shivan Gingee-604202 Villupuram Dt. Tamilnadu

    [Reply]

  • vic

    24/08/2011

    Hi Mithun,

    Wow, thanks for your travel blogs. I just love the photos and your commentaries.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks Vic.

    [Reply]

  • swathi bhatiya

    18/12/2014

    Hi ,
    Nice post much descriptive one, and you too took awesome pictures. I had been there last year. I had enjoyed a lot when i had been there the best part is accomodation in seaside guest house and of course the foodie… If i get another chance i will definitely go there

    [Reply]

  • Anish

    28/04/2015

    Cool post bro, next time please try to include the travel time specifically. Will be very useful for planning trips.

    [Reply]

  • wow. amazing post. I really impressed with this website. It has more information about pondicherry with picture. Pictures are looking so beautiful and amazing. Thank you for sharing this great story.

    [Reply]

  • Gowri Shankar

    07/01/2016

    Are you a photographer? Impressed much.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    I’m not a professional photographer, but I know my basics ๐Ÿ™‚

    [Reply]

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