India city's Pi formula for great holidays

30th Apr 2013

India's small city with a south Indian culture and French colonial presence is riding high in the slipstream of Life Of Pi's success.

The city of Pondicherry - now renamed Puducherry - has always been a cherished private journey venue, with two distinct halves to keep holidaymakers entertained.

Bisected by a canal, to one side is the quiet French Quarter bordered by a promenade and beach with unhurried streets. Here, you can enjoy chichi shops selling statues of the Hindu deity Ganesh, handbags and pashminas.

The other side boasts something more animated: a horn-honking Tamil area with free-running goats, Royal Enfield motorbikes, women in multi-coloured saris, and big posters for locally made "Kollywood" films.

Until 1954, Pondicherry - or Pondy - was a French colony.

It was infused with new life by the story of a teenager who survives 227 days on a boat with a tiger after a shipwreck kills his family.

Today's tourists on group tours enjoy the sights that form the backdrop to Yann Martel's novel Life Of Pi, now an award-winning film.

It's easy to spot the following Pi trail locations that director Ang Lee chose, even if their lick of Hollywood paint has faded in the monsoon rains that blow in from the Bay of Bengal:

- the Grand Bazaar, at the Mahatma Gandhi Road and Nehru Street junction, is where the story's hero coyly chased his first love

- the Botanical Gardens doubled as Pi's family's zoo

- Villianur's splendid Hindu temple served as the backdrop for the night-time candlelit tank ceremony scene

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