Sunday, August 11, 2019 at 19:51 (UTC+0530)

Puducherry, India —

We took an auto rickshaw (what is called a "tuk tuk" in Sri Lanka) out to the major highway called the ECR (for East Coast Road) and waited in the heat of the sun for a bus to arrive. It was a big rusty, dented, rattly affair that hurtled us along for several hours south to the old French colony of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry).

Our accommodation was a few kilometers north at Auro Beach. This was a mistake, as we'd thought it was located on the recommended Serenity Beach. Sigh. But in fact it was a godsend: when we walked down to Serenity Beach they were just wiring up loudspeakers that blared squawking temple festival music. Whew!

Front doors of houses were decorated with chalk designs. Some houses featured scary demon heads to ward off evil. Women with double gold nose studs watched as we passed. At the beach the fishermen mended their precious nets.

Puducherry retains a French flavor of architecture and a wide promenade along the shore. Tourists in modern styles mingled with pilgrims in colorful traditional attire. Few foreigners were around. We rode the local bus with its lively music and cheerful locals.

The botanical gardens were in a sad state. School girls on a field trip crowded around teacher Karen. Couples were having wedding photos taken. But the toy train wasn't running and the singing fountain was dry.

The city streets were busy and around the railway station were some shifty characters. Occasionally a classic old car rambled by, and there were lots of the classic old Indian bicycles. All in all Puducherry felt like a place whose time has come and gone.