We are travelling around South India now.
After bidding farewell to the village (with lots of flowers and tears) we left for Kumbakonam.
While we were in the bus I was worried where we would stay in Kumbakonam. Lonely Planet gives only a couple of super-expensive hotels in some obscure locations. As we were arriving late in the evening I kept thinking how to find them, whom to ask for directions.
When we arrived, it turned out that finding accommodation in Kumbakonam is not a problem. The district around the central bus stand has plenty of lodges. Many of them are cheaper than those in Lonely Planet. This is the district that you see first when you arrive in Kumbakonam so you don’t have to roam about the city in search of a place to stay. You just step out of the bus, walk a few metres, and start checking lodges one after another.
From this I conclude that the authors of Lonely Planet either didn’t visit Kumbakonam themselves, and just put into their guidebook some expensive hotels that they found in the Internet, or they got too much heat and solar radiation upon their heads so that their advice about accommodation turned out a bit strange. In the latter case I don’t blame them because it can often be quite hot here.
By the way, in South India, a place to stay is called a lodge. A hotel means a place to eat — a restaurant. You don’t want to sleep in a hotel, you need a lodge for that. Hotels are for eating.
After Kumbakonam we went to Karaikal which belongs to the Union of Pondicherry. Lonely Planet has a section about one of the Union’s cities — Puducherry but says nothing about Karaikal. This means that Karaikal is beyond the reach of LP-dependent mainstream of modern backpackers. In a sense, you can feel yourself a discoverer here (just kidding).
I’ll give some info where to stay in Karaikal.
As soon as you arrive, you’ll see Atlantic Inn next to the main bus stand. It is operated by ‘cool guys’. Cool guys rarely provide good customer service, so you don’t want to stay there. Instead, go to the street which is also adjacent to the bus stand but perpendicular to that on which Atlantic Inn is. You’ll find many lodges there. The street you need is called Bharathiyar Road.
We stayed in the French Residency Hotel, and recommend it (yes, it is called a hotel, not a lodge, just to add to the confusion). It has romantic interior with old furniture. Old furniture means it is not shaky. When you put your computer on the table you don’t have to worry about your hard drive.
Bharathiyar Road contains a lot of restaurants, shops, and fruit markets.
In this Internet café you are allowed to use your laptop (not many Internet cafés in India allow it):
If you ask how French Karaikal is nowadays (it used to be a French colony), I’ll better answer with a quote from the latest edition of Lonely Planet. The quote refers to Puducherry but is also applicable to Karaikal.
Let’s get something clear: if you came to Puducherry expecting a Provençal village in South India, you’re in for some sore disappointment, mon ami. Most of Pondy is Tamil Nadu: honk-scream-screech-honk-chaos Tamil Nadu. Running through this is a thin trickle of colonial Pondy: some cobblestones, mustard-yellow town-houses, and here and there a shady boulevard that could put you in mind of gendarmes marching past sari-clad belles – HONK!