Karl Rock's Blog

India Travel Safety & Advice plus the Best of Incredible India

Category: Sights & Activities Page 1 of 15

Lohagad Scenic View. Lohagad Trek. Lohagad Fort Stairs. Lohagad Scene. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Nearby Escapes from Pune, India

It’s almost monsoon hitting the Deccan part of India. Pune, is one of the most happening places in Maharashtra, and across India is an excellent place to start with weekend escape plans during monsoon.

Mulshi Ghat/ Mulshi Dam

A nice escape for a day from Pune. It has got a real natural beauty comprising of a huge lake, which gives a sense of infinite water body and is surrounded by lush green hills. During monsoons, you can see several waterfalls around.

Mulshi WaterFall. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi WaterFall. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Water fall. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Water fall. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Lake. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Lake. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Garden Field. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Garden Field. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Village. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Village. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Lake. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mulshi Lake. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Best Conveyance: Mulshi ghat is 43.6 km from Pune. It is better to have your own conveyance or book a cab from Zoomcar or Drivezy. The scenic beauty of the route itself makes the journey beautiful.

Best Season to visit: July to April is the best season. But this place can be visited at any time of the year.

Accommodation: There are various resorts around the place, so you can plan your stay during night, and wake up at sunrise. The place is situated around a village, it could be adventurous to take a tent and have a bonfire there.

Lonavala-Khandala-Lohagad

Lonavala is the most popular place around Pune. Foggy green mountains at 2,041 ft above sea level gives an adrenaline pump. There is a lot to do around Lonavala, as Khandala and Lohagad are nearby places. You can go to:

  • Tiger point and lion point – the two most popular peak points in Lonavala.
  • Bushi Dam – a small dam with a scenic view between mountains.
  • Sunny’s Wax Museum – you’ll find wax statues of popular Bollywood celebrities, politicians, and influencer.
  • Lohagad Fort – This can be a one-day trek.
Tiger Point, Lonavala. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Tiger Point, Lonavala. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Tiger Point, Lonavala. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Tiger Point, Lonavala. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Sunny Museum. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Sunny Museum. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lonavala Dam. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Bushi Dam. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lohagad Trek. Lohagad Fort Stairs. Lohagad Scene. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lohagad Trek. Lohagad Fort Stairs. Lohagad Scene. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lohagad Fort Stairs. Lohagad Scene. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lohagad Fort Stairs. Lohagad Scene. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lohagad Scene. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lohagad Scene. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Best Conveyance: Lonavala is 64 km from Pune. It is better to have your own conveyance or book a cab from Zoomcar or Drivezy. Riding on Mumbai Expressway itself is an adventurous trip if you have a  love for riding.

Best Season to visit: June to April is the best season. Can be visited at any time of the year.

Accommodation: Being the most popular place around Pune, you can get accommodations easily. But do book in advance as the pricing might be higher at peak times.

Lavasa

It is known as India’s newest hill station. Lavasa is an amazing blend of beauty and modern infrastructure. Lavasa is a privately planned hill city located near Pune in Maharashtra. It is situated in Mose Valley.

En-route Lavasa. Photo by: vkpriyesh

En-route Lavasa. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lavasa. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lavasa. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lavasa Lake. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lavasa Lake. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lavasa. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Lavasa. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Best Conveyance: Lavasa is 60 km from Pune. It is better to have your own conveyance or book a cab from Zoomcar or Drivezy.

Best Season to visit: June to April is the best season. Can be visited at any time of the year at the stroke of sunrise or sunset.

Accommodation: Lavasa can be pretty costly during weekends and peak season (monsoon). Pre-booking can be done.

Towads the Pakistan border. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Differences Between India & Pakistan

Everyone I met in Pakistan was very curious about India. Their top question was, “What’s the difference between India and Pakistan? Are they similar?” The answer is, yes, there is a familiarity between India and Pakistan. After all, they used to be the same country. But at the same time, there are a few differences.

Here’s what I noticed from a traveller’s perspective.

Food: Pakistan = non-veg, India = veg

I love to eat. So the first thing I noticed upon arriving in Lahore was the fantastic meat dishes. The meat is always freshly killed and cooked, and I think that has something to with why Pakistani meat dishes are always juicy. Try a seekh kebab in Pakistan and India, and you’ll see the difference straight away, the Pakistani ones are juicier.

Pakistanis are massive meat eaters, they consume 3 times more meat than all of India. So it makes sense that they’re experts in cooking it.

India, on the other hand, knows how to cook vegetables like nobody else in the world. You’ll struggle to find vegetable dishes at restaurants in Pakistan unless it’s breakfast. India’s variety of veg dishes is absolutely endless. Even a meat eater like me has become far less reliant on meat and consumer a lot more vegetables in India.

Language: Urdu & Devanagari Script

Hindi and Urdu are nearly identical languages except they have different scripts. In Pakistan, all you see is Urdu script everywhere whereas India is dominated by Devanagari.

Just looking at a photo from each country you can immediately tell which street is in India and which is in Pakistan.

Difference between Devanagari in India and Urdu script in Pakistan

Difference between Devanagari (top) and Urdu script in Pakistan. Photos by Wasif Malik andrajkumar1220.

City Design

Walking around Lahore and Islamabad, I found them similar to big Mughal influenced cities in North India like Delhi, Ajmer, and Lucknow. Clearly, South Indian design is nothing like Pakistani, but North India and Pakistan are similar. After all, both areas at one time were ruled by the same rulers. For example, Jama Masjid in Delhi and Badshahi Mosque in Lahore are nearly identical and built by the same emperor.

Jama Masjid, Delhi. Photo by Peter Rivera.

Jama Masjid, Delhi. Photo by Peter Rivera.

Badshahi Mosque, Lahore. Photo © Karl Rock.

Badshahi Mosque, Lahore. Photo © Karl Rock.

People & Hospitality

I found people on the street in Pakistan to be helpful but wary of a foreigner. Overall I found them less warm than Indians. I think this has something to do with their distrust and dislike of America. They probably assume I’m from there.

Usually, a local’s first question to you will be, “Where are you from?” I’d love to know what their reaction would be if I told them, “America.” I’m assuming it’s going to be different from New Zealand which has a cricket team that I found many Pakistani’s complimenting me on.

I find Indians warmer to foreigners in general. There’s no hatred of America there.

When it comes to meeting local friends in Pakistan and India, I found hospitality to be the same. Both my Pakistani and Indian friends show fantastic hospitality and a passion for showing you their country and making sure you are comfortable and enjoying. It was just the common man on the streets in Pakistan I found less warm than India.

All for me. The spread put on by my friends in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo © Karl Rock.

All for me. The spread put on by my friends in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo © Karl Rock.

Friends & Foes: Pakistan China

Arriving in Lahore, I was greeted with the Pakistan-China Friendship Underpass and a massive reef of flowers celebrating the China and Pakistan friendship elsewhere in the city. They even have a China Chowk (street). There’s no doubt about it, Pakistan China.

In India, you’ll see the same for different countries, but I can’t pinpoint any one country they love, unlike all the tributes to China I saw in Pakistan.

Religion

This one is obvious whether you’ve visited or not. Pakistan is dominated by Islam. Multiple times a day you’ll hear the prayer ceremony broadcast out across the city. You’ll hear the same in Muslim majority areas in India too.

India, on the other hand, is more visibly diverse. In India, you’ll see Churches, Gurudwaras, Hindu temples, Jain temples, and Mosques everywhere.

A Few More Differences

  • There seemed to be less poverty in Pakistan.
  • Very few stray animals in Pakistan.
  • Driving on motorways in Pakistan is much safer because the Police are very strict with fines. If people speed, don’t stay in their lane or don’t use their indicators when changing lanes, they get a fine.
  • There are no liquor stores in Pakistan.
  • More women out and about on the streets in India.

Overall Impression

Pakistan reminds me of walking into a Muslim area of Delhi like West Nizamuddin. You’ve got Urdu, butchers, mosques, and the colour green everywhere. Coming from India, Pakistan is a familiar sight. But the above difference constantly remind you where you are.

Osho Park Pune

Top 5 Things to Do in Pune

Pune is known as the Queen of Deccan and is one of the most happening places in Maharashtra. Surrounded by lush green hills, lakes all around, it is a city of youth. From historical places to crazy party places, you can find everything inside it.

1. Peace out and chill

Osho Meditation Park

You’d love to start your day with a walk or meditation at Osho Meditation Park. With a lush green garden, Osho and Buddha statues, you’ll find people attaining bliss for their day. A really good place to connect with like-minded people as well. The place is open for public from 6-9 AM, and 3-6 PM every day.

Osho Park, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Osho Park, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Pune Hip Hop Art, Osho Park. Photo source: shotbyvk

Pune Hip Hop Art, Osho Park. Photo source: shotbyvk

Breakfast in Viman Nagar

You can hit Viman Nagar at any point of the day, and you’ll find delicious food with wide variety. You can try out tea, coffee, buns at Irani Cafe, or you can go for street food as well.

Irani Cafe, Pune. Photo Source: Zomato

Irani Cafe, Pune. Photo Source: Zomato

2. Experience historical Pune

Shaniwarwada

It was the seat of the Peshwas of Maratha Empire until 1818 when the Peshwas lost control to the British East India Company after the Third Anglo-Maratha War. This palace became the centre of Indian politics in the 18th century. The fort itself was destroyed in 1828 by an unexplained fire. The remaining structure serves as a tourist attraction now.

Shaniwarwada, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Shaniwarwada, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Shaniwarwada, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Shaniwarwada, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Dilli Darwaja at Shaniwarwada, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Dilli Darwaja at Shaniwarwada, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Dagdusheth

The temple is really beautiful which boasts a rich history of over 100 years. The construction is so simple that all the proceedings in the temple along with the beautiful Ganesh idol can be seen even from outside, which is adorned with nearly 40 kilos of gold. The temple is situated in the centre of the city, local shopping market is also the nearby temple. Ganesh Chaturthi is THE BEST time to visit this place.

Dagadusheth, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Dagadusheth, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Dagadusheth during Ganesh Chaturthi, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Dagadusheth during Ganesh Chaturthi, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Pataleshwar Caves

You’ll be amazed by the serenity of this place amid the city’s rush. Its cold ambience makes it a good to chill place in summers.

Pataleshwar Caves, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Pataleshwar Caves, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Pataleshwar Temple, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Pataleshwar Temple, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

 

Aga Khan Palace

This place is of a great importance for Indian Freedom Movement as it served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, his secretary Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu. It is also the place where Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai died. The palace was an act of charity by the Sultan who wanted to help the poor in the neighbouring areas of Pune, who were drastically hit by famine.

Aga Khan Palace, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Aga Khan Palace, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Aga Khan Palace, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

Aga Khan Palace, Pune. Photo source: shotbyvk

3 & 4. Shopping and Try Puneri Food

FC Road

One of the busiest places in Pune, where you’ll find a lot to shop and hop upon. The street is full of restaurants, street food, and street vendors selling all kinds of stuff. If you are into street shopping, this place is perfect for you. Some of the places where you can try eating out are Roopali, Vaishali, Barbeque Nation, Good luck Cafe, and Wadeshwar.

FC Road, Pune. Photo Source: shotbyvk

FC Road, Pune. Photo Source: shotbyvk


Sukanta

With an amazing ambience, spectacular service of waiters whistling, and awesome delicious food, you won’t regret doing a full thali lunch at Sukanta. Normal Thali would be more than sufficient for a single person’s appetite for the whole day.

Sukanta, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

Sukanta, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

 

Aaoji Khhaoji

A restaurant where you can only go with a group because you can’t eat there alone. This place offers a food as if you are hungry from ages. Their food (thaali) packages are named on Bollywood actors/actresses.

Aaoji Khhaoji, Khadki, Pune. Photo Source: Zomato

Aaoji Khhaoji, Khadki, Pune. Photo Source: Zomato

5. Party

Clubbing at Koregaon Park (KP)

SWIG Bar and Eatery, High Spirits Cafe, are some of the topmost clubs/pubs in KP to see the exciting nightlife of Pune. If it’s a Saturday, then it’s a cherry on ice-cake for crazy partying. You can also find one of the best hotels for dinner there.

Swig Bar and Eatery, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

Swig Bar and Eatery, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

 

High Spirits, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

High Spirits, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

Balewadi High street

You can visit BHS in Baner if you are bored off KP. Incognito, Playboy and Urban Foundry are some really amazing places to spend an amazing night.

Incognito, BHS, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

Incognito, BHS, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

 

Playboy Beer Garden, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

Playboy Beer Garden, Pune. Photo source: Zomato

Orchha, chhatris, MP. Photo source: Flickr

The Best Places to Visit in Madhya Pradesh

“See India’s heart,” that’s how the Government’s Incredible India campaign describes Madhya Pradesh, as it is located in the center of the country, resembling the heart of the nation. It’s a state with a blend of heritage, culture, wildlife, food, and one of the biggest rivers – Narmada.

Sanchi

This place has Buddhist Stupas – hemispherical structures typically containing relics of the Buddha or his followers. The Sanchi Stupas were constructed on the orders of Emperor Ashoka. There are numerous stupas, temples, monasteries and an Ashokan pillar.

Points of interest:

  • Unesco world heritage site ‘Mahastupa’ (The Great Stupa)
  • Gupta Temple
  • Asokan pillar at Archeological museum
  • Chaiyta, Vihar
  • Bija Mandal, Vidisha District

Best Conveyance:

  • Air Travel – Nearest airport is in Bhopal city. Sanchi is 55 km north-east of Bhopal airport, which is well-connected with other airports like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Raipur and Delhi.
  • Train – The nearest station is Bhopal. One can reach Bhopal by train and avail a bus / car from there for Sanchi.
  • Road – Sanchi is at a convenient distance from places like Bhopal (46 km), Vidisha (10 km) and Indore (232 km). Various tour operators provide private taxis and cabs.

Best Season to visit: July to April

Accommodation: Check availability on http://olrs.mpstdc.com/

Sanchi. Photo Source: flickr

Sanchi. Photo Source: Flickr

Khajuraho

Khajuraho is famous for its ancient temples that depict some of the finest art in the world. These temples depict various forms of meditation, spiritual teachings, kinship, wrestling, royalty and most significantly, erotic art.

Points of interest:

  • Kandariya Mahadeva Temple
  • Lakshmana Temple
  • Chitragupta Temple
  • Parsvanath Temple
  • Bija Mandal, Vidisha District
  • Can visit Panna National Park from there

Best Conveyance:

  • Air Travel – Khajuraho Aerodrome about 2 km from the town center and is well connected to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Varanasi and Indore. Taxis are available from the airport to reach the city centre.
  • Train – Khajuraho Railway Station, is around 5 km from the main town centre. The station is well connected to Delhi and Varanasi and (via Satna Railway Station) to Mumbai and Kolkata.
  • Road – Sanchi is at a convenient distance from places like Bhopal (46 km), Vidisha (10 km) and Indore (232 km). Various tour operators provide private taxis and cabs.

Best Season to visit: September to February

Accommodation: Check availability on http://olrs.mpstdc.com/

Khajuraho, MP. Photo source: Flickr

Khajuraho, MP. Photo source: Flickr

Kanha National Park

Kanha National Park is one of the largest parks in Madhya Pradesh. You can find Royal Bengal tigers there.  National Geographic’s award-winning ‘Land of the Tigers’ was shot here. A safari in Kanha is a must to have.

Points of interest:

  • Sonf Meadows
  • Kanha Meadows
  • Sindoor Trees
  • Shravan Tal
  • National Park

Best Conveyance:

  • Air Travel – Nearest airport is in Jabalpur (170 kms). The second best option is Nagpur airport (290 kms).
  • Train – The nearest railway stations are Bilaspur – 175 kms, Gondia – 127 kms, Jabalpur – 214 kms, Nagpur – 280 kms and Raipur – 216 kms
  • Road – The routes are: Jabalpur – Mandla – Kanha, cabs for hire available Raipur – Simga – Kawardha – Chilphi- Gadhi- Kanha, cabs for hire available Nagpur – Seoni – Balaghat – Baihar – Kanha, cabs for hire available.

Best Season to visit: September to February

Accommodation: Check availability on http://olrs.mpstdc.com/

Tiger at Kanha National Park, MP. Photo Source: Flickr

Tiger at Kanha National Park, MP. Photo Source: Flickr

Hanuwantiya

Located around Madhya Dweep which is a group of islands in the Indira Sagar dam and Hanuwantiya which is by the bank of Indira Sagar dam. Hanuwantiya also hosts India’s only and largest water carnival, Jal Mahotsav, every year.

Points of interest:

  • Boriyamal Island
  • The boat club/house
  • Tent City

Best Conveyance:

  • Air Travel – Indore Airport is the nearest (150 kms. / 03 hrs. approx.) to the Madhya Dweep group of islands.
  • Train – Khandwa is the nearest railway station is 50 km away.
  • Road – Connected by road from Indore, Bhopal and Khandwa

Best Season to visit: July to April

Accommodation: Check availability on http://olrs.mpstdc.com/

Hanuwantiya, MP. Photo source: Flickr

Hanuwantiya, MP. Photo source: Wikimedia

Bhedhaghat

Marble rocks along the graceful Narmada river. These tall mountains, are known to magically change shapes as you sail along the river, along with the Dhuandhar falls. Treat yourself with a boat ride on a moonlit night at the marble rocks.

Points of interest:

  • Marble Rocks
  • Chaunsath Yogini Temple
  • Dhuandhar Falls

Best Conveyance:

  • Air Travel – The nearest airport to this place is Jabalpur which is just 23 km away.
  • Train – Jabalpur is the nearest railway station to Bhedaghat.
  • Road – Easy to reach Bhedaghat by road, as buses, tempos and taxis run regularly from Jabalpur.

Best Season to visit: July to April

Accommodation: Check availability on http://olrs.mpstdc.com/

White Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat, MP. Photo source: Wikimedia

White Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat, MP. Photo source: Wikimedia

Inside the Chandigarh Rock Garden. Photo © Karl Rock.

What Are the Chances? You Won’t Believe This Happened in India

It was my second time at the weird but wonderful Chandigarh Rock Garden. It’s like being lost in a wonderland, it must be seen to be believed. I enjoy it far more than the overrated Taj Mahal.

Nek Chand Saini began collecting materials from demolition sites around the city in 1957. He began constructing his maze of rock art and waterfalls on Government conservation land undisturbed for 18 years until the Government finally caught him. By that time the Rock Garden was already a work of art.

After getting the public on his side, the Government gave him a job and 50 labours to keep working on this unique public space. Now, it’s one of the most visited, and memorable, places in India.

Now it starts getting strange

Swings, Chandigarh Rock Garden. Photo © Karl Rock.

Swings, Chandigarh Rock Garden. Photo © Karl Rock.

So there I was, sitting next to the massive swings Saini built letting the sunlight warm me up on a cold December day. When one of the weirdest things happened to me

Two guys in their 20s came up to me and the one in the brown jacket and slicked back hair shows me his phone.

Meeting my friends from Kashmir for a second time. Photo © Karl Rock.

Photo © Karl Rock.

On his phone is a photo of me! It’s a scene I remember. But why does he have a photo of me on his phone?

The photo on his phone. Photo © Karl Rock.

The photo on his phone. Photo © Karl Rock.

My friend had totalled his bike on a piece of slippery road on our ride to Srinagar, Kashmir, so he was travelling separately on a bus to Jammu. The bus went the correct way to Jammu, and I went the wrong way. First I ended up riding 50 km to the end of a beautiful road.

Then I took another wrong turn and ended up taking the unused centuries-old route from Srinagar to Jammu! That added an extra 8 hours of riding with nobody around and no petrol stations to fill up at. At one point I was sure I was going to run out of petrol.

After hours of riding, I decided to stop in the middle of nowhere for a drink. The shopkeepers were surprised to see a foreigner riding in the area. I walked into this store and bought a Limca (Indian lemonade like 7-up) for the energy to keep riding. The shop owner, his friends, and a local cop were all sitting and relaxing outside the store.

We chatted and before I left they asked me for a photo. It was that photo the guy at the Rock Garden’s was showing me. He’d taken the picture for them on his phone. He was a relative of the shop owner and from that remote area of Kashmir. And now we’d crossed paths a second time!

My mind was blown after I realised he was the guy I met in some remote part of Kashmir. What are the chances?

Me and some locals in Kashmir. Photo © Karl Rock, all rights reserved.

My photo from my camera that the guy in the brown jacket took for me. Photo © Karl Rock.

It’s happened before too

This isn’t the first time I’ve had deja vu in India though. I once went to the Anandpur Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) on the border of Himichal Pradesh and Punjab. It’s a very small but famous place for Sikhs.

I returned back to Delhi, and a random shopkeeper in the area I was living asked me, “Were you in Anandpur last weekend?” It turned out he’d also visited the same day as me and seen me there. What are the chances?

Even in a country of a billion people, the world is not so big.

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