Karl Rock's Blog

India Travel Safety & Advice plus the Best of Incredible India

Tag: Chandigarh

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.

Punjabi Butter Chicken. Photo by stu_spivack.

A Local’s Guide to the Best Food in Chandigarh

I took a train to Chandigarh recently to meet a Punjabi friend and go on a road trip across lush Punjab to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. While I was there we stuffed ourselves with the best food Chandigarh and Mohali (an adjoining city) had to offer. I purposefully avoided TripAdvisor recommendations and told him we would only eat where he and his friends eat.

A Little on Chandigarh

Chandigarh is not a typical Indian city. It’s strangely the capital of 2 states, Haryana and Punjab. But it’s technically not part of either state, it’s its own state or what India calls a union territory. It’s also one of the first planned cities in India, so it’s not an average India city, rather its one of the cleanest and most livable cities in India.

It’s also known as the tri-city because the cities of Chandigarh, Panchkula, and Mohali all neighbour each other and you can barely tell when you leave one and enter the next.

Sethi Dhaba

$$ – Zirakpur – Authentic Punjabi Dhaba (roadside restaurant) experience

Chole Masala at Sethi Dhaba, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.

Chole Masala at Sethi Dhaba, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.

Sethi Dhaba is a busy place frequented by celebrities and politicians as you’ll see on their photo wall. It’s one of the most famous dhabas in Chandigarh where you can experience traditional Punjabi food. They even have the traditional seats that you’ll see villagers sitting on and eating from, it’s not really a seat though, it’s a large bed that four people can sit on and eat from a table in the centre of it.

They only serve vegetarian, but even for a big meat eater like me, it doesn’t matter because Indian vegetarian food is the tastiest in the world. Make sure you order the Chole Masala, Egg Bhurji, and Dal Makhani along with either Naan or the healthier Missi Roti (made with whole wheat flour, gram flour, and spices).

Yadav Tea Stall

$ – Advocates Area, 1st Foor, District Court Complex, Sector 43) – Special bread rolls

Bread Roll from Yadav Tea Stall, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.

Bread Roll from Yadav Tea Stall, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.

This is a truly hidden delicacy. It’s not at all healthy, but it’s damn tasty. Yadav serves a unique deep fried bread roll that’s filled with savoury and slightly spiced potato filling. Accompanying it is a spicy sauce made from green chillis. It’s out of this world and only found here at the court. It’s a standard lunch for the lawyers.

Pal Dhaba

$$ – Sector 28 – Authentic Punjabi food

This is the most famous Dhaba in Chandigarh. While it’s not the traditional motorway roadside eatery, rather it’s part of an outdoor mall, the food is pure Punjabi. Punjabi food is known as rich and creamy, and Pal Dhaba delivers this.

The Butter Chicken is the best you’ll ever have. Punjabi Butter Chicken is very different to the Western version. It’s more flavorful and less sweet. Lap it up with their buttery naan bread. One other dish to try is the Punjabi favourite, Dal Malakani.

Dining outside at Pal Dhaba, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.

Dining outside at Pal Dhaba, Chandigarh.Yes, that’s an entire bowl of boneless Butter Chicken! Photo © Karl Rock.

Baba Chicken

$$ – Phase 10, Mohali – A Different Butter Chicken

For a slightly different take on Butter Chicken, Baba is a good place to go. It’s yellow and has a slightly different less spice filled flavour. Some people prefer this lighter version.

Acme India Taste Point

$ – Sector 14, Chandigarh – Bhel Puri

The Punjab University campus foodcourt is where you’ll find all the students eating each day. The standout here is the chaat/juice stall that serves great Bhel Puri (a kind of puffed rice salad with spicy sauces).

Bhel Puri from Punnjab University Foodcourt. Photo © Karl Rock.

Bhel Puri from Punnjab University Foodcourt. Photo © Karl Rock.

Backpackers Cafe

$$$ – Sector 9, Chandigarh

If you want something a bit more upmarket, head to the highly rated Backpackers Cafe. You’ll find all sorts of international fare there. Including one of the biggest Lamb Burgers I’ve ever eaten.

Lamb Burger from Backpackers Cafe. Photo © Karl Rock.

Lamb Burger from Backpackers Cafe. Photo © Karl Rock.

Sector 8 Market

The Sector 8 inner market has something for everyone. It’s a pricey market, but the quality and taste of the food in this market is great. Do a loop of the market then decide what you want to try!

Preet Eating Zone

$ – Phase 7, Mohali – Chole (Standing area only)

Preet Eating Zone's Chole on Rice. Photo © Karl Rock.

Preet Eating Zone’s Chole on Rice. Photo © Karl Rock.

Preet is known for their Chole (Chickpeas) on rice topped with coriander and cabbage. It’s a slightly spicy tomato flavoured dish on saffron rice. Perfect for a quick lunch or breakfast. Wash it down with their lassi (yoghurt drink) which surprisingly not very sweet – such a relief as India has a tendency to over sweeten everything.

Dishes available at Preet's Eating Zone, Mohali. Photo © Karl Rock.

Dishes available at Preet’s Eating Zone, Mohali. Photo © Karl Rock.

Amrit Confectionary

$ – Phase 5, Mohali – Indian sweets and bakery

Butter Paneer roll from Amrit Confectionary, Mohali. Photo © Karl Rock.

Butter Paneer roll from Amrit Confectionary, Mohali. Photo © Karl Rock.

Amrit is an Indian sweets (mithai) store with a bakery outside. The Bakery is what you come here for. They do a spicy Indian take on buns, rolls and sandwiches. The most popular item here are their deep fried rolls filled with different flavours including butter paneer or manchurian. It’s going to be hard for you to choose what to try from their beautiful cabinet.

Haandi Dum

$ – Phase 7, Mohali – Kathi Rolls (Standing area only)

Originating from Kolkata, West Bengal, Kathi Rolls are available all over India. Haandi is a local favourite. Try the soft and buttery double egg or paneer rolls.

Sindhi Sweets

$ – Sector 17 – Indian Sweets

Sindhi Sweets is regarded as the best in Chandigarh. Their speciality is Kaju (Cashew Nut) Barfi. It’s a non-spicy Indian sweet made of creamy cashews and sugar. It’s soft and lightly flavoured. Kaju Barfi is one of the most popular sweets in India making it a must try wherever you go.

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