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India Survival Guide Success! Police Arrest 4 in Connaught Place!

Success! Police Arrest 4 Scammers in Connaught Place, New Delhi

Good news! After my report with Zee News on scammers in Connaught Place, New Delhi the Delhi Police began a crackdown on people ripping off foreigners and taking them around to overpriced stores.

I never expected this to happen, but the Delhi Police have listened. Good work Delhi Police. I hope this continues during tourist season this year. Here’s the full news report translated from Hindi:

A gang of fraudster rickshaw drivers were arrested by Delhi Police. This gang used to scam foreigner tourists by fooling them in the name of taking them to shops selling jewellery and clothing.

Manoj Kumar aka Bobby (50, Geeta colony), Ritesh (36, Nabi Karim), and Jitendra Kumar (41, West Karaval), were arrested by Delhi Police.

Their rickshaws have been taken in custody as they were being used for the crime.

According to DCP (New Delhi) Madhur Verma, they were receiving complaints for quite some time that some auto drivers were scamming foreign tourists. The auto drivers used to take them to particular shops, which they said, sold traditional clothing, jewellery and decorative items of which they charged a huge amount. The auto drivers used to get fixed commission for this. Many tourists were being fooled by this gang.

To arrest these auto drivers, district police of Delhi had formed two special teams. One of them arrested Manoj and Ritesh opposite Royal Plaza on Ashok road. The other team arrested Jitendra and Amit at Jantar Mantar Road opposite MTNL building. Two FIR’s were launched at Sansad Marg Police station.

Delhi Police is now investigating further about how many other gangs like this are active in New Delhi.

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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.

Foreign Woman Beheaded in India

Liga Skromane Missing Poster

Kerala Police have finally caught the two men who drugged, raped and beheaded a tourist – Liga Skromane from Latvia.

Liga had been missing since February when she went to visit a beach in Kovalam. She had come to India in search of ancient Indian Ayurvedic (natural Indian healing) treatment for depression.

The suspects are drug sellers, and one has previously abused both men and women in the same remote area in the post.

What went wrong?

Simply put, Liga trusted the wrong people. In tourist areas in India, it’s hard to know who you can trust. Most of the time, if someone is approaching you and starting a conversation, there’s something they want from you. It might just be a selfie or to sell you something, but it could be something else too.

As a man in India the risk is less, but as a lone woman being approached and going anywhere with local men is risky. They might come up to you and start with innocent questions like, “Where are you from?” Then once they’ve built a quick friendship with you, they’ll say, “Let me show you somewhere special that tourists never go.” Who wants to miss out on seeing a local sight off the beaten track?

Another thought I had which is pure hypothetical is that she may have been buying drugs. In places like Goa and Kerala, I was offered drugs from men on the street as I walked down the road or near a beach. I don’t do drugs or drink, so I never experienced what that process is like. But I imagine they’d have their lines to lure you to a quiet place to take drugs. Just like back home, you can’t trust drug dealers (but that should go without saying right?)

A final problem in India is that foreign women are seen as “easy” and thought to be more open to having sex than Indian women. So if you come across a man who has this mentality, he’ll take advantage of you all the while thinking to himself, “She asked for it, she’s out here talking to men!”

How to stay safe with strangers

Before trusting and going anywhere with people in India, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself:

  1. As a lone female, never go places with strangers. But if you are going to then follow the next to steps.
  2. Verify their identity. Before going somewhere, add them as a friend on Facebook or take their phone number and call their phone so you know it’s the right number. If they don’t give you any personal information, then they don’t want to be identified, and that’s a big red flag.
  3. Then send their identity to whoever you’re travelling with and tell them where you’re going with these strangers.
  4. Use the share your location feature on your phone with someone, so your movements can be tracked.
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.

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

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