Before going to Pune, I was really pumped. I had asked all my favorite people (you guys) on Instagram and Facebook what I should see, do, and eat, and you guys gave me great tips and a nice travel guide to Pune.
Unfortunately, I have let you all down.
Although I did a couple things that you all recommended, I overestimated my time there. With flight time, travel to and from airport, staying far from Koregaon Park, and massive rain storms kind of ambushed my trip. I might not have seen everything important, but I sure did eat and drink enough! More on that in another post.
Regardless, here are my thoughts and a little of my own travel guide to Pune:
I also want to say I recognize this guide is more helpful for expats or foreign tourists in India, because most of what I did, I wouldn’t have as a backpacker or international tourist. The places I ate at were sometimes pricey and I did indulge in all the western things I missed from home.
There are a couple things I always knew about Pune: Osho is centered here, it’s pronounced “Poona”, Shiva spent his childhood here, this is where the Brits used to escape Bombay’s monsoon and where they stuck Gandhi in jail for a couple years. It’s a sprawling business city and frequented by expats who come to India for work. In addition to the guys in suit and ties there are loads of hippies coming for Osho center (which is based from teachings of famous guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh).
It’s obviously got the charm all Indian cities have- chaos, traffic, fabulous food- but it’s a very balanced place. Unlike conservative Kochi where I last explored, I found people here more open and relaxed. With Ganesh Chaturthi around the corner, it was fun to see the giants Ganeshes’ being sold on the streets.
I was happy to be spending a few days exploring and doing a little solo adventuring again. The main areas are MG road which is more local and Koregaon Park, where you’ll find more foreigners and where you’ll probably want to find a guesthouse.
FYI: there is an MG road in most Indian cities and if you’re bored it’s a good place to tell a rickshaw driver to take you. You’ll always find shops, street food, hotels, coffee shops with other travelers, and a nice local culture.
To be honest, I found the rickshaw drivers to be useless with knowing tourist hot spots. While searching for Aga Khan Palace, which I made my first stop, I had to switch ricks three times when drivers gave up looking. I probably asked 15 drivers to take me and showed them the name written down saying “Gandhi’s palace” as well but they had no clue.
TIP: You need to know the exact address, look it up on your phone (in the rain storm, I had no cell service), and in Koregaon Park, know the lane number! The drivers did use the meter when I asked nicely (most of the time).
Aga Khan Palace // Pune
Aga Khan Palace houses Gandhi memorial, located on Nagar Road, and is the biggest attraction in Pune (although anyone on the street will say they’ve never heard of it). It was neat to walk through. 100 rs ticket price for tourists and 5 rs for Indians will get you entrance to the grounds and museum. It’s a bit out of the way, but worth a look. I mean, how many people can say they saw Gandhi’s sandals and glasses?
From here, I tried to go to famous and recommended Pataleshwar rock-cut (cave) temple dated back to 8th century, made for the god of the underwater but it was pouring, I had no WiFi and the driver I was with didn’t have a clue what it was.
They are meant to be similar to the Elephanta caves in Bombay and just across is the Jangali Maharaj Temple– so you can kill two birds with one stone.
Sinhagad Fort was next on my list but, again, I was met with a blank stare. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a map with you and exact instructions for the driver. Even people on the street when he’d stop to ask didn’t have a clue.
I finally gave up and said “just drive toward Koregaon Park”, figuring I’ll get out if I see something. Just FYI most cool places are hidden from the main road, so you won’t just see them. I was getting hungry and requested Burger King, but again no one had heard of it. It’s not the real one, it’s a famous knock-off that the locals love. The driver took me to German Bakery against my will, so I got out and found a new driver. I didn’t eat at German Bakery because I knew it’d be good decent food just like I get in Goa, and I wanted to try something new. I actually walked in the rain until I finally found the hidden Burger King. More on that in my post on the best food in Pune. There are two, but the one I found was hidden near the Westin.
check out another post, my picks on the best food in Pune, to see where all I ate!
A few other places recommended I didn’t have time to see are:
Haunted Shaniwar Wada Fort which has a light show every night and gorgrous lotus fountain. It used to be the fortress of the Peshwa built in 1732 (although much was destroyed in 1828 in a fire). It’s near Shaniwar Peth railway station. The Osho Ashram gardens are in Korgaon Park and a garden stroll is open to public. It was pouring, so I skipped that. There’s an interested Tribal museum I would have seen if I’d had more time and a Katraj Snake park you couldn’t PAY me to go to.
Want to volunteer?
A friend told me just 30 km away is Sadhana village for mentally disabled adults. Know that you have to stay a couple months and even though they feed and house you free of charge, they will ask for donations.
If I didn’t see all the touristy things what DID I do!?
Well, don’t judge me people… but I ate a lot, got super drunk with some buddies that live down in Pune bartending, and went to the mall a couple times to buy Vogue India, ELLE India, Starbucks ground coffee to bring back to Goa, necessities from Marks and Spencer, and maybe some McDonalds chicken nuggets. We have none of this in Goa! I also happened to see a sign for 50% off all spa services and couldn’t pass up a 60 minute Indonesian massage for 1200 rupees. We had some incredible meals out and stayed in a bomb ass apartment near Amanora Mall and Seasons Mall. I strolled through ABC Farms, which looked like it had some tasty restaurants and let our houseboy/helper/butler? make me yummy omelets for breakfast (perks of Ben’s job).
My Foreign/ Tourist Indulgences:
No, no it’s Rachel. “Yes Reeeeta, here you go!” Twice. Seriously. So yummy though and I haven’t had it since May!
My little oasis from the rain. Everything was half off… who could walk past that!?
I’m going to tell you a secret… I ate more than what is pictured. Sorry not sorry.
ummm and a shot of my wardrobe because on Instagram there are always a hit!
I definitely need to go back to Pune when the weather is nicer and with some cell phone reception so I can see more of what I want. One thing I didn’t realize was just how spread out everything is. Famous Kayani Bakery and Blue Nile were ages away with traffic. In Koregaon Park I must have asked 20 people where Malaka Spice was and it got me nowhere.
TIPS on what to wear: You should cover up just the same as Bombay, which means it’s a little relaxed. I packed nice long dresses as you can see above, but in the rain it was a challenge wearing something so long and um, gorgeous. Take a rain coat in the monsoon and don’t wear your good sandals. There are no sidewalks in a lot of areas because of all the construction.
Some thoughts on Osho
The thing Pune is most famous for is Osho, who I kind of think is nuts. Here’s a little summary from Wikipedia on the man that has enough followers it single-handedly made Pune a massive tourist attraction. It’s a little off topic, but I figure you might be curious since that’s why so many travelers go here.
In case you haven’t heard of Osho and don’t know what the fuss is about, here’s a few fun facts: he’s known as the sex guru, you have to get an AIDS test to go to his ashram, he was very popular in the 70’s and 80’s but died in 1990 which seems to have made him more popular. Some experimental group therapies he used included physical violence and sex; it became expensive so westerners started running drugs & prostituting themselves to stay longer which he approved.
The Indian government unsurprisingly had big issues with him so he left India, went to Oregon on a false medical visa, got 93 of his desired 365 Rolls Royce’s to do daily drive-by and wave at his followers. The locals didn’t like him but he was too busy inhaling nitrous oxide and writing books to make a big deal of it, so his assistant put salmonella in the food of the cities’ residents for which she later plead guilty to attempted murder and the first bio-terrorism attack in the U.S.
In tape recordings the guru said Hitler had the right “vision” (and that Jewish people were looking for “Hitler’s” because they were guilty that they’d killed Jesus), although people didn’t understand, and more people would need to die in Oregon. Eventually he was deported by the U.S., India welcomed him back and he talked nonsense about America’s evils. He died of heart failure although some say it was AIDS. Some of what he taught was lovely: we are all Buddha’s and can reach enlightenment with meditations. One of his most well-known was Dynamic Meditation which comes in waves of jumping, being cathartic, breathing exercises and more, but he’s also known for weeping meditation, laughing and humming. But through the good, he also said things like he believed children born dead, dumb, or blind should be put to sleep. He also said that Hitler used the most up-to-date gas chambers, so it’s better to have died there then to be poor in India. He also loved gay people until AIDS came about then he thought they were “not even human” and should be isolated.
It seems for each inspirational or profound thought he may have had, he said something offensive, unintelligent, or downright crazy. There is no chance I’d want to learn from people teaches his lessons and have no desire to see his “ashram”. I know other travelers who have and loved it and yes, I’m curious about his form of meditation which works for people- but how can you trust something coming from a man like this? For some reason, he’s revered in India as a cool dude by many, some just because there are funny YouTube videos where he talks about how cool it is to say “Fuck”. Really guys, I’m wondering what am I not seeing about this Osho that keeps tourists and Indians alike flocking to him?
AND rant over.
Seriously Pune was pretty cool, but it wasn’t the best in the rain during the day. I need to go back with a map, internet & cell reception, and more time! But I did have a kick-ass time thanks to some friends in the nightlife biz taking us under their wing and showing us the nightlife!
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