9th – 13th December – The green, green trees of Pune

We headed for Pune with slightly heavy heads (bit of an underestimate actually!) and wasn’t looking forward to the journey one bit. Luckily we encountered a nice man on the train called Kumar, and the four hour journey flew by. We found out so much about Indian politics and current issues from him, with discussions leading to chat about the current political situation around the globe. His views on certain countries was particular interesting, will tell all another day over a pint!

These encounters are what make travelling so rewarding… your viewpoint completely changes, and you realise that a lot of our views are fed from a one-sided media. For example the Demonetisation exercise brought in at the beginning of November, to someone reading about it in the UK it just wouldn’t make sense. Why would a government put a cap on the money being withdrawn and make certain bank notes illegal? Speaking to numerous people here, however, it makes perfect sense to do it. As Kumar said, India is still a ‘developing third world country’, in order for it to be fully developed it must change, and so there will be obstacles today and in the future. PM Modi is the man to do that, it seems. Our opinions on him have changed now; most western reports focus on him being  a right wing politician who wants India to become a nation for Hindu followers only, but his policies favour the poor and the growth of India as a developing country. However, he isn’t for everyone and to some people corruption still rules within his government, I suppose it always does though.

There is still so much to read and to discuss about India, we haven’t even scratched the surface…

On to Pune.. arrived on Friday afternoon, to our hotel Treebo Deccan8, a spacious hotel with a wonderful view from our room. Again though, our patience levels have been tested numerous times. No WiFi, a TV that makes a buzzing noise (!), no soundproofing, (which when your’e sleeping next door to a couple who are at it like rabbits at all hours it can be a little bit uncomfortable!)… also, I stupidly left our room key on the first night in a cab, it’s Tuesday now and he still hasn’t giving it back. He asked for 500 rupees at first – ransom on a hotel key! Only in India. Also, Pune has no cash, and I mean no cash, not one ATM within 3 miles of our hotel is working, all banks are shut up shop, so again restrictions on what we can and can’t do. We got stung by a driver the other night which had to be solved by one of the staff at the hotel paying for the cab, with no chance of us paying him back, I’m sure these won’t be the last testing times.

Apart from the above, from what we have seen so far, we quite like Pune. It’s incredibly green considering it’s a city of 3.1 million, the 9th largest city in India. We took a walk around Koreagon Park, which is famous for its lush green canopy trees, large mansions, and the Osho Meditation Centre. We took a walk through Osho Tearth Gardens, which is only open between 6-9am and 3-6pm, so a very early Uber drive to get there, but it was worth it, lovely serene garden. We’re staying for two nights at the end of the week in Koreagon Park, which is a good thing as it’s quiet and away from the temptations, shops, bars etc!

Rather eventful evening last night – went for a meal in the centre of the city to a place called 11 East Street.Got stuck in the middle a Muslim parade celebrating Milad Un Nabi, Muhammad’s birthday. Isn’t it amazing that it is so near to the day that Christians celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, too?! Anyway, it was surreal and scary to say the least. Media and current world affairs didn’t help with the situation of being stuck in a traffic jam with thousands of Muslim men around you, but it was fine, they were celebrating, enjoying themselves, why would they want to bother themselves with us? We were safe.

Funnily enough, and I’m yet to find a reason for this, the air in Pune is causing me a lot of issues, more so than Mumbai. My skin is one just massive pimple, my nose is bunged up with black crap, and my throat is incredibly dry all the time. The air quality in Pune is a third of what Mumbai is, maybe the sea air helps rid the toxins away? Anyway I’ve seen numerous amount of people with scarfs wrapped around their faces, and clever westerners with anti-air pollution masks on. Due to that, today is an inside the hotel day, aka relax, work, and finish The Hobbit. I made a promise to myself that I would try to read all of Tolkien’s books before we get back, lets see if I can do it!

Places

Hippie Heart – at last a bar/restaurant that’s going to play decent music! Well, we assumed with a name like that. Of course not, however many pictures of Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin and the Stones dotted over the walls and menus they were never going to play 60s music! Trendy place full of students, woodfire pizza oven too, yes pizza again! Steve’s jaw dropped to the floor when he saw it.

German Bakery – nothing to do with Germany at all, but a famous café/cake store, really nice feel and vibe going on and their orange muffins and brownie cakes were heavenly, if not rather indulgent.

Osho Tearth Park – as mentioned earlier, this is a rather peaceful place to start the day off, lots of locals make their way here for calm before the madness begins.

Parvati Hill – a hillock in Pune, with quite a steep climb. I compared it to Whitby Abbey steps but it was twice as difficult. On top of the hill is Parvati Temple, plus four other smaller temples. Nice quiet place away from the buzz of the city. Have still yet to see any temples that compare to the grandeur of Tamil Nadu, these smaller shrines are still beautiful but nowhere near the beauty of Madurai.

Open Window Café – rooftop bar/restaurant to watch the sun go down, was stunning if not blinding (don’t stare at the sun, kids!) When dusk had arrived the largest bats you ever have seen started flying above our heads. I mentioned this to my dad, he asked if we were drinking absinthe, but we could tell they weren’t birds, however I have still yet to find the specie of bat, any help would be much appreciated!

11 East Street Café – English/London themed restaurant with an actual Routemaster at the entrance. Chicken kebabs were great, one which was very fiery. Steve was warned by the waiter, however he still ordered it, typical Brit, fantastic Vegetable Biriyani too!

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