August 22, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.228: Kalka Shimla Railway, Himachal.

“Heritage Toy Train - An Amazing Experience.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
This narrow gauge train connects the hill town of Shimla, capital of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, to Kalka in the plains in the state of Haryana. The line was built by the British in the year 1898 and it acquired UNESCO World Heritage status in the year 2008, among the Mountain Railways of India. There are 103 tunnels and 864 bridges along the 95 km route. It takes between 4.5 to 5.5 hours for the small diesel locomotive to haul the 4 or 5 carriages up the Himalayan foothills, hugging the forested slopes.

We were staying at Kandaghat during our Himachal holiday. Though we did not actually travel in the train we decided to receive the train at Kandaghat station, and take some snaps, as it rolled into the platform. We could hear the train approaching from a distance along the curved railway line. Kids, waiting for the train on the platform for the train, started getting excited and jumping for joy as the train entered the platform. We took our snaps as the loco thundered into the station. The snack vendors and railway staff sprang to life as some passengers alighted to refresh themselves. One can travel on this train from the mid-way stations to other stations on the line by buying a ticket for Rs.20. The luxury trains, like Himalayan Queen, Shivalik Queen and Rail Motor from Kalka to Shimla, and vice-versa, can be reserved in advance.

The train left for Shimla after a 10 minute halt at Kandaghat. We stayed on the platform observing the activities as some passengers alighted and some others boarded the train. Most of them enjoyed a snack or a cup of hot tea and clambered back into their seats.

The Toy Train ride is an amazing experience as it climbs from the plains to the snow-capped peaks, through tunnels and pine forests, and over and under waterfalls. We decided to do the trip in the train on our next visit to Himachal Pradesh.
Visited June 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

August 20, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.227: Club Mahindra Kandaghat, Himachal.

“Best Resort Near Shimla for Club Mahindra Members.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
Kandaghat is a hill town between Chandigarh and Shimla on the highway connecting the two cities. It is about a 100 km from Chandigarh and just 25 km from Shimla. So it makes sense for Club Mahindra members to stay at this resort rather than in overcrowded Shimla.

As you enter the resort you are greeted with green manicured lawns and rose gardens spread out on the hillside. It is surrounded by forested hills on all sides and overlooking a deep valley.

We checked into our valley view studio room which was about a kilometer downhill. There is a free van service to take the members to their rooms which are a little distant from the main block and the restaurant. Many of the rooms are located in the Main Block, but we chose to stay away for some solitude. The service given by the staff was prompt and impeccable, both in the room and the restaurant. Being small eaters we mostly ordered ala carte or Gourmet Express which was delivered in our room. Food was reasonably good in taste though not exceptional.

Travel desk was ever ready to arrange a cab for a visit to Shimla or Chail, both being about an hour’s drive away. Of course, there were enough activities in the resort too, like zip lining, rock climbing, trekking, indoor games and aqua zorbing (in a portable pool). One day we just relaxed in the resort with morning and evening walks and watched the pretty sunset from the garden outside our room. Another morning we took a local bus down to Kandaghat town to watch the Heritage Toy Train rolling into the station. We had lunch at a local dhaba and returned to the resort. The town is about 5 km downhill.

Kandaghat resort is like a gateway to Himachal Pradesh. One can stop here for a day or two before carrying on to Kullu, Manali and Ladakh.

All in all, we had a very relaxed and fun filled holiday.
Room Tip: Take a room in the Main Block if you don't like walking or climbing steps. The far rooms are bet...
See more room tips
  • Stayed June 2017, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

August 19, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.226: Poonam Restaurant, Mahabaleshwar.

“Pure Vegetarian Restaurant in Mahabaleshwar Market.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
This spacious restaurant is centrally located in the Mahabaleshwar market at Poonam Chowk. It is very clean and serves only vegetarian food. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The food is reasonably good and tasty. One can get all kinds of vegetarian Indian dishes, including Udupi, Maharashtrian, Punjabi and some Gujarati dishes. Service is courteous and quick for the main dishes on the menu.

We ordered a Maharashtrian thali (platter) which was served up in 10 minutes. It consisted of 2 vegetables, 2 dals, 2 chapattis, rice, papad, curd, salad and shrikhand sweet dish. It was reasonably priced at Rs.190. But they took a bit longer to make the sabudana wada as it was not on their menu and they prepared it especially for us.
  • Visited August 2017
    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

August 18, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.225: Sajjangad, Satara.

“Fort of the Gentleman Saint.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
‘Sajjan’ literally means Gentleman and ‘Gad’ means Fort. This rugged fort atop a hill near Satara is also the ‘samadhi’, or the final resting place, of the Saint Samarth Ramdas Swami. Sant Ramdas was one of the teachers of Shivaji Maharaj and his teachings are followed by many people even today. The Fort and Samadhi are looked after by the Ramdas Swami Sansthan. They have daily prayers and bhajan singing and they distribute free food as Prasad between 12 noon and 1 pm to all the devotees. They have a ‘Bhakta Niwas’ where the devotees can stay free for one night inside the fort.

Sajjangad is located about 12 km from Satara on the route to Thosegarh waterfalls. It is on top of a hill and there is a steep incline on the right hand side as you are going from Satara to Thoseghar. We had to park our car at the base of the fort and the parking charges are Rs.50 (more if you staying the night at the Niwas). Free parking is available outside the gates. Then you have to trudge up about a hundred steep steps and enter through the fort gates till you reach the top. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes depending on your fitness levels. If you are not fit enough or have luggage to carry then you can hire some men to carry you on their shoulders in a palki or chair.

The views from the top are very beautiful especially in the monsoons, when ever thing is painted in different shades of green. The backwaters of the Urmodi dam made the scenery even more enchanting. Our only regret was that we could not make it in time for the Puja and Prasad. We had some wada paos and onion pakoras at a food stall near the parking lot.
Visited August 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

August 16, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.224: Thoseghar Waterfalls, Satara.

“Magic of Monsoons Hidden in the Sahyadris.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
The Thoseghar waterfall is a beautiful picnic spot tucked away in the Sahyadri Hills of Maharashtra. It is about 140 km from Pune and about 25 km from Satara, off the Pune Bangalore National Highway. After turning right into Satara drive upto the Shivaji Circle and then take the Adalat Wada Road till you reach a junction where a left turn goes under a small tunnel. After crossing the tunnel take the right turn on to the Thoseghar Road. The falls are 25 km from here along a very scenic ghat road. Sajjangad Fort is about 10 km from here on the way. The road to Kaas Patthar and Lake is on the right turn before crossing the tunnel. One can combine a visit to Thoseghar falls, windmills at Chalkewadi, Sajjangad Fort and Kaas Patthar if one leaves early morning from Pune to get back by nightfall.

The drive from Satara to Thoseghar was beautiful and very scenic. The climate was cool and cloudy with light drizzles and mist all along the green hills on both sides. The road was narrow but in reasonably good condition. There were direction boards to guide us to the destination. We parked our car in the pay and park area and had to pay a nominal entry fee of Rs.10 per head and Rs.10 for four wheeler parking. The place is well organized and looked after by the Satara Forest Department. They have built a well paved pathway down to the viewing gallery from where we got a clear view of the three waterfalls. Washroom and drinking water facilities are also available near the entrance gate. The walk down takes about 10 minutes and anyone in reasonably good health can do it. There are some small snacks and drinks stalls nearby, though regular restaurants are a little further up the road.

One can take a picnic basket and enjoy the surrounding greenery and forests, but please throw the litter in the bins provided by the Forest Depatment. Enjoy Nature in all its glory.
Visited August 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

August 15, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.223: Tvum, Pune.

“A Celebration of the Diverse Cuisine of India.”
Reviewed 2 days ago
NEW
‘Tvum’ literally means ‘for You’. Tvum is a fine dining restaurant serving ‘Gracious Indian Cuisine’, as they call it, in one of the quiet bye lanes of Kalyani Nagar, Pune. It is just opposite the Jogger’s Park of Kalyani Nagar, and the restaurant provides valet parking. They serve vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes, slow cooked in the traditional Indian way.

As you enter you are greeted by the receptionist who guides you to a suitable table if you have not made advance reservation. They have different seating areas on the ground and first floor levels. The ambience is that of a heritage Kerala cum Colonial mansion house with a small well lit lawn below and a layered sloping wooden roof on the first floor. There is a separate section for smokers and non-smokers. All the tables have candlelight to enhance the romantic ambience.

We got seating in the Gymkhana section, which included a bar. The waiter introduced himself with a placard which carried his name and photo. First we ordered the ‘Papad Platter’ which had an assortment of different types of papad. The ‘Chutney Platter’ had an assortment of different types of chutneys and pickles of India. After ordering ‘Bisi Bele Hulli Anna’, a rice dish with vegetables from the state of Karnataka, the waiter suggested we try the ‘Allepey Vegetable Stew’ with ‘appam’ from Kerala.

Drinking water was served from copper jugs, as it is supposed to contain vital minerals, which is good for the human body. Service was very courteous and friendly.
The menu card gives a brief description of each dish under its title. Rates are on the high side.

This restaurant is worth a visit to get a unique Indian fine dining experience.
  • Visited August 2017
    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

August 5, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.222: Pinjore Gardens, near Chandigarh.

“Beautiful 17th Century Mughal Garden.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
This beautiful Mughal garden was built during Emperor Aurangzeb’s reign in the 17th century. If you are travelling from Chandigarh to Shimla by road it is about 20 km from Chandigarh and 5 km before Kalka, at Pinjore in the Panchkula district of Haryana. It is also known as the ‘Yadavindra Gardens’ in the memory of Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala who restored the gardens to its former glory.

There is a huge parking lot outside the gardens where children can enjoy camel and horse rides, as well as a ride in a toy train. There is also a model of an ancient steam engine. The parking lot gets full during the weekends with local visitors from nearby towns like Chandigarh, Mohali, Panchkula and Kalka, coming here for day-long picnics. There are a also lot of snack stalls and restaurants in and around the gardens.

The gardens are laid out over 7 long terraces with water channels and fountains running through the central length. There are pavilions with Mughal architecture between each terrace. The garden, spread out over 100 acres, is enclosed by turreted high walls all around, and there are trees and flowering plants well laid out over its peripheral areas. The last terrace is more like a small forest and there are many fruit trees here.

The gardens are best visited early mornings or late evenings. It is open from 7 am to 10 pm in the summer, and there is an entry fee of Rs.20 per person. During the weekends and festivals the entire garden is lit up and looks very mesmerising.
Visited June 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

July 25, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.221: Government Museum, Chandigarh.

“Five Museums in One Campus.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
This Museum is located in the center of Chandigarh and very close to the Rose Garden. It is housed in a well spread out campus with large shady trees, and actually consists of five different museums. The Museum building is designed by Le Corbusier himself, the French architect and town planner who was instrumental in designing and layout of the beautiful city of Chandigarh after India’s independence.

The five museums are:
1) Government Museum and Art Gallery
2) Natural History Museum
3) National Gallery of Portraits
4) International Dolls Museum
5) Chandigarh Architecture Museum

To see all the collections in the five museums would require a full day of sightseeing, so we decided to visit only the Architecture Museum. It showed how the city of Chandigarh evolved over the decades from a small village to the well planned city and the capital of two of India’s states, Punjab and Haryana, that it is now. There were many fascinating exhibits spread over three floors. There is an entry fee of Rs.10 per head and a separate fee of Rs.10 for a camera. We spent over an hour seeing all the models and exhibits, but it was insufficient time to study the full history of the development of city.

We had to leave the other interesting museums for another day.
Visited June 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

July 23, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.220: Pal Dhaba, Chandigarh.

“Below Average for Vegetarians.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
We visited this restaurant on the recommendation of our cab driver for its Punjabi food. They have two outlets in one of the shopping malls of Chandigarh.

However, being vegetarian on that day we ordered their Rajmah Rice and a Cheese Paratha with gravy. The gravy was very heavy and tasted very average. The Rajma Rice was floating on a layer of oil and was very spicy. Quantity was good but the quality was poor. Even the lassi was very flat and without any froth. The prices were above average for such fare.

The seating was on plastic chairs and tables, and the service was very unprofessional. I would not like to visit again, even for their famous butter chicken.
  • Visited June 2017
    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

July 22, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.219: Rock Garden of Chandigarh.

“Best Sightseeing Attraction of Chandigarh.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
This Rock Garden and the Rose Garden of Chandigarh are the two best sightseeing attractions of Chandigarh. The Rock Garden is also known as Nek Chand’s Rock Garden to honor the founder Mr. Nek Chand who conceived the idea of this garden in 1957. He painstakingly and secretly built his Fantasy Land over the next 18 years by collecting waste materials like broken bangles, electrical parts and fittings, and broken plates and waste ceramics. It was discovered by the authorities in 1975 and would have been demolished for being illegal, but public opinion saved it. It is now a memorial celebrating man’s creativity and ingenuity.

There is a big parking lot outside and we had to buy an entry ticket (Rs.30). It is open from 9 am to 7 pm (April to September) and 9 am to 6 pm (October to March). There is a restaurant inside run by CITCO where we had some refreshments before proceeding to explore the main garden.

We had to trek through many artificially created open air chambers with different landscapes and model houses and figures created with the recycled materials. Each chamber would give us the impression of being in a different kind of landscape with its own unique surroundings. There were many chambers with artificial waterfalls cascading down the hillsides. There were other chambers with an array of similar figures of man and animals. It was indeed fascinating to watch the different creations in each chamber.

It requires between 2 to 3 hours for a walk through the maze of pathways and corridors, to admire the varied landscape and creations in each chamber. It is photographers delight. It is best to do it early morning or evening as it can become very hot and sunny in the summer afternoons.
Visited June 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

My TripAdvisor Review No.218: Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh.

“Good for an Evening Outing.”
Reviewed 2 days ago
NEW
Sukhna Lake is a good place for an evening outing for the locals as well as tourists of Chandigarh. There are many colorful pedal boats available for a ride around the lake. There is also a nice promenade for a walk along the lake shore, with a garden on one side. There are many food stalls where one can enjoy snacks and soft drinks.

We visited the lake one afternoon in June and found it too hot to be out in the open. We relaxed a bit under the shady trees before going to the Rock Garden nearby.
Visited June 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

July 20, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.217: Hotel Shiwalik, Parwanoo, Himachal Pradesh.

“Welcomes You to the Hills of Himachal.”
Reviewed yesterday
NEW
Hotel Shivalik is the very first hotel to welcome you to the state of Himachal as you enter from Kalka, Haryana. It is located next to the Chandigarh-Shimla Highway and just 2 km from Kalka Railway Station. Our train from Mumbai arrived at Kalka at 5 pm and we had decided to halt for 2 nights at Parwanoo before proceeding to Shimla. We booked the room a few days ahead on the HPTDC website.

To get to the hotel we had to hire a taxi from Kalka since the auto-rickshaws are not allowed to cross the border to Himachal. Our room was kept ready for us and we checked in without much ado, and explored the nearby areas on foot. Parwanoo in an industrial township and there was much traffic and chaos as we went deeper in to the town. However the area around the hotel was relatively clean and green. There is a Shiva temple just outside the gate, and a Ma Kali temple about 1 km away towards Kalka.

We had an aircon room with a small balcony from where we could see and hear the toy train to Shimla passing by as it climbed up the hill. There was small dressing room and a geyser in the bathroom. Extra mattress was provided for the third person. The furniture in the room was in need of some refurbishing and the cupboards were warped and damp.

There is a good restaurant where a lot of highway travellers stop for a meal and refreshments. For breakfast we went to the Cafe Shiwalik just outside the gates where we had aloo parathas and sandwiches at more reasonable rates.

We hired a taxi for the day and explored Chandigarh, Panchkula and Pinjore the next day. Stopping at Parwanoo at this hotel gave us time to refresh ourselves before proceeding towards Shimla. It is also a convenient night halt if you are taking the Heritage Toy Train to Shimla which starts at Kalka.

I would give Hotel Shivalik a three and half star rating.
  • Stayed June 2017, travelled with family
      • Rooms
      • Cleanliness
      • Service
    This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

    July 18, 2017

    My TripAdvisor Review No.216: Nawab Asia Restaurant, Pune.

    “Mughlai Fine Dining at Balewadi High Street.”
    Reviewed 2 days ago
    NEW
    This restaurant serving both veg and non-veg traditional Mughlai dishes is located in Cummins India Office Complex on Balewadi High Street, just off the Aundh-Baner Main Road. It is quite popular and crowded on weekends and it is better to book your table in advance.

    The seating is on low tables and chairs like nawabi thrones and divans, with cushions provided to make our backs comfortable. The ambience is like a Nawab’s Dining Hall during the Mughal Times. The service was prompt and responsive.

    We sampled some starters viz. Fish Peeli Mirch Tikka, Murg Pasanda Kababs and Sabz-E-Gilavat and quite relished them with the onion rings, lemon and green mint chutney.

    For the main course we had Murg (Chicken) Makhani, Jheenga (Prawn) Lahori, Mix Veg Makhani with different types of Indian breads like Lasooni Kali Mirch Roti, Naan and Pudina Paratha. The gravies were thick and creamy and quite tasty.

    For the desserts we had Malai Kulfi and Paan Kulfi.

    All in all it was a fine dining experience.
    • Visited July 2017
      • Value
      • Service
      • Food
    This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

    July 11, 2017

    My TripAdvisor Review No.215: Kargo Restaurant and Bar, Pune.

    “Good for Asian and Fusion Food.”
    Reviewed yesterday
    NEW
    We visited this restaurant during the weekend and had to reserve the table for our group of about 20. We got seating on three separate tables as the place is always full on weekends.

    We enjoyed a drink or two. Their Peach Iced Tea was very quenching. They have a separate menu card for hard drinks and cocktails as well.

    They had very good finger foods and their Galauti Kababs were awesome. They also have Oriental foods from Burma, Indonesia and Thailand besides the regular Chinese. I tried out their Pattaya Curry with Prawns and it was quite tasty without being too spicy.

    The service was fast and friendly. They served us complimentary cakes at the end. We were lucky to visit them on their anniversary day.
    • Visited July 2017
      • Value
      • Service
      • Food
    This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

    June 7, 2017

    My TripAdvisor Review No.214: Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary.

    “Excellent Sanctuary for Trekkers.”
    Reviewed 2 days ago
    NEW
    Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctaury gets its name from the Bhimashankar Shiva Temple around which this sanctuary is located. It is about 120 km from Pune and the best route to get there by vehicle is via Manchar on the Pune Nashik Highway. There are State Transport buses which go directly to Bhimashankar from Pune at regular intervals.

    There is no infrastructure like the other wildlife sanctuaries of India. Guides, Safaris, Forest Rest Houses or even vehicle tracks are non-existent inside the sanctuary, and it is best explored on foot. Just outside the temple there are walking pathways (pugdundies) leading into the jungles of stunted trees and bushes of the Western Ghats (Sahyadris). Many trekking organisations from Pune and Mumbai arrange these treks to the Sahyadris especially during the monsoons (rainy season).

    There are a few private resorts in the buffer zone as you enter the sanctuary. We stayed in one of these resorts during our visit and would take morning and evening walks into the sacred groves of the forest. The climate was very pleasant during the early mornings and late evenings even in the month of May, since it is a rocky plateau at an elevation of around 800 metres above MSL. Though we did not see any wild life besides rhesus monkeys and different species of birds, the sanctuary is famous for the Giant Indian squirrel. Leopards, hyenas, jackals and snakes have been seen in the deeper parts of the jungle.

    The best time to visit Bhimashankar is from July to February after the rains, when the forests become lush and green, and many waterfalls can be seen in the surrounding hills.
    Visited May 2017
    This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC