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Impressions from a Short Trip - Pune, Maharashtra

A city that is developed and has caught on the multinational bandwagon - still maintains the suburban rawness in its expanse - that is what Pune in a nutshell is!!

 A walk from your flight to the airport terminal covering a few hundred yards on foot would definitely give a misleading impression of the city. This definitely is very different for those used to the aerobridges taking you directly our of the flight to the terminal or still popular stairs and buses taking you on a short ride. However, Pune welcomes you with a small walk on the airport walkway. However, let this just be a unique offering of sorts and keep your mind open as you venture out into the city!

I was in Pune this week for a short business trip and the city definitely amazed me with all its essence. I had been to the city during my college life in pursuit of a couple of projects but that was indeed long-long ago. I was sure that the city would have changed quite a lot in all these years and hence presenting to you an impression of the city based on my latest visit.

Gateway to the City - Pune International Airport

We landed at the Pune's International Airport on a hot Tuesday afternoon and were greeted by steaming sun - which still was a tad cooler compared to where we were coming from - Delhi. As we disembarked the plane and entered the terminal, we could not notice a modest airport compared to the city that Pune has developed into. There were limited parking bays along the terminal which could accommodate 4-5 planes at the maximum. The terminal itself was decent with a classic look yet was barebone in terms of facilities.

Welcome to Pune Airport

While this was the impression based on the arrival area, the experience was not very different during the departure. They have a basic check-in lounge with counters for airlines. The security screening for check-in baggage os self-serviced and needs to be done by the passengers before dropping the bags at the airline counter. There is a modest security check area and a passenger hold area, later being on the first floor. A decent enough lounge is available for premium customers or ones who know how to exploit credit card benefits. Information systems are adequate and overhead announcements keep you updated with your flight movements.

Apart from the air route, the city is well connected by railways and roadways. There are umpteen options for a visitor to come into the city.

Radisson Blu Kharadi - A Good Pick to Crash

We wanted something close to the airport to stay and this chic hotel fitted the bill perfectly. It is located about 20 minutes out of the airport and the traffic is pretty manageable. We did like the overall experience at the place and would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a decent place around the airport.

A Nice Set-up - Radisson Blu
The check-in was smooth and the staff accommodated our requests regarding rooms and location. Rooms were generously set up and the ambiance gave the sense of comfort and warmth. The equipment in the room including study desk and wi-fi connectively was adequate and pretty smooth. We loved the service which was prompt and courteous and the food was decent. The hotel hosts "The Great Kabab Factory" which boasts of best north Indian food in the area. The kebabs both vegetarian and non-vegetarian were great to start a sumptuous dinner. The decor at the restaurant further enhanced the experience.

There are more options available around the city which provide the comfort but are mostly located in the city center. For something closer to the airport for an easy getaway, this hotel is what you should look at.

Impressions of the City - A Developed yet Calm Outlook

Pune was until recently a developing suburb town with most of the tier-2 city attributes. It is a stone's throw distance away from Mumbai and hence slowly firms found value in expanding their facilities here - given that cost of operations and living both became unaffordable over time in Mumbai. Noone realized how that preference caught the fancy of organizations and the city developed into a sought-after IT hub in no time. The growth was exponential and sudden as with most other cities - e.g. Bangalore and Hyderabad. The one thing, however, that is different in the growth story of this city is the speed with which perils of development encompass a city.

Pune still maintains that calmness of a tier-2 city with population and pollution in control, law, and order manageable and traffic not too harsh. The fortunate or planned, whatever it was, event for the city was the fact that the hubs of IT establishments are scattered along the outer periphery of the city. Thus people stay within the city and travel outwards in different radial directions. This was there is no one bottleneck or concentrated center where every professional in the city gets to. This has been a major boon to the city which has helped it manage the infrastructure with the pace of development and preserve its suburban outlook.

People are helpful and warm and are ready to go out of their way a bit to guide you. The entire vibe of the city is welcoming and it isn't difficult to get in love with the city. Local transportation is plenty and radio cabs are easily available to zip you across the town. Other modes of transport are easily available too and the city has a good BRTS system for road travel. The administration is gearing up to build a metro-train system in the city and construction has already begun.

Things to Do and Visit

The city of Pune has a wonderful history behind it and this has blessed the city with a number of historic monuments and sites. Our visit was short enough to be incapable of doing justice to the rich heritage that the city enjoys but here are a few things that one may consider as part of any itinerary of the city.

1. Aga Khan Palace

This is a historical monument with significance dating back to the freedom struggle. The grand palace is set in a peaceful wooded 6.5-hectare plot northeast of the center. Built-in 1892 by Sultan Aga Khan III, this graceful building was where Mahatma Gandhi and other prominent nationalist leaders were interned by the British following Gandhi’s Quit India campaign in 1942. A part of the monument has virtually become a memorial of Mahatma Gandhi owing to this being witness to many personal and social events in his life. While the significance of the building is immense, the structure has suffered apathy of authorities and a large part of it is in a dilapidated condition.

2. Shanivar Wada

Shaniwarwada was the stately mansion originally built as the residence of the Peshwas. The foundation of the mansion was laid by Bajirao 1 in the year 1730 AD and construction was completed in 1732 AD at a cost of Rs. 16,120. Several additions were made to the palace like fortification walls with bastions, gates and court halls by his successors. The walls of the palace are painted with scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The historical structure which stands as an important chapter in the history of the Maratha empire is now maintained by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). The palace has also been infamous for a number of stories designating it to be a haunted place - with the one which rumors that the late Peshwa visits the palace at times has gained the maximum popularity among locals.

3. Shopping and Malls - Phoenix Mall

Uber Ambiance - Phoenix Mall
Located close to the airport, in an area called Viman Nagar (Viman is Hindi for aircraft), this is a huge shopping mall by any standards. We have seen many malls across the country and this one for sure could match the might of most of them. The spread of brands is pretty diverse and one could find anything they are looking for across the four floors that the complex is spread across. There is a decent food court along with a movie theatre from PVR for those interested in spending some time here. We were there for some stationary and got good options for our purchases across 3-4 stores.

3. M. G. Road

A visit to Pune apparently is not complete without a walk across this lively stretch of the city. M G Road is one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Pune city and popularly also called as the Main Street, While it is shopper's hub on one side, it is an eater's delight on other. There are all great places for window shopping. You must be ready to burn some cash as its one of the more expensive markets of the city. There are many sweets and snacks shops on this street. Samosas and kachoris at Karachi Sweets are a must try. Softy icecream at Pasteur, sandwiches at Marzorin are things that are worth not missing.

4. Eating - The Great Kebab Factory

The Great Kebab Factory - A Wonderful Dinner

There are many options for food in Pune and one is spoilt for choices. Since we weren't picking the tab on ourselves, we chose to opt for a fine dining restaurant. Taking up the recommendation of friends we zeroed it down to the Great Kebab Factory located within the premises of the Radisson Blu hotel. We were impressed with the ambiance of the restaurant which has been modeled to ooze Mughal royalty. The set up is basic yet chic and sophisticated. The service was good and the staff was quick and responsive to demand. They offer two options on menus - the difference being in the number of kebabs they serve. The menu is otherwise set and served on the table. They start by kebabs as starters and then bring in the main course. Desserts come in to help you end the meal in style. The food was awesome and the specialty of the place did live to the name.

Getaways - What's of interest around Pune

While Pune is a great city and welcomes you with all its warmth, it has limited opportunities to involve a tourist who plans to spend more than a couple of days here. However, you would be amazed to know that there are a lot of interesting places around Pune if you have time to sneak a quick getaway. Right outside the city starts the boundaries of the Konkan Region - one of the most scenic areas in the country. Within driving distances of about a couple of hours outside the city, one is spoilt to choose between historic forts, hill stations, islands, and beaches. While this was a pretty short visit to venture out for any of these, you are welcome to explore the Konkan Belt around Pune in an earlier article here!
By the Arabian on the Konkan Trip

So this was our experience of Pune from our short business trip to the city. Hopefully, it gives something to those coming to this charming city. Do let me know your views on this article!!

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