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Old 16th January 2019, 14:42   #1
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Default A chilled-out road trip to Bhopal

Chapter 1 - planning and reaching Bhopal

Winter brings with it many joys - first and foremost, good amount of holidays to plan for and chill-out literally.

So, when it came to deciding how to make best use of the Christmas vacation in Dec'18, we (wifey, daughter & yours truly) unanimously decided to do what a "TBHP family" does best - just take a road trip

The destination chosen for this road trip was Bhopal (reference: my wifey's native place ), since our previous visit was almost over an year ago.

Planning a road trip from Pune to Bhopal was not much of a problem as such, since we had been there already couple of times. However, there is always something to know about the latest road conditions, change in routes, any major diversions etc that are being planned.

A big thanks to BHPian ObsessedbyFIAT whose patience to answer numerous route update queries really helped on the final decision making.

So, the route decided was Pune > Ahmednagar >Shirdi > Dhule > Indore > Bhopal, which by the way, was the familiar route undertaken in the previous visits:-

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Some folks had suggested an alternate route via Pune > Nashik but then got to know that there were considerable road diversions being carried out on some parts of that sector and hence decided to drop the Nashik route altogether.

On the D-day, the road trip clock started at 0505 hrs from our place located in Warje, Pune with the tripmeter set to 0 km.
Passengers on board: myself, wifey, daughter and my in-laws.

We set out on the chosen route and the first stop was a nice resort off the Pune-Ahmednagar highway, named SmileStone (link to site). This place is about a 100 km from where we stay in Pune and it took about 90 mins to reach this first stopover.

Just couldn't resist capturing this smashing sunrise view at this resort:-

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With our steed also posing for this shot:-
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Once our tummies were filled along with a hot cuppa tea, we headed off towards Ahmednagar. As some of you who have travelled via the Pune > Ahmednagar route would know, there is an important road diversion to be taken into consideration, that of the Ahmednagar city bypass.
Even though the Govt/Municipal Corporation/NHAI will do its best to encourage and actually force you into taking the (in)famous Ahmednagar city bypass when travelling to Shirdi, however every roadtripper worth his/her salt will suggest to do otherwise.

And these sample images of the Nagar bypass condition tell you why to avoid this horrid patch:-

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So, did some previous research based on inputs received, and instead went through Ahmednagar city.
Landmark chosen inside the city for the detour to Shirdi was the Tarakpur Bus Stand, Ahmednagar:-

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Once this crucial part was behind us, then we proceeded to Shirdi as the next logical point.

Roads between Ahmednagar and Shirdi were not so good, alternating between 2-lane and 4-lane at some places.
After crossing Shirdi, we stopped over for some mid-morning tea at one of the road-side tea stalls.

The Vento also resting at the tea stopover:-

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The road from Shirdi onwards to Malegaon is quite good with again a mixture of 2-lane and 4-laned tarmac. And this is also the road where you encounter some serious traffic, all eager to hit the erstwhile NH-3 megaroads.

Came across this truck hauling some monster tires, just check out the perspective of the size when you look at the bike riders on the road adjacent to the trailer:-

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Malegaon onwards, the national highway beckons. And that's where the real fun starts in terms of driving pleasure! From here right upto the Maharashtra-MP border town of Palasner, you can actually experience the cruising prowess of the solidly built Vento.

When we neared Palasner, it was close to lunch time and there were plenty of options to choose from. With family in tow, we took a leisurely lunch of about 45 mins or so.

When travelling from Pune to Bhopal, one has to pay toll at 6 places (that's only on the National Highway sectors, as the toll is exempted on MH state highways) - at Dhule, Palasner, Shirpur, Sendhwa,Khalghat, Dewas. The total amount comes out INR 539.

The one thing to point out was that the erstwhile truck / trailer chaos at the MH-MP border toll post is virtually non-existent nowadays. Looks like, this is a direct outcome of the Modi government's initiatives to focus on digitalization and enforcement of GST, which greatly reduces the paperwork at such cross-border intersections.

Rest of the journey towards Bhopal was uneventful. We took couple of more breaks, significant being the "Highway Treat" restuarant located at Dodi, on the Indore-Bhopal highway. (link for direction). This place is run by Madhya Pradesh Tourism and is kind of must-stop place for anyone traveling between Indore to Bhopal.

When we reached the city lines, it was close to 8 - 8.15 pm or so, and from there it took us an additional approx 45 minutes to reach home.

In summary, it took us 14 hours door-to-door to cover 815 kms. The Vento delivered close to 19 km/l for this journey, with air-conditioning ON for almost the entire stretch.

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Obviously, this spirited highway run took a toll on the tires and the disc brakes, but they held up just fine.

Here is the pic showing the alloys smeared in brake dust:-

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And yes, every time I stopped for a break after a longish drive, I ensured the turbo idling for some time.

Last edited by JoshMachine : 24th January 2019 at 21:02.
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Old 22nd January 2019, 16:06   #2
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Chapter 2 - chilling out in Bhopal

Bhopal. Founded by Raja Bhoj in the 11th century. The City of Lakes. Home to the largest number of institutes of national importance. One of the first cities to be selected as part of the Smart City initiative. The city with a very vibrant culture!
As mentioned in numerous Wiki pages, Bhopal is a very good mix of the "old and the new" with the old city reminiscent of the Mughal influence and the new areas showcasing the modern ethos of a planned city.

For the uninitiated, this city has a lot to offer in terms of tourist attractions and some good old places to relive those warm, nostalgic memories.
During our week long stay, we visited many of these places.

Day 1

Starting off with a visit to the iconic Indian Coffee House (wiki link), serving the delectable Vegetable Cutlet and some yummy South Indian delicacies along with some classic filter coffee.

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Over the last few seasons, this setup has undergone many a changes but is trying to steadfastly hold on to a tradition of the past 60 years. It may not be as slick and swanky as compared to a restaurant located in a mall, however the fact that decent number of customers still thronging to ICH reflects a loyal (maybe dwindling, though) customer base.

Next up was the Regional Science Center (site)

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The primary objective of this Science Center is aimed at popularizing science and technology among the masses, especially the students. And boy, does it do a good job of it!

The entry tickets are very nominal and this has helped attract large crowds to take advantage of the wonderful exhibit setting.
This center is very unique in the sense that almost every exhibit (there are 250+ exhibits) is designed to be interactive and allows the visitor to know or gain hands-on experience.

My daughter, aged 10 yrs, found this place to be a revelation of sorts when she actually got to experience some supposedly theoretical, textbook concepts related to visual illusion, electro-magnetism, earth and the atmosphere etc.

The center has dedicated galleries devoted to various sections like vision, energy, atmosphere etc. and is handsomely spread over 3 floors.

A must-see item on the Bhopal itinerary, especially when you have kids!

Day 2

Had planned to pay a visit to the famous Chintaman Ganesh temple located at Sehore, located about 40 km from Bhopal.

On the way, we had to cross the entire stretch of the city and one can only appreciate the well-maintained infra/roads, thanks to the local city administration.

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The highlight is the VIP road, which runs along the border of the main lake in the city. And kudos to the city council for not allowing any chowpatty culture to be established on this stretch, thus preventing guaranteed damage to the surroundings!

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Once on the Bhopal - Sehore highway, the tarmac quality gets even better:-

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With lush greenery along the roads, making the journey even visually relaxing:-

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Finally, made it to the Ganesh temple:-

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The place and the surroundings remind you of a serene environment, mostly due to the fact that it is not yet greatly commercialized (which is actually true for most of Madhya Pradesh Tourism)
Another point to highlight about this place is a speciality food item called "Hing Kachori". It is said that if you are visiting Sehore, then one must taste these kachoris, which have quite some zing!

Day 3

Time to visit another epic place - the Tribal Museum.

As the MP Tourism official site says, a tour to this museum once is sure to make you a repeat visitor for all the unique presentations one can witness here!

We couldn't agree more. Whenever we visit Bhopal, we always make it a point to go visit this place. It kind of allures you to its magnificent and majestic setting.

The Press calls it as the Jewel in Bhopal's crown.

The official site of the MP Tribal Museum, here, is actually anchored in Hindi language, true to the proud heritage of the Hindi-speaking state.
Another reference to the museum site (English) can be found here.

To give credit where it is due, the site shows the pictures of the current government heads of state (politics claiming undue credit), but all the good work was really carried out by the previous government.

For the uninitiated, the Tribal Museum celebrates the ways of life practiced by the major tribes located in the state hinterlands. And it does so, very brilliantly, through their crafts. Not like the typical old, sedate style of showing individual artworks or masterpieces.
In a series of riotously colorful galleries whose roofs soar as high as three/four storey buildings, the dramatically lit artifacts project tribal living, their spiritual beliefs and the wonderful way of living. The artworks hang from trees, leap at you from walls, or dangle from a wooden porch right in the middle of gallery.

Now will let the pictures do the talking, rather do the showing of this beautiful creations - possibly one the best tourist locations in the country and in my view, maybe in the world too.

The grand entrance to the museum:-

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The entry tickets are very reasonably priced at INR 10 per person. In fact, we made a suggestion to actually increase the ticket prices since this wonderful tribute richly deserves much more from us, citizens.
And there's a nominal price of INR 50 per camera (mobile, point & shoot etc.) if you wish to click some pictures inside the museum.

With the beautiful rendered artwork in the passageways adding to the charm:-

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A very poignant message, so relevant for any community:-

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And then some beautiful images captured inside:-

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This one for the simulated tribal playground:-

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And then some views from inside the galleries:-

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Believe me, the pictures can never totally capture or reflect the entire magnanimity of the museum and the gallery works.

One has to be there in person and feel the surroundings to be able to really understand and admire the great work done by artisans.
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Old 28th January 2019, 10:13   #3
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Day 4

Time to visit another bustling area of the city - New Market.

This place, or the market, is definitely one of the most vibrant or buzzing places in the city. In terms of a product required - you name it, you will get it!

Be it footwear, apparels, food products, home decor, electronics, vegetables - gosh! If there is anything that you want and are not sure about where to source it from, just visit the New Market and there's a very high chance that you will get it

No wonder, it is a heaven for all those shopaholics and foodies!
And like a typical, bustling marketplace, one can bargain for all things galore.

Some pictures to show the level of activity:-

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Next up, was a visit to another quintessential Bhopali hangout - Sagar Gaire Fast Food Corner

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One of my favourite joints for a quick and tasty bite.

As per the folks running this setup, the founder, a Mr Dolraj Gaire started this venture by selling soup on roadside market, and he got famous by the name "Cycle Soupwala". Within no time, due to reasonable pricing and great tasting authentic fast food, this venture has mushroomed almost everywhere in the city.

Quoting the vision statement from their site - "To savoir and share the Indian hospitality and service, with ultimate taste and relishing freshness and ensuring superior customer experience by providing highest standards of product quality and service." Impressive and ambitious, I must say.

Well, the very fact that they have been able to scale up pretty quickly in a matter of years is probably, a testimony of how the Bhopali (and some non-Bhopali too) folks really soup up the fast food at this place.

There are some folks who try to compete such as this one here, and claim to provide the real "test" (read:taste), but they are nowhere close to the original stuff. My view, that is.

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The day culminated with a visit to the highly awe-inspiring, much respected, goosebumps notwithstanding, war memorial - Shaurya Smarak.

Like most of the other tourist attractions, this Shaurya Smarak too is developed as a public park with interesting architectural installations depicting the glory and supreme sacrifices of a soldier.

If this memorial cannot inspire patriotism, then take it from me, nothing else will.

If one does not know about the lives of our soldiers, their work profiles and the kind of challenges they have to live with on a daily basis, then a visit to this memorial is the first thing to do!

The memorial contains a museum of its own depicting galleries of war heroes who had exhibited the highest level of gallantry in various wars till date.
Pictures of wars from ancient times to the modern day have been showcased. The museum also displays handmade art pieces and portraits of war heroes along with the different arms and medals of honor.

Nowhere, I repeat nowhere, not in our textbooks, can one find such great amount of details. Hats off and a grand salute to the creators!!

My favorite part of the museum is the section where one comes across the numerous portraits of the war heroes, who fought gallantly for India and created history - for all of us to be inspired and learn from them!

Out of the many kids and youth who throng this memorial, if they get inspired by this and go on to join the Indian Defence forces - then I think this memorial will have definitely realized a very important objective.

Here are some pictures, starting off with the beautiful and pride-instilling entrance gate to the Shaurya Smarak:-

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And the foundation stone, with details about the inauguration done back in 2016:-

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Some pictures from inside the museum galleries.

The evolution of the Indian National flag:-

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Simulation of a war zone:-

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Walls depicting scenes from some of the previous wars that India has fought and won:-

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This below section depicting one of the harshest environment that an Indian soldier has to withstand, that of the Siachen Glacier! No pictures were allowed to be clicked inside this gallery. However to give a feel of what it's like to live out there, the temperature settings have been altered for simulation:-

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The section (my favorite) showcasing the portraits of the various war heroes:-

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Along with the medals lined up very nicely
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With the prestigious Paramvir Chakra

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And a poignant message for all of us

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The museum also comprises a section showing exhibit / miniature models of some of the lethal fighting machines and war ships that have been doing a yeoman's service to the nation.

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Along with a comprehensive rendition of all the Army, Navy and the Air Force ranks

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The next section outside the museum is a very interesting one, depicting the ups and downs of life through stairs and combining the elements of "life" - earth, water and grass:-

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Followed by an amphitheatre setup and a patio depicting a land inflicted with "war"

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And finally, is the imminent reality of "death":-

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But like the victory of eternal hope over despair
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And the ephemeral nature of body and immortality of the soul, as pointed out in the Gita, the metal rods decorated with lights represent this philosophy and the water below them signifies peace and purity

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Another important installation is the Shaurya Stambh

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This is a 62 ft sculpture to depict the inner foundation of inner strength and courage of a soldier.
Around the Stambh, one can find the names of martyred soldiers inscribed on boards. At the bottom of the Stambh is the Smarak Jyoti, which is lit like a holographic flame in honor of the martyrs.

In another section of the memorial, is an amphitheatre, which hosts regular shows accompanied by an excellent narration:-

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As the day came to an end, I went back with a feeling of being so proud of our soldiers that is hard to describe in words anymore.

Am image of the beautiful sunset hues captured vividly:-

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And to round off the beautiful city tour, here are couple of gorgeous pictures (credit to few WhatsApp groups).

This one adoring the main lake:-

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And this one is a night shot of the recently-built Raja Bhoj Setu (bridge):-

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Last edited by JoshMachine : 28th January 2019 at 12:43.
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Old 28th January 2019, 13:28   #4
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Chapter 3 - conclusion

To conclude, before I close on the travelogue, an important mention regarding the city food circuit.
If you are travelling to Bhopal but do not get to savour it's good food, then your time is not well spent!

In order to be true to this philosophy, our every visit to the city has atleast 2 places on the food circuit to be covered (apart from the ones already mentioned in the earlier post).

First is the Manohar Dairy & Restaurant (link to site), this one's located in M. P Nagar:-

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While their forte over the last 50-odd years is to cater to the traditional Indian sweet tooth, however in the recent years, they have added a lot of fusion sweets along with a very carefully chosen menu to serve in their restaurant.
A great place to enjoy and relish some mouth-watering dishes, especially in winters.

Another important food joint to visit is the Milan Namkeen Center, this one's again located in MP Nagar and at other prominent places too in the city:-

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This place is perhaps, one of the best when it comes to sourcing some spicy and tasty namkeen in the city.


And with that, it was time to bid adieu to this wonderful and vibrant city once again - but with the warm feeling that our next visit is due soon

The end of the week saw our return leg to Pune. We started off on a cold, rather chilly Saturday morning at about 5 am.

And a couple of hours into the return journey, somewhere near Bhopal, the MID showed this. Note the temperature

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In my 2-decade old history of driving automobiles, this was the first time that I had encountered 0 degrees while on the road.

Coming back to the matter at hand, the 0 degree outside temperature created an instantaneous problem since it resulted in frosting of the windshield. Had to take the car off the roads, and defrost/dehumidify for a considerable time. Faced this problem couple of more times on the highway stretch for the next half hour or so till the outside temperature rose gradually.
This was, fortunately, the last so-called event of our trip.

Afterwards, the return journey to Pune was on the same route as travelled earlier, albeit in the reverse i.e. Bhopal > Indore > Dhule > Shirdi > Ahmednagar > Pune.
The last segment of the journey between Ahmednagar and Pune was the most painful, since it was late afternoon/evening time and we encountered very heavy, undisciplined traffic. The final 50-odd km took about 2 hours to traverse.

When we reached the society gates, we realized that we had spent almost 14+ hours on the road that day.
But thanks to the Vento's excellent highway riding manners, the travel fatigue was significantly mitigated.

On that note, hope you enjoyed this travelogue as much as we all enjoyed this wonderful road trip!

Cheers. Till the next travelogue!

Last edited by JoshMachine : 28th January 2019 at 13:40.
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Old 28th January 2019, 22:54   #5
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Thread moved to Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 29th January 2019, 13:08   #6
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Crisp & well written travelogue complimented with nice pictures, have traveled to Bhopal multiple time due to work, the city is indeed beautiful, largely well maintained.

The city indeed is a gastronomical treat for food lovers.

Thanks for sharing & wish you more pleasant rides
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Old 29th January 2019, 17:57   #7
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You have made me feel homesick and also pushed into nostalgia of driving to Bhopal from Mumbai with early starts at 5 AM.

Bhopal is the most vibrant cities with utmost potential which has not been realized by many MNC's yet.

The food, is missed most specially living in a foreign land. Perhaps, a treasure for non veg lovers.
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Old 29th January 2019, 20:09   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smartcat View Post
Thread moved to Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Smartcat!

Quote:
Originally Posted by yogeshsom29 View Post
Crisp & well written travelogue complimented with nice pictures, have traveled to Bhopal multiple time due to work, the city is indeed beautiful, largely well maintained.
The city indeed is a gastronomical treat for food lovers.
Every word you have said is so true! It is a very beautiful city, and some places on the tourism circuit are not yet commercialized completely (thankfully).

Quote:
Thanks for sharing & wish you more pleasant rides
Thank you

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashishmathur14 View Post
You have made me feel homesick and also pushed into nostalgia of driving to Bhopal from Mumbai with early starts at 5 AM.
Bhopal is the most vibrant cities with utmost potential which has not been realized by many MNC's yet.
The food, is missed most specially living in a foreign land. Perhaps, a treasure for non veg lovers.
Thanks for the comments! It is one of the most understated tourist destinations that I have ever come across. And therein lies the pristine beauty of it, in my view.
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Old 30th January 2019, 15:48   #9
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Wow amazing and detailed write-up. You just reminded me my Pune - Bhopal trip done in Feb 2018. All the places you've suggested are spot-on. Specially the regional science center. Did you notice the TATA 6 cylinder working prototype there?

The few more must visit places I would like to add are
  1. Manohar dairy for Chaat and Dahi Wade.
  2. Upper lake
  3. Bhimbetka These are marvelous rock paintings
  4. Ancient Bhojeshwar Temple - Massive structure built around 11th century.

Last edited by dicor : 30th January 2019 at 16:08. Reason: spell errors
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Old 31st January 2019, 12:45   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoshMachine View Post
[b]

On that note, hope you enjoyed this travelogue as much as we all enjoyed this wonderful road trip!

Cheers. Till the next travelogue!
Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for bringing out the beauty of Bhopal. And very true that it's perhaps one of the most understated cities of our country.
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Old 31st January 2019, 13:01   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dicor View Post
Wow amazing and detailed write-up. You just reminded me my Pune - Bhopal trip done in Feb 2018. All the places you've suggested are spot-on. Specially the regional science center. Did you notice the TATA 6 cylinder working prototype there?
Thanks dicor! The Science Center is like a hidden gem and contrary to general perception, it is a hit among the elders too (not just kids).

Yes, I did notice the TATA working prototype. It even has a cranking type button of sorts, if I remember correctly - which allows folks, to actually see the cylinders sing a beautiful poetry!

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The few more must visit places I would like to add are
Manohar dairy for Chaat and Dahi Wade, Upper lake, Bhimbetka, Ancient Bhojeshwar Temple
Yes, Manohar's is quite a popular place and rightfully so - it serves some of the most delectable, yummy food items!
Upper lake is also quite good and the administration is doing its best to keep it free of major pollutants.
Never been to Bhimbetka, but will try for sure in the next visit.
Been to Bhojpur in my previous visit, that's another awesome place what with the unfinished business of the temple architecture adding to the mystery quotient, I would think.

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Originally Posted by columbus View Post
Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for bringing out the beauty of Bhopal. And very true that it's perhaps one of the most understated cities of our country.
Thanks columbus!
I feel there is a lot to appreciate not only in Bhopal, but also around the city. Places like Dewas, Maheshwar etc are wonderful weekend getaways with very well maintained tourist resorts by the local administration.
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Old 31st January 2019, 22:10   #12
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Short and sweet travelogue, just the way I like it. In a way M.P always makes me feel like something out of a Doordarshan show, its the only place where the essence of India is preserved, where the charm and almost unassuming innocence of the nation, as it used to be, is still around, from Indore to Bhopal to Rewa. Khajuraho is wild though.

Bhopal is lake city, love that most of the greenery and forestry in M.P is still preserved and hope that it never develops into another concrete mixer like "cities" of today. Great food in M.P as well, balanced veggie food with moderate spicing. I love exploring raw nature.. the greenery and naturally created paths with flowing rivulets and rocks as company, beats temples, monuments and malls any day.

Loved the photos of the tribal artwork and local handicrafts, and suddenly I've a hankering for poha jalebi.
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Old 1st February 2019, 03:20   #13
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Default Re: A chilled-out road trip to Bhopal

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Originally Posted by dicor View Post
The few more must visit places I would like to add are
  1. Manohar dairy for Chaat and Dahi Wade.
  2. Upper lake
  3. Bhimbetka These are marvelous rock paintings
  4. Ancient Bhojeshwar Temple - Massive structure built around 11th century.
Bhimbetka is truly an amazing place with cave paintings as old as 30,000 years! Really puts a perspective on our lives.

Also, Sanchi is not too far. My parents took a road trip with the driver and it was pretty good experience for them and great photo opportunities!
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Old 1st February 2019, 08:30   #14
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Originally Posted by JoshMachine View Post

Thanks columbus!
I feel there is a lot to appreciate not only in Bhopal, but also around the city. Places like Dewas, Maheshwar etc are wonderful weekend getaways with very well maintained tourist resorts by the local administration.
Try Chanderi in winters or rainy season. You will be blown away with what it has to offer.
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Old 6th February 2019, 13:29   #15
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Default Re: A chilled-out road trip to Bhopal

Lovely travelogue JoshMachine, loved the crisp writing and pics. I really miss Indian Coffee House here in Pune, absolutely love the taste of sambhar which they serve in ICH. I have been to Bhopal a few times but have never been able to experience the city at leisure.

BTW, have you tried the Nasik route for going towards Indore, I have traveled to Ujjain a couple of times through Nasik and found it much easier than Ahmednagar route. Sparse truck traffic after Chakan and the roads are also quite good.

PS: Hope our paths cross sometime, I stay near Dahanukar colony, very close to Warje
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