‘Kem-cho’ land – the way I used to fondly refer to Ahmedabad as . 4 summers ago, we were moving from Mumbai to Ahmedabad since the Humsafar’s new role involved setting up a new branch office at the city. Little did we know that our 18 month stint there would give us the opportunity to explore the vibrant colours of Gujarat. The excellent condition of the intra-state roadways made all our trips memorable.
Gujaratis love their food and they love their culture and they go to any extent to preserve the two.
Ahmedabad has a number of places worth a visit. The regular places include – Swaminarayan temple, Sabarmati ashram and the river front, Akshardham, Indroda national park, Kankaria lake and the ancient step well -Adalej. Out of these Akshardham and Adalej are really worth visiting. Akshardham’s sound and light show is of international standards and the cleanliness of the premise takes your breath away.
The Adalej step well boasts of extremely intricate architecture. There are 5 stories in this Step well and it is octagonal in shape. Each story is about 3 sets of stairs lower than the previous one. The lower most step has a temperature of almost 8-10 degrees lower than the outside temperature.
Shopping is best at CG Road.Gamti is a must visit for its variety and print in cotton garments. For people who are more interested in heavy saris, patola and bandhani silks , ASOPALAV@ CG Road is your stop.
Ahmedabad has many restaurants famous for their traditional Gujarati thalis. The ones which stand out in terms of food, ambience and area are VISHALA VILLAGE and RAJWADU. Skip a meal during the day and then just indulge your taste buds!!
Vadodara/Baroda was our next stop. Easily the most popular city in Gujarat.The distance between Ahmedabad and Baroda can be covered in flat 90 minutes; courtesy: the beautiful Expressway!! Lakshmivilas Palace is the city’s biggest attraction. A portion of it is open for public , the royal family still lives in the same palace in a separate wing. They have a well designed audio/visual tour and it is worth visiting. A fulfilling day trip!!
We were done with local sight seeing @ Ahmedabad, history and culture@ Baroda, our next stop HAD to be wildlife – the little Rann of Kutch it was!!
We had seen Amitabh Bachchan promoting Gujarat tourism very passionately across all TV channels.We thought that if Big B had agreed to be the brand ambassador of an initiative it certainly must be BIG!! The advertisement kept showing the desert of Kutch. We decided to do a little research about Kutch and we planned a weekend getaway at the RANNRIDER Resort at Dasada – a little outside of the little Rann of Kutch. The resort itself is a very eco-friendly place and has a lot of farm animals – ducks, geese and cows. Children will have a blast at this place.
A jeep safari is organized by the resort itself to the white desert of kutch to spot the WILD ASS. In the early 1960s it was tagged as an endangered species, but now there are close to 5000 wild asses in the Rann of kutch area – a result achieved by some remarkable conservation and healthy breeding.
The desert is large and has a visibly cracked surface. One can see salt tanks at regular intervals and extensive salt farming. The region is completely dry and it is heart wrenching to learn that the villagers have to travel several kilometers for a few litres of water. It just reminds us that we need to practice and teach the next generation the importance of water conservation.
G for Gujarat and G for Gir While there are many national reserves for tigers in India, Lions have just one -GIR. The lion population unlike the tiger was never under threat. There are close to ~ 450 lions and SPOTTING is generally assured.
The best way to reach Gir, is to drive down from Rajkot (~250 kms) the nearest airport. The resorts at Sasan Gir are lovely and the view is beautiful. Most of the resorts overlook beautiful mustard fields aka SARSON ka KHET and will turn even a stone into a shayar!!
Any wildlife safari is thrilling and it comes with its share of hopes and expectaions!! The early morning safari is when the chances of spotting are high. In our first safari we spotted a group of 3 middle aged cubs in a rather playful mood. They were chasing each other around trees and stretching , unfazed by the several pairs of human eyes staring at them. This was the first time I had spotted any member of the CAT family in its habitat, nervousness ensured that I only get a video and no photos:-(
Gujarat offers options for people of varied interest. There is wildlife, history, architecture and for those with a religious bent – there are many beautiful temples.
We visited Somanth, Dakor, Dwarka and Mothera. Somnath is one of the 12 Jyotirlings in India. It is a beautifully maintained temple on the seashore, a camel ride in the beach post darshan is a must do.
Dakor and Dwarka are both shrines of Lord Krishna. Dwarka has more cows than human beings and is a major exporter of dairy products to other parts of India. Dakor is a popular temple located 12kmsbefore the famous dairy town – Anand.
The Other lesser know temple which is a must go is the Mothera temple dedicated to the Sun god. While the sun’s first rays fall on the famous Konark temple in Orisa, the last rays of the sun fall on this temple. Although the temple has been marked as a Natural heritage site, the dilapidated condition of the temple is disturbing. The sun god deity was moved out of the temple several years ago.The surrounding is beautifully maintained. The architecture is brilliant and so is the symmetry in the step well.
Few tips before you plan a trip to Gujarat:
- The best time to visit would be during the months of November to February when the temperatures are pleasant. Safari spotting is more successful in winter.
- The Annual Kutch festival happens in January and is worth visiting
- Plan a good 10-12 day tour to cover all places
- Get additional bags – you will not be returning home without textiles and food items!!
Maja ma che!!:-)