The day before the big trip:
Just another day at the office. Happy because tomorrow was the start of a week long, much needed vacation to Ahmadabad, Diu, Gir and Junagadh. Wanted to visit Ahmadabad ever since it was declared a heritage city. Diu is Diu. Ilha de Calma! I had visited Gir sometime in 2009, and the memory of a lion walking past our jeep
was still fresh in my mind. I wanted a round 2. Hadn’t done much homework on Junagadh. All I knew about this place was it was once a princely state – so there was bound to be plenty of heritage sites.
All my hopes of leaving work early were dashed – work There was still 80% of my packing pending. As always – last minute.
Day1: Mumbai – Ahmadabad
Almost missed the alarm. Blame the jumbo cup of coffee I had before going to bed the previous night. Couldn’t sleep for a long time, and then dozed off just when it was time to wake up.
Had a quick bath and breakfast and booked the cab. Thankfully the cab was on time, and the driver didn’t need a lot of directions to reach my gate. It was an early morning flight, and thankfully we took off on time. Oh, and there were no screaming/wailing kids on the flight.
Landed at Ahmadabad airport, and my bag was in the first batch on the belt. Great going so far!
Drove from the airport to the old part of the city. For the next 2 days we were gonna stay at a charming place called French Haveli. This is a restored haveli located in one of the many pols in Ahmadabad.
A pol (pronounced: pole) is basically a cluster of houses accessible via a main gate. The houses are all within the walls of the pol. So it’s a kind of a housing complex?
Usually a pol has people from the same community (or profession) living there. The main feature of a pol is the main gate, and narrow lanes. Community living.
So, about French Haveli. Charming place. Cozy rooms, and paintings/antiques all over the place. The approach road to this place is via a very narrow lane. This is probably a feature in all the pols. Narrow lanes.
From the main road to the haveli is just a 2-3 minute walk. Since we had our bags with us we dumped all the bags in an auto and walked to the haveli. After a short break to freshen up and breakfast we set out to explore the city.
First stop was Sarkhej Roza.
Sarkhej Roza is a mosque/tomb complex. On reaching this place we were told we have to keep our footwear outside, AND cover our heads. Clicked a lot of pictures inside (what else 😀 ). Spent about an hour there, taking pics (and selfies!) No, I didn’t click any selfies. Still can’t take a proper selfie.
After Sarkhej, it was time for lunch. We went to a place called Gordhan Thaal for lunch. As the name suggests, this is a thaali place. Nice place. Good food. Not a big fan of thaalis though. And OMG!! What a HUGE thaali that was. The setup was the usual. A massive thaali, and many small katoris in it.
After lunch I was feeling too sleepy. Blame the rich food. So post lunch we continued our exploration. Next stop was Vaishnodevi temple. It is a replica of the original temple, complete with caves (artificial of course).
Didn’t spend much time there, walked up the ‘mountain’ through the caves, and tunnels and had darshan. The next place was an interesting one, and the one I wanted to see (mainly to photograph).
After Vaishnodevi, we set off for Adalaj Stepwell. This stepwell is 5 stories deep, and has some amazing carvings on its walls and pillars. Such stepwells are common all over Gujarat. They were build centuries ago, mainly to collect and store water for dry months. Since this region doesn’t receive a lot of rain, the stepwells were a good idea to ensure the people had water all year round.
Looking at the depth (5 stories) and the number of steps, it must have been a big task to collect water every day. Good exercise!
I was looking forward to visiting the Adalaj Stepwell – had seen pictures by friends who had visited there earlier. Sadly I had to struggle to take good pics (good = less people in the photos). The place was super crowded. Maybe because it was a Saturday, and the entire population of Ahmadabad had decided to visit Adalaj.
Our final destination for the day was Akshardham temple, and the light/sound show there. So off to Gandhinagar and to Akshardham. One thing about Akshardham. There is too much of security there. You are supposed to deposit all bags, cameras – everything at the counters near the enterance. Only thing you could carry inside was your purse. That too was checked at the gates.
There was plenty of time for the show and we didn’t want to keep our bags, phones (I was concerned about my camera as well) for that long so we decided to check what’s there to explore in Gandhinagar.
But first chai break. We stopped at this place called Jai Bhavani Vada Pav for a chai break and some snacks. The biggest (so far) shock of my life was discovering that they don’t serve tea (or coffee). What!! Come on. A vada pav place that doesn’t sell chai. A Believe or Not moment for me. For someone from Mumbai this is a very hilarious situation.
A vada pav gaadi (or stall) will ALWAYS have a chai tapri next to it. So no chai. No vada pav either.
We had plenty of time to kill – but not enough to go back to Ahmadabad and keep our phones/bags there and come back for the light/sound show at Akshardham. We decided to visit Indroda Nature Park.
It’s an okay-ish place. But seems to be popular among the locals. Good enough to spend some time – take a nature trail. And like most popular places on weekends it was crowded. The main attraction I guess was the dinosaur park. Nothing great – a park with dinosaurs all over the place (not real ones, mind you).
Akshardham time. Deposited our phones and camera at the counter, went through the security check (sounds like an airport, no?) and bought tickets for the show. Then first things first – TEA. Tea was a big disappointment – bigger than the vada pav thing. After being redirected from one counter to another and then standing in queue for the coupon we finally made it to the tea stall only to find out it was machine tea.
Talk of rotten luck. Desperately wanted my chai fix, and all I got was the sugary machine tea. Meh!
The light/sound show was at an open amphitheater. It was already full when we reached there, but luckily we found seats in the middle rows. The light/sound show tells us about the story of Nachiketa. The light effects are too good. You got to experience it at least once.
After the show it was time for dinner. Luckily we had bought the dinner coupons before the show – to avoid the long queue, and the rush at the stalls. Dinner was pav bhaaji (didn’t taste like it though).
Post dinner we were supposed to head back to Ahmadabad, and then visit the local night market – this one is famous for it’s street food. But since it was a long tiring day for most of us, we decided to skip it.
Tomorrow was an early start. Heritage walk in the walled city. This seemed interesting.
So lights off – and zzzzzz. Tomorrow is another big day.