Incredible India: Trip-3: Gujarat: Ahmedabad, Bhuj

Background: Since early 2020, International travel has been in limbo due to the !@#! COVID-19. With each country reacting differently to COVID-19, it has been difficult to do International trips. While waiting out COVID-19, I thought why not explore the regions of India I have not been to 🙂 As of Oct, 2021, I had already been to 16 major towns/cities (as an adult), which is nothing considering the size and diversity of the country.

State: Gujarat

Towns/Cities: Ahmedabad/Bhuj

Introduction to Gujarat

  • Gujarat has the longest coastline (1596 kilometers!) among all the states of India
  • 5th largest state in India, area-wise
  • Gandhinagar, just outside the biggest city in the state, Ahmedabad, is the capital of Gujarat
  • Gujarat is the state with the highest number of airports (17!)
  • Kutch district, of which Bhuj is a part, is one of the largest districts in India
  • Asiatic Lions are only found in Gujarat
  • Recently, Ahmedabad got World’s largest Cricket stadium (1.1 Lakh spectators could be accommodated)

 

My experiences

It is nice to see Gujarat promoting itself through brochures, website Etc. Not all states in India do it effectively.

 

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport (Code: AMD) is the main airport in Ahmedabad. A nice display within the airport.

 

Or course, Amitabh Bachchan has long been a spokesperson for Gujarat Tourism. Indeed, the White Rann (“White Desert”) is colorful due to the camels and colorful local clothing.
Some kind of Expo was going on …

 

My train to Bhuj was at 01:30AM. Had a couple of hours to kill at the Ahmedabad Junction Railway Station. Considering that Gujarat is the home state of the Indian Prime Minister, I was not very impressed with the railway station. In fact, it was dirty and not very well maintained.

 

In case there is any doubt on which station it is 🙂
Trash bins are everywhere … “Using it”, hah, that is a different matter altogether!

 

Walked all over the platforms to kill time … Even had some local Cheetos-like chips as a snack.

 

Am all for it! Would love to see an India, where all citizens take pride in keeping the premises trash-free.

 

That is my train … Finally!

 

The waiting room, where I spent a little time. Due to the late timing, it was not very crowded.

 

My compartment … As it was, Gujarat is quite cold (for me!) in January. To boot, the AC in the train was at full blast. I shivered right through the whole night. Arrived at Bhuj early in the morning.

 

Bhuj Railway Station. Very small one, as only a few trains come this way.

 

During the walk from the railway station to the town center …

 

As I got closer to the center of the town, structures like these started cropping up. Nothing was marked and there were no boards of any kind. Not sure what this structure is.

 

Yet another rundown old structure …

 

Some localities were decently maintained … It was nice to see locals go about their lives, in their element.

 

A portion of the wall around the Old Town.

 

Entrance to Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal. It was not easy to get a second with no one else in the frame 🙂 This was the best I could do.

 

This structure is right next to Prag Mahal … Though it looks quite rundown, note the intricate architecture (especially the windows).

 

The majestic Prag Mahal. It looked very nice and the entry fee was very nominal as well (40Rs or something like that).

The Prag Mahal is a 19th-century palace. Named after Rao Pragmalji II, who commissioned the construction of Prag Mahal, the palace’s first bricks were laid in 1865. It was designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins in the Italian Gothic style.

A vintage cannon at the entrance …

 

Most of the ceilings are quite ornate …
I looked carefully at this display, to check if this is a real stuffed Lion. Appears so … Apparently it is preserved with chemicals.
The majestic main hall …
One of the many portraits in Prag Mahal.
There were also some very nice artifacts …

Notice how intricate the windows are … Imagine what it would have looked like, in its prime.
Next to Prag Mahal, is the Old Town market area.

 

Harmirsar Lake. Smack in the middle of Bhuj town. Part of the walled city of Darbargadh. The city was built by the princes of Kutch in 1548 and was added to, over several centuries. The 2001 earthquake had done a lot of damage to the area. During the walk to Shri Swaminarayan Temple.

 

Shri Swaminarayan Temple: It looked real grand. Though I wanted to see the interior, I did not venture in as I did not want to offend anyone (in case they are particular that only Hindus should enter the temple).

 

The entry ticket to the Vande Mataram Memorial. They claim to be India’s 1st “4D” Memorial. It pays tribute to India’s Freedom Struggle. The complex occupies around 10 acres of land. There is also a handicrafts section within the complex.
The main entry area looks quite grand. No cameras or phones are allowed inside. The guides take you through a preplanned series of halls, where video, voiceover and lifelike statues help recreate the various historic events.

 

 

 

A model of the Vande Mataram Memorial complex.

 

To get to the Memorial, one has to go through one of the cleanest villages I have ever seen. I had rented an Autorickshaw to take me around Bhuj for the day.

 

Now, that is one muscular bull …

 

In the rented cab, towards Kalo Dungar (“Black Hill”).
Climbing up the hill … Towards Kalo Dungar.

 

Some huge rocks, which looks as if someone has cut it into particular shapes 🙂

 

There are roadside stalls galore at Kalo Dungar. Most of them sell snacks and touristy items.
There were many camel ride vendors. The camels were decked up in bright colors.

 

One of the many shops selling touristy items …

 

 

 

Colorful bags …
Unlike elephants all over India, I sincerely hope the camels are treated fairly by the vendors.

 

Nice scruffy plant … You can see the White Rann (“White Desert”, Salt Fields) in the background.

 

 

Kalo Dungar is supposedly, the highest point in Kutch district.

A local musician … At Kalo Dungar.

 

This Chat vendor was doing brisk business, doing 10 things at the same time!
Sugarcane Juice! Could not resist … Gave up all my fears about possible germs and went for it. Had 4 glasses, back-to-back.
Colorful footwear.

 

 

Colorful handbags.

 

A camel on the modelling ramp 🙂

 

Where there are tourists, there is garbage! 🙁

 

Gandhi nu Gram: An example of “rising from the ashes”. Though devastated by the 2001 earthquake, the village made a remarkable recovery.

 

The 2001 earthquake had left Gandhi nu Gram village devastated. The redevelopment of the village was carried out meticulously. While rebuilding the village, they took utmost care in keeping the village’s socio-cultural traditions intact. The project constructed huts, schools, community buildings, temples Etc. and also has electricity network and a water harvesting system. Each dwelling was provided with its own individual dual pit toilet system and a bathing cubical. There are shops selling traditional arts and crafts.

One of the typical huts of Gandhi nu Gram.

 

Walking through the streets of Gandhi nu Gram.

I was enamored by the art painted on the various huts.

 

A colorful dress on display …

 

The resort where I had booked my stay. Alas, I got to spent only 4hr there.

 

Lunch consisted of vegetarian fare.

 

White Rann (“White Desert”): It is best to visit White Rann during sunrise or sunset. This was sunset time. Since the season starts in December, by February the White Rann is marked with vehicle and foot marks. Camel carts are available in case walking is not your thing.

 

The “salts” up close.

 

This cart looks quite crowded. Remember, this is during the peak of the 3rd COVID wave in India!

 

How expansive the White Rann looks …

 

It was while I was at the White Rann that I got the phone call regarding a family medical emergency and I had to cut short my Bhuj trip right then and there. Had to make my way, urgently, back to Ahmedabad (by road) and from there to Bengaluru and ultimately, to Kozhikode, Kerala (flights).

Had a late night (01:30AM IST) dinner at a roadside eatery … Gujarati Thali. Could not enjoy it much due to the family medical emergency.

 

Adios!

 

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