I have been to Ahmedabad a few times in the last 15 years or so. Mostly on business trips. But never beyond it in the state of Gujarat. The colorful visuals and the stories of the state always enchanted me. This time, when I had the time to plan a trip to Gujarat, I chose to do popular Gujarat for the first impressions of the state with circuits around Ahmedabad and Vadodara – the two big cities in the state. I spent a week traveling around these two cities. Soaking in the Gujarati landscape and its culture. Trying to understand its entrepreneurial spirit and business minded people.
Gujarat – First Impressions
- For a traveler, Gujarat offers a balanced combination of ancient, medieval and modern. There are pre-historic sites like Lothal. There are ancient sites like Sun temple at Modhera and many medieval structures. What is important is that there are as many new age things to experience like the newly built riverfront or renovated lakeside or science city.
- You must know Gujarati to be able to read boards in Gujarat and this includes most museums captions. We could read them as the script is somewhat similar to Devanagari. But for those who do not know Devnagari also, it could be a challenge. The boards at bus stops, road signs – almost everything is in Gujarati.
- Gujarati pride could be visibly sensed in the air. This could be because of the prominence the state has got after the recent general elections. Or because of the prosperity and change that they have seen in the last decade or so. Everyone talks about Gujarat and its culture with a lot of pride. A guide at a museum went to the extent of saying ‘we live in heaven’.
- Gujarat is the melting pot for vegetarians like me. It felt so good to get vegetarian food by default and with a menu full of options. When we asked about non-veg food, people had to think and answer where one can get it. I don’t think I need to tell anyone that Gujaratis love to eat. Especially the dry fried food in between meals commonly called Farsaan. I missed the night street food market this time. But I am going to make sure I go there next time I am in Ahmedabad.
- Everyone in Gujarat loves Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We spoke with auto drivers to senior corporate executives and everyone said – he has done a lot of sincere work to improve the lives of people.
- We were there on the last day of Navratri and it felt like a festival one should not miss. I had seen the pictures of Garba and heard a lot about the festival from various sources. But I would not have imagined its scale and its grandeur until I saw an average Garba pandal in Vadodara. Families dancing together around a central platform where music was being played live and devotional songs were being sung is a sight that brings together families, communities in a strange mix of devotion and celebration with strict adherence to cultural norms. You are not allowed to go and dance unless you are in a traditional dress.
- Roads are generally good. Ahmedabad was cleaner than most other cities. But Vadodara would be an average Joe on cleanliness.
- Gujarati women are as much traditional as they are enterprising.
- Walls in Ahmedabad wore traditional paintings at places and mosaic art depicting Gandhi and Patel in a lot of places. Creating a kind of visual storytelling for the passers-by.
- For the first time, saw a working escalator at Ahmedabad Railway station, though only to go up. It is such as a simple solution for railway station – wonder why it has not been implemented across major railway stations in the country.
Overall, enjoyed the trip and look forward to trips across Kutch and Saurashtra sometime soon enough.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog on Places to visit in Gujarat.