Monday, 7 January 2013

The Gujarat Getaway - Ahmedabad (Part 1)

We boarded our Indigo Flight at 6.30 am to fly to Ahmedabad. Neither of us had ever visited the city before. Wanting to stay at Neemrana’s Divan’s Bungalow, we were excited about our tour in this unfamiliar city. Ferried by a cab, we were taken to the heritage hotel which was located in a place called Raikhad. A perfect fit it was; situated in the old part of Ahmedabad. A drive from the airport to anywhere in the city would be sufficient enough to remind you that you were in Gandhi’s hometown, with murals and paintings on the walls depicting important instances of India’s freedom struggle.   

We were welcomed by quaint shops and horse carriages- meant for Indian weddings through the lane leading to the property. A typical roomali-roti wala stood on the street behind Divan’s Bungalow. It is the ancestral home of the Kadri family, designed by an English architect who did an exquisite job with the Parsi-Muslim architecture. It is now inherited by I.M Kadri, a renowned architect who designed the Taj Mansingh, Delhi and The Oberoi, Bangalore.

A white coloured building, with a fountain in the compound made it look absolutely bright and shining ! The most peculiar features of the property were its large Jharokas and colourful interiors. We were escorted to the best room at the property – Siraj Khana. The room was gigantic, equipped with all the modern facilities such as free WiFi and an LCD television. However, being Neemrana travelers, we refused to even look at the television. :P The colour of our room- Blue looked stunning coupled with a bright blue chandelier. What we loved in our room were the Jharokhas jutting out where we sat during our free time looking out at the external happenings.

Now we needed some real food !! We settled down in our room and decided that we were starving! The manager’s wife was the chef at Divan’s Bungalow. She cooked us authentic, vegetarian Gujju food. We stuffed ourselves with Gujarati kadhi, bhindi stuffed with paneer and soft phulkas, feeling pretty much like being pampered at home. What a delight it was! The warm hospitality and friendly service made it all better.

Curious to know more about the property, we went out to see the other rooms at the property. Being a recent addition to Neemrana’s portfolio, the property seemed fresh and welcoming. Every room being different with a different view meant various rates that a traveler could choose from. The upper category rooms were as large as suites, having a separate ante-room apart from the main bedroom. Having a particular colour scheme, each room had a character of its own.

We finally left the property to explore Ahmedabad. We were suggested to visit Swati Snacks by some of our friends. The restaurant was located right next to Law Garden around which there is a popular flea market held every night. We ate Vada Pao, Pani Puri and Pao Bhaji. What caught our attention was an attractive, colourfully-lit board that mentioned the fresh juices they had to offer, specially for the day. We ordered a Fresh Watemelon Juice. They also had other traditional specialties such as Handvo, Batata Shak, Dal Dhokli, Patra, Dhokla & Dhanshak on their menu. We paid approximately Rs. 600/- for the three of us.

With all work completed for Day 1 and some enjoyment we decided to call it a day. Waking up the next morning, we had an agenda for the day. The chef gave us delicious Dhokla and Poha for breakfast. We picked up a book to read from a mini library located near the dining area. All the books had stamps of the Kadri Family.

The next planned visit was to Induben Khakhrawala- a much famous shop that sells various kinds of Gujarati snacks. Khakhra is a Gujarati snack prepared by mixing wheat flour with other ingredients to form dough and rolled in a circular thin layer by hand and roasted on a hot plate till the moisture evaporates. They had numerous flavours of Khakhras and mini Khakhras such as Fungreek, Ghee, Cumin, Black Pepper, etc . They also sold Namkeen, Spices, Pickles Chutneys, Syrups and Sweets; all typical to Gujarati taste-buds. We had two bags filled with all their specialties. Now, all we had to worry about was how to carry them to our next destination – Morvi and then on our flight back to Delhi.

The same night, we visited Agashiye, a famous restaurant for dinner. On the way, we stopped at Sidi-Saiyed’s mosque that was built in 1573, famous for its intricate carvings and jaalis(windows). So much so, that it inspired the design of IIM-Ahmedabad’s logo. Agashiye’s speciality was authentic Gujarati thalis had portions of all that one could ask for ! Fully vegetarian Papads and pulses, chickpeas and chutneys, rice and rotis, veggies and farsan(dhokla), curd, churans, pans and halwa(sweet dish)at the end. Not to miss the sugary Gujarati flavor in all of these !! 

Can’t do without non-vegetarian food ? For this, one may go back to the kitchen at Divans’ Bungalow, where the lady who used to cook for the Kadri family now cooks meat delicacies for the guests. Freshly prepared with utmost authenticity,  you’re sure to fall in love with it !

A history-lover; if you have some spare time on your hands some must visits are : Calico Museum of Textiles, Hathee Singh Jain Temple and Sabarmati Ashram which is Gandhi’s home. Returned to our hotel, we retired for the day as we had a train to our next destination-Morvi.
                                                                                                               ~ Rhea Bhel & Aanya Khanna