Sunday, April 7, 2013

The beauty of under-the-radar Gujarat, India

We visited this well at sunset for photographs.
It was truly an amazing sight...

Tonight in Manila, living a Travelife, I had friends over for dinner and a catch-up.

I didn't have time to think about the menu until around lunchtime today -- and I decided to serve a Chinese-Filipino meal.

Scroll down to read more...



I prepared crispy lapu-lapu with a pomelo-based sauce, beef tenderloin stir-fried in salt and pepper, broccoli with scallops, sweet and sour pork, and noodles with century egg.

For an appetizer, I just laid out slices of century egg and jellyfish. Then I put a bottle of champagne in the chiller, since it was such a hot evening.

While waiting for them to arrive, I went through my India trip photos.

This is the ashram from where Gandhi based his movements for peace.
It truly had an atmosphere of calm and inner joy about it.

THE CHARMS OF GUJARAT

By looking at the photos tonight, I was just reminded about how lovely and pristine the state of Gujarat is.

Even for a Travelife, it's pretty exotic. I didn't know much about it at all prior to arrival.

Meanwhile, my jaded friend who'd gamely agreed to join me on this adventure, without knowing almost anything about where we were headed, said he didn't even know Gujarat existed until I'd mentioned it to him.

This is one of the places on my bucket list for next time...

A HIDDEN GEM

Gujarat doesn't have the tourist infrastructure of other more well-known states and cities in India.

In fact, there are so few tourists still to this part of India that I don't think I saw another group of foreign tourists around, while we were sightseeing.

I never saw another foreigner while going through the major temples in Ahmedabad and its surroundings; and we were the only people on a walking tour of the old city, on the night we decided to  do this.

Another amazing and uncrowded monument to see on my next visit....

NO CROWDS HERE


Imagine having all these beautiful places to yourself.

Just look at them through rose-colored glasses, though, if you're finicky about dust and dirt. But these are givens, when you're traveling in the Third World, which is why I insist on staying in luxury places when I'm in exotic destinations.


The advantages of going right now are pretty obvious: first dibs on some truly beautiful monuments and  attractions. And bragging rights for having been to a pretty exotic location most people have never heard of.


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Read more about our trip to India
in an upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine

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One day, Gujarat will become pretty famous -- it's eyeing a UNESCO World Heritage status for the old town of Ahmedabad, for example -- and tourists will be coming in droves.

But right now, it seems like it's just Travelife and a couple of other hardy adventurers.

This isn't in Gujarat but somewhere else equally exotic in India.
But I'm including it here as I really like the composition of this photo.
The guy on the left is the historian of one of the most beautiful palaces in the world.
One evening, after a lovely concert in the garden, he gave us a private tour of his domain.
We had the place to ourselves and it was truly a Travelife back in time.

ALL ABOUT LEADERSHIP

Gujarat has a very progressive and high-profile minister, however, who has literally been putting the state on the map.

Everyone everywhere else is talking about the progress the state has made since this minister took over. He's brought new business and infrastructure projects to Gujarat, and several high-profile businesses have actually transferred here from other states for tax or other benefits.

This is also at the top of my wishlist for my next visit to Gujarat....

INFRASTRUCTURE IN ITS INFANCY

On the other hand, Gujarat still has a long way to go in terms of tourist infrastructure.

It has several decent hotels, including the Hyatt Hotel, the Radisson Blu and the Marriott Courtyard.

We dined at the Hyatt Hotel and stayed at the Marriott Courtyard, and we were very impressed with both. The food at the Hyatt was very good, while the service at the Marriott Courtyard was efficient and professional, but with a nice warmth.

I'm a stickler for service, so if I'm praising a hotel in this business hotel category for service, this is saying a lot for it.



AN UNIMPRESSIVE HERITAGE HOTEL

Ahmedabad also has one heritage hotel near the old town, that's gotten good ratings online.

We went to see it one night after dinner, and I wasn't at all impressed. So it's a good thing the options for business hotels are fairly satisfactory.

The next time I go to Ahmedabad, my shortlist for hotels would be the Hyatt or the Marriott.

In Ahmedabad, these are business hotels rather than luxury hotels, but I found them both to be very good. And Hyatt has an advantage because the best shopping mall in town is adjacent to it, and it's really lovely in terms of design.

NEVER ENOUGH TIME IN A TRAVELIFE

We stayed in Ahmedabad, the commercial capital and main gateway to Gujarat, for three days. Although we saw a lot during this time, it certainly wasn't enough. If we had had more time, we would have ventured more into the interior to see the old towns, temples and forts, or towards the border with Pakistan.

Looks like I just have to go back someday.

Via this visit, I thought I would actually be able to tick something off my bucket list. Instead I've just added a couple more things to my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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