The year (2016) has started on a good note; I had a great Garhwali meal at Rushina’s APB Cook Studio (read all about it here) and went on my first ever solo trip. It might sound like a cliche, but travelling alone was liberating and I plan to do it more.
I went on a quick weekend trip to Ahmedabad, not a popular choice I know but I wanted to explore the city’s history along with the food. The city, originally named Karnavati, was renamed Ahmedabad after its ruler Ahmed Shah. The old city is divided into pols – housing clusters where you’ll find beautiful Maratha, Persian, Muslim and British architecture, 400 year old houses, ancient woodwork, temples and mosques.
The new parts of the city are as beautiful as the old ones and getting around is breezy. The auto rickshaws mostly never refuse and charge by meter. The best part, the city is safe for solo female travelers and you can roam freely late in the night.
Ahmedabad, one of the major cities in Gujarat, is easily accessible from Mumbai. There are regular trains, flights and buses; it’s difficult to get last minute train tickets so book in advance.
Here’s a list of things that I did, ate and bought.
- Go for the Heritage Walk conducted every day in the old city. The walk starts at 8am from Swami Narayan Temple in Kalupur. The guide will take you around pols (the ancient residential areas of the city), temples and markets ending the walk at the famous Jumma Masjid. It’s the best way to get familiar to the city and learn about its history. Check out the details here. The walk is priced at Rs 50 for Indians and Rs 100 for foreigners.
- Walk around the night market. Start with a cup of tea and bun maska at New Lucky Restaurant (the restaurant with the graveyard inside it), watch the sun set at Sidi Saiyad Ki Jali – mosque built in 1573 famous for its intricate lattice work, walk through the market starting from Lal Darwaza, via Bhatiyar Gully ending with dinner at Manek Chowk.
- Visit Hussain-Doshi Ki Gufa and have a coffee at Zen Cafe. The cave is a modern structure which houses an art gallery. You’ll find paintings only when there’s an exhibition on so check before you go. You can still go there to sit and read under the shade of trees.
- Catch a performance at the Darpan Academy of Performing Arts, the legendary theatre started by Mrinalini Sarabhai and now managed by her daughter Mallika Sarabhai.
- Sabarmati Ashram to revive the history lessons on Gandhiji and his freedom struggle. Sit in the garden by the river, it’s peaceful. You can have a meal at Toran opposite the Ashram. I disn’t try it but had people recommending it.
- Sarkhej Roza is a mosque and tomb complex around 7-8 kms from the main city. A large area is in ruins but is worth checking out. Go during sunset; the outer walls of the complex look beautiful bathed in the evening sun.
- Utensils museum at Vishalla on Vasna Road. You can head there after visiting Sarkhej Roza. Vishalla is a village themed restaurant that serves Gujarati thali. I was slightly disappointed with the food but loved the museum; go for it if you love cooking and history. Honestly, skip the thali.
- Dada Hari Ni Vav is a five storey stepwell built in 1500AD. The structure is beautiful and a photographer’s paradise.
- Take a day trip to Modhera (98 kms) to see the ruins of the Sun Temple built by the Solanki kings. You’ll get an ST bus to Modhera from Gita Mandir bus station which will drop you at Modhera Chaukri. Take an auto rickshaw to the temple (another 25 kms inside) from there which charges Rs 400 for a round trip. Try to squeeze in Sidhpur and Patan too – both heritage towns. You’ll get a bus to both the towns from Modhera.
- Go to a kitli – chai shop (they’re all over the city) and have a kadak chai with some charcha (discussion or gossip). I would really recommend the ginger and mint chai in Law Garden.
I documented the trip on Instagram. Here’re a few posts from my timeline.
- Head to Chandravilas Restaurant near Jumma Masjid post your walk. The 120 year old restaurant is known for its jalebis (made in desi ghee), fafda and methi gota (round bhajiyas made out of fenugreek leaves). It’s said that Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel would often meet at this restaurant. So go, have a cup of chai with a bit of history.
- Vada Pav at Shriji Krupa on Vijay Cross Road. I have been hearing a colleague from Ahmedabad raving about the vada pav in the city and how it’s better that the Mumbai one. It definitely is different and maybe even better. They put a dry and green chutney on the pav which is toasted in butter.
- Breakfast/brunch at Sandwich Workz, the small cafe like restaurant on IIM Road, run by a couple. The menu is a mix of food from America, Europe and Mediterranean Countries. It’s known for it’s huge waffles topped with eggs and served with hash brown, sausage and salami. They have other breakfast combos too.
- Moti Bakery near Lal Darwaza is known for its puffs. Try the vegetarian and chicken puff which sell out pretty fast.
- Dinner at Manek Chowk, the market area in the old city which turns into a street food hub in the evening and is a favourite hangout till late in the night. Eat the butter laden pav bhaji, dosa, desi style pizzas, chaat, methi gota and wrap it up with kulfi at Asharfilal. A hop, skip and jump away is Bhatiyar Gully known for its non-vegetarian food. Try the bheja fry and variety of kebabs here.
- I had a disappointing Gujarati thali at Vishalla, but was suggested the one at Agashiye – the restaurant inside heritage hotel House of MG. I didn’t try it.
- Sandwich and filter coffee at Natrani Cafe, the cultural hub of the city. The cafe is a part of Darpan Academy and a meeting point for creative minds. Do try the mushroom and cheese sandwich, it’s delicious.
- Take a trip to National Insitute of Design in Paldi to grab a bite at R. K. Egg Eatery. The story goes that the eatery was started by a eunuch who brought in the whole egg culture to Ahmedabad. The students at NID would give him suggestions and that’s how he developed the menu which has variety of omelettes, bhurji, egg fries. Try one of their keema (bhurji) which is made in different styles with different masalas.
- Law Garden has a street market where you can shop for clothes, accessories and beautiful handmade bed sheets. You’ll have to bargain a lot here.
- Manek Chowk has a couple of shops selling all sorts of mukhwaas and chooran; don’t leave before buying some.
- Stock up on khakhra, kachauri, pickles and other farsan at Induben Khakhrawala.
- Head to Kandoi for the famous mohanthaal – sweet made out of besan, ghee and sugar and doodh no halwo – fudgy milk cake.