My company has sent me and two colleagues to India to install a machine. Naturally we will spend most of our time at the customer site but we get the weekends to ourselves and it just so happened that we arrived on a Saturday, so we got our first day in the country off. Me and one colleague, Scott, took the day to explore the city while our other colleague, who has been here before, stayed at the hotel. Our hotel helped us arrange a car with a driver that took us round to some of the more famous places in town.

First impressions are that it’s hot, but since it’s fairly dry you don’t feel the heat too much. It’s also kind of dirty, with lots of dust, sand and pieces of garbage trailing the edges of the roads. Traffic is chaotic, cars, motorbikes (riders without helmets), and green, black, and yellow auto rikshaws (three wheel motorbikes with a roof) driving in seemingly random ways, horns blaring constantly; strangely enough there doesn’t seem to be as many accidents as you would think.

The city we are in, Vadodara in the north western province of Gujarat, is hardly a tourist destination but there are still a few sites near the city center you can visit.  The first place our driver stopped at was Sayaji Baug (or Sayaji Garden), a large park full of neatly trimmed lawns and arranged flowers. The Vadodara museum is also located inside the gardens but I can’t tell you anything about it since we didn’t go in.

In the end Sayaji Baug was more or less just a park, as such it’s pretty good but not something to write home about.

One of the most famous places in all of Vadodara is  Laxmi Vilas Palace, and this is where our driver took us next. The palace was built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, who ruled this part of India (Baroda State) at the start of the twentieth century.  It is a large, very impressive looking building with plenty of fancy decorations and artworks inside. Too bad that you are rather restricted in what parts you may visit and  that it’s forbidden to take photos inside. Furthermore, the only information available is an audio guide which, like all other audio guides I’ve tried, is painfully slow. But like I said, the building is beautiful, so if you’re ever in Vadodara, you should definitely visit.

The front of Laxmi Vilas palace

Some different parts of the palace

After the palace our driver took us to the nearby Maharaja Fateh Singh museum which houses a collection of art belonging to the royal family. I’m not a big fan of art museums but it has several paintings that seem to show different perspectives depending on what angle you view them from which is fun. If you like art, this is worth a visit. After that, we went to Sursagar Lake, a fairly small man made lake with a large Shiva statue in the middle.

The Shiva statue in Sursagar lake.

There really wasn’t much to see so we quickly moved on. The driver took us on a quick tour of the old town before moving to the next destination, the Qutbuddin Hajiro mausoleum . This looked interesting when I saw it on the tourist map, but it turned out you could only see it from the outside, and part of it was being renovated, so we only stayed for a short while.

Qutbuddin Hajiro mausoleum

Qutbuddin Hajiro was the last stop of our tour, so the driver took us back to hotel. We ended up spending far less time at the different sites than I expected when I planned our little outing; when we arrived back at the hotel it was only two in the afternoon. Not wanting to waste the rest of the day sitting in the hotel room I decided to go out again, this time without Scott. I checked my maps a bit then grabbed an auto rikshaw and headed to the old town which seemed very lively when we passed through earlier in the day.  I think these small, non European forms of transport, like auto rikshaws, tuk tuks and so on are fantastic. I absolutely love sitting in the back, zipping through the busy streets of foreign cities.

After the auto rikshaw dropped me off, I walked around the bazaar-like streets of old town, looking at the various little shops and vendors and just generally checking out the people going about their business. It’s actually quite nice, it feels like you get much closer to the culture than you do if you go to standard tourism sites. I will say though, that as a white person, people were pretty curious about me and I drew lots of attention. Mind you I never felt threatened or anything like that, I just had more eyes on me than I’m used to.

Anyway,after visiting the old town I went back to the hotel, feeling very content with my day of exploration. Tomorrow we start working so I don’t think I will post anything until next weekend. So to end the post, here is some street photography from the old town.