The standard for our business trips is that we get the weekends off but thanks to several delays we had to work during the weekend as well. On Monday however, there was some kind of festival going on and the customer’s factory was closed, so we couldn’t go to work even if we wanted to. Needless to say we didn’t waste the opportunity. Our customer was actually nice enough to let us use the chartered car for sightseeing so we didn’t have to spend any money on transport – the good part of being on a business trip I guess.
Except for the Laxmi palace, the most famous place around Vadodara seems to be Pavagadh temple which sits on a mountain top close to the town of Halol. So naturally, we choose this as our main destination. On the way out of the city, we passed a couple of camels on the road, for us foreigners this is pretty much unheard of but we passed them too quickly to get our cameras out. Our driver noticed this however and kindly pulled over to let us snap a few shots.
Not something you see every day… at least not in Europe.
About an hour after getting on the road we pulled up at the entrance road to Pavagadh where there was a police check point. They asked for passports and since I hadn’t brought mine I thought we would have to turn back but somehow they let us through anyway. Top tip: always bring your passport just in case the police decide to check. Anyhow, from the police check point we followed a winding road up the mountain for a couple of kilometers until we reached a small village-like place. There our driver left us and we got on a gondola taking us the last bit to the top of the mountain.
Once we got to the top we expected to find a temple but instead found ourselves in the middle of a kind of Bazaar. We strolled along, following the crowd checking out the various little stalls and shops.
A while later we arrived at a steep set of stairs but before we climbed them, a man handed us some kind of religious headbands to put on. We climbed up, pausing several times along the way, then got to temple itself. It was surprisingly small and not quite so impressive looking as I thought it would be. We were hoarded around, following a path of metal fences, passed the main shrine then out again, only getting a few moments to dab some red pigment on our foreheads. We were then ushered back down by a guard trying to control the flow of people.
We headed back down through the bazaar but instead of taking the gondola we walked along the trail. Most of it was more or less a continuation of the bazaar with vendors on both sides but here and there it was an open path and even a few smaller temples or similar. Walking down was alright but I wouldn’t want to hike up in the mid day heat.
When we got down to the parking lot we still had a few hours left so we asked our driver to take us to another place just nearby called Champaner. To be honest I’m not completely sure what it used to be but i’m thinking some kind of old mansion. There were two separate sites, both spectacular looking ancient buildings with plenty of decorations. They were not particularity big however, so it only took us an hour or so to walk around and take a few photos.
We also saw a couple of monkeys who were kind enough to pose for photos
After seeing the second building we were getting kind of tired so we headed back to the hotel. One thing we noticed is that, throughout the day, lots of people came up to us and asked to take photos, specifically together with me. I understand there aren’t that many white people in this party of the country but still, am I really so exotic?
A few of the groups asking for photos with us
As I’m writing this I’m already back home in Taiwan. Before I finish I just like to make a few general points about India. In case you have never looked at a world map, India is a big country, there are several smaller states or provinces within the country. I can imagine these states are all rather different, and my experience is probably only valid for Gujarat where Vadodara is situated.
In Gujarat alcohol is completely forbidden except for people with special permission e.g. tourists with foreign passports, this is worth considering. Many of the restaurants are fully vegetarian, this is indicated by a symbol consisting of a green rectangle with a green dot in the middle; any dishes containing meat have similar symbol in brown on the menu. As far as safety goes, I never felt unsafe, I was never tricked or even pick-pocketed; that being said, you should always be careful. As for cleanliness goes, I did get a bit of tourist diarrhea from being a bit too brave with the local food, but you should be safe to try in clean looking shops and restaurants. In general, no place was entirely clean by European standards but it also wasn’t overly dirty, I have seen pictures and heard stories from other parts of India that are considerably worse.