11:57 PM: I’m late again.
Damn, I’m going to miss the train
Why did I take the wrong train again?
Why is the auto not moving?
Why is there traffic only here?
These were the thoughts running in my head as I sat in an auto frustrated with myself and the traffic, which was holding me back. It was already past the departure time by 2 minutes and my friends, who were already on the train, were giving me a running commentary on the train. The update- the train hadn’t started yet.
12:00 AM: Platform 4
At a 100 meters from the station, my friend tells me that the train is about to move and that I needed to get onto Platform 4 and jump into any compartment. I jump out of the auto and start running. Upon entering the station, I shout out ‘Platform 4 kahaan hai?” (where is Platform 4), but there was no one to answer except for a small boy who looked equally clueless.
12:02 AM: Not a second to lose
I run down a random platform hoping for it to be the right one, but luck wasn’t on my side. The train on the next platform started easing out of the station and without a second’s thought, I jump down onto the tracks to cross to the moving train. Halfway across, I trip and fall. Grabbing everything as I got up, I sprinted towards the train and just as the last compartment was moving out, I hopped on.
12:05 AM: Unwelcome surprises
Finally on the train to Ahmedabad, I do a quick damage check; no bones broken, slight bruises, DSLR intact… but my phone was completely shattered.
7:00 AM: Ahmedabad
We stepped out of the train shivering, welcomed by Gujarat’s misty morning. We were warned about the cold but didn’t except the temperature to be so low. It was 9 degrees! Without a moment to spare, we quickly dropped our luggage off, freshened up and hit the streets.
Our first destination was the Akshardam Temple located in the capital, Gandhi Nagar. It took us 45 minutes to travel and the roads were wide and smooth- one of the best I have witnessed in India- but sadly, there were barely any Vehicles on the road.
We reached the temple around 10 am and there was a fairly large crowd gathering already! Before entering the temple, we had to leave all our belongings at the gate- literally all our belongings. We were only allowed to carry our wallets inside. We entered to see a beautiful, green place that was spic and span. It was very peaceful and soulful, and completely silent except for a devotional melody playing in the background. The temple had everything inside, from gourmets to stay areas and even a water theme park. We spent an easy 3 hours exploring the site.
Our stomachs were growling when we got out and we wanted to have local Gujarati thalis, so our auto driver took us to a line-up of street vendors serving various dishes. However, the food was not as we expected it and nor was it prepared properly. We ate what we could and decided to head back.
5:00 PM: The Kite Festival
It was the festival of Makar Sankranti and the day of Uttarayan, also known as the kite festival in the northern parts of India. People were already on the roofs flying their kites. Everywhere we saw, there were only kites and people of all ages excitedly flying them, trying to outdo one another.
Naturally, we wanted to fly some kites of our own as well! It took us some time to find the venue of the kite festival. The entrance was grandly decorated with a kite reel.
The sky was full of kites but sadly, we didn’t have any of our own. We had to go on a long hunt before we found a boy who helped us get some, and string them onto a reel.
All set and excited, we went into the arena to fly our kites, but it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. In the 2 hours that we tried, we would’ve probably gotten only one kite up in the air for 10 seconds. All our efforts failed and our kites were tattered by the end of the day. Finally giving up, we watched other people fly kites and then headed to an exhibition before moving to our next destination.
7:30 PM: Kankaria Lake
Many people suggested a visit to Kankaria lake when I told them about my planned trip to Ahemdabad, and it was totally worth it. It is a must-see spot (especially during the night) for anyone travelling to Ahmedabad.
The entire lake was completely lit. A 5-km walk around the lake showed exciting activities such as a theme park, boat rides, water and laser shows, toy train rides around the lake, food stalls, gaming zones and much more. More scintillating was the lighting, with fireworks and fire lanterns drifting in the sky- a sure treat for the eyes.
10:00 PM: Manek Chowk
After a walk around the lake, we made way to our next destination ‘Manik Chowk’, for local street food. We entered the street hoping that we’d have a better experience than the one we had had in the afternoon, and we were met with quite an unexpected sight! At 10:30 pm, the crowd at Manik Chowk was unbelievable. It was so crowded that all we could see were floating heads and we didn’t know if our next step would land on someone’s toes or safely on the road. Turns out that Manik Chowk was a jewelry street by day and a food street by night.
We were pushed the entire way from one stall to another, and each stall had a treat for our taste buds. A variety of pav bhajis, sandwiches that we never knew existed, my favorite desserts, and the best pot kulfi I have ever had brought an end to a long and adventurous day.
9:00 AM: Vadodara
We left on a 2-hour journey for Vadodara early te next day. We had only one place in mind to visit which was the ‘Laxmi Vilas Palace’ but to our hard luck, it was closed for the day. We tried talking our way in, as many other travellers were waiting at the gates but the guards would not budge.
Here, another traveler, a doctor and a captain joined us for the rest of the trip, exploring the gated city of Baroda.
We walked to all the gates of the city sharing our travel stories and adventures. Time flew by and before we knew it, we had to leave. After having some special Gujarati ‘Undiyo’, we boarded a train back to Mumbai. A very eventful trip from the start, where I nearly missed my train, till the end where we traveled back without a reserved ticket, standing for 6 hours; indeed, I enjoyed as much as I learnt through the tip.