Journey to the North; 4 Days in Gujarat

Never ever before I imagine that I will be living in India, the country that I only heard from Bollywood movie my mom used to watch. Yet, here I am in this land of gods and goddesses, experiencing its incredible cultures and heritages. This is my second year living in India as a scholar in one of the University in South India.

Going through cultural shock and encounter innumerable festivals, India has fascinated me in many ways. India is like a box of treasures full of cultures, heritages, and knowledge in the open up land that waited to be extracted. After hibernation in my University for a year, I decided to pack my bag and kick out my little feet to start my exploration in this land of God. Following His roads of passages.

It was summer break in June 2016. I began my Journey to the North, 24 hours journey on the train to Gujarat, 1427 km far from the place where I am studying. The train went through a dozen of stations and 3 different states. The landscape continuously changes from Arabian Sea coastal area to the greenery of Maharashtra than to the metropolitan city. Finally, my long journey ended in Ahmedabad, one of the important cities in Gujarat.

Day 1: Ahemdabad
1. Gandi Asrham

Gandhi’s spinning wheel

The first day in Ahmedabad I spent with my Indonesian friend who hosted me there. She took me to the most famous Gandhi Ashram, the house where the great Mahatma Gandhi used to live. I was a big fan of him since I was a child when my teacher taught me the history of Indonesia and India. Visiting his house is definitely a must. His house is now an open museum for everyone. In this place, all the pictures and his wisdom are displayed beautifully. Located on the bank of Sabarmati River, this ashram (the Hindi word for house) is so peaceful and calm. We are drawn into the 18 century when Gandhi used to live here. The house was very simple yet very modest. According to history, Gandhi lived there for 12 years with his wife and from this place he initiated the famous Dandi march or Dandi Satyagraha as a protest against British salt monopoly. His invention of the spinning wheel known as Chakra also displayed in this museum. The replica of the chakra and many books about Gandhi as well as his wisdom are available in the bookstore in the corner of the museum.
Name : Gandhi Ashram
Location : Gandhi Ashram, Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Open Hours : 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM (every day)
Entrance Ticket : Free

2. Sarkhej Roza
Sarkhej Roza is a mosque and Sufi tombs complex built in 15th century as the commemoration of Sufi saint Shaikh Ahmed Ganj Baksh life. Its architecture was built in Persian style with Hindu and Jain influence. This place becomes more popular recently, soon after Shakrukhan’s movie Raees released in 2016 where some of the scenes were shot in this place. For me visiting this place is like tracing back the history of an Islamic sect in Indonesia who calls their group Ahmadiyah. As a Muslim, this place enchanted me with its nuance architecture and the history behind it.
Name : Sarkhej Roza
Location : Post Jeevraj Park, Sarkhej Makarba Road, Makarba, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Entrance Ticket: Free

3. Akshardham and Indroda Nature Park, Gandhinagar
Our next destination was Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat around 26,5 km from Ahmedabad. It took around 45 minutes drive from Ahmedabad by bus. Our intention is to visit the second biggest Swaminarayan temple in the country; the first biggest Akshardham is located in Delhi. The temple was built for the followers of Pramukh Swami, the spiritual head of this particular Hindu religion. Many people were visiting this place every day, either for pilgrimage or family tour. Outside the temple, there are many stalls selling Gujarat accessories and knick knacks. All gadgets and camera are not allowed so we couldn’t click any picture for evidence. The main hall of this temple is meant for praying located on the first floor. They displayed the life of Pramukh Swami from childhood and his wisdom in the museum just below the hall of prayer. There is a diorama that displayed the dramatic life of Pramukh Swami which can be accessed by paying Rs. 30. If you are hungry there is cafeteria or canteen in this complex. One of our friends said it is better to visit this temple during the night because they used to have a water-light show.

Our last stop for that day was a kind of Jurassic Park of India in Indrodra Nature Park. It is called so because it is said that they found some skeleton and eggs of the dinosaur in this area. This park is basically a very large zoo with innumerable animals. We need at least two hours to visit all the places in this park.

Day 2: Patan- Modera
1. Ranni Ki-Vav – Patan

Ranni Ki-Vav

On the second day, we went to a UNESCO world heritage site in Patan name Ranni Ki-Vav. Located 126 km from Ahmedabad, around 3 hours by train and you need to take an auto rickshaw to reach the place. Ranni Ki-vav is a stepwell built around 11th century by Queen Udayamati as a memorial to her husband. Previously, Ranni Ki-Vav was a stepwell where the woman of the palace used to fetch water for their daily need, no wonder that this place is also known as “the queen’s stepwell”. After an earthquake some years back, the well cannot be accessed anymore. Yet, what makes this place becomes a UNESCO world heritage is its detail more than five hundred sculptures which surpass all other stepwells ever built. An incredible heritage. The sculptures are truly mesmerizing.

Incredible Sculptures in Ranni Ki-Vav

Name : Ranni Ki-Vav
Located : Mohan Nagar Socity, Patan, Gujarat
Open Hours : 08.30 a.m to 18.00 p.m
Entrance Ticket: Rs 15 for Local / Rs. 200 for foreigners

2. Sun Temple – Modhera

Sun Temple Modera

We continued our journey to Sun Temple in Modhera about 40 minutes by bus from Patan. The bus fare from Patan to Modhera is very cheap about Rs 50 less than $1. Sun Temple is also one of UNESCO world heritage. According to history, it was built on 1026 by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty. The temple was built to worship the Hindu Sun-God, Surya and thus it is named Sun Temple. There two main temples and a pond completed with staircase around it.

The Pond in front of Sun Temple

The view of golden sunset falls upon the temple is truly breathtaking. It hard to resist not to perpetuate the picture of the glorious ancient heritage combine with the beautiful nature.

Name : Sun Temple
Located : Modhera, Gujarat
Open Hours : 09:00 a.m to 18.00 p.m
Entrence Ticket: Rs. 15 for local/ Rs. 200 for foreigners

Day 3: Jamnagar
We traveled by night train to the next destination, Jamnagar, one of the cities in the westernmost part of India. We reached Jamnagar in the morning and visited our Indonesian friend who is studying Ayurved in the most renounce Ayurved University in the country.

After that, we visited Shri Swaminarayan Temple. The temple was shining in gold during the night combine with the light.

There is a unique ice that you can try if you happen to visit Jamnagar, an ice scratch serves with syrup called Gola.

The place near Lakhota Lake is worth trying. Lakhota Lake itself is a nice destination during rainy season with the museum and palace in the middle. Unfortunately, we came during summer so the water in the lake has vanished, evaporated. During the night many people gathered here for some exercise, gathering and even dating. Many attractions can be enjoyed here like skateboarding, roller skating, and cycling.

Day 4: Junagadh

We departed with the night train the same day from Jamnagar to Junagadh. There are many places that captivated us to visit so we hired an auto rickshaw to guide us to those places. The first place we visited is the Buddhist Caves complex with Rs. 30 only for the entrance ticket. There are three main attractions in this complex:

1. Buddhist Caves; three separate sites of rooms carved out of stone from Emperor Ashoka’s period up to 4th century to be used as monks’ quarters.

2. Upperkot Fort, an old fort built around 300 BC

3. Adi Kadi Vav, a stepwell carved from the rock layers and stones full of pigeons and it shit, upps! I call it grand canyon, isn’t this picture superb?

4. Mahabat Maqbara
Next, we went to the historical landmark of Junagadh, the majestic Mahabat Maqbara. The stunning mausoleums of the Nawabs of Junagadh were built in 18 century combining the influences from Indian, European and Islamic architecture, with French windows to Gothic Columns and four tower minarets encircled by beautiful spiral staircases. Located 327 KM from Ahmedabad and 5 minutes walk from Junagadh Railway Station. Free entrance

Before continuing our journey, we have to recharge our energy. We chose to eat Gujarat traditional food called Gujarati Thali. I cannot explain what it is but here the looks. A plate of many foods and side dishes. Very recommended

Our 4 days journey ended in Somnath after we visited one of the most famous temples in Gujarat. This temple is regarded one of the twelve shrines of Shiva, thus, crowded by the pilgrims.

This is the first part of our journey to the North, following the road of passages!

Travelling by train in India? Why not?

Why do we like traveling by train though it takes very long hour’s journey?

Well, the reason is no other than for economic reason. Spending a lot of our budget for accommodation and transportation is definitely not my choice. When you are a scholarship student and your monthly allowance cannot afford your expense, but the charming of the country enchanted you to come out from your comfort zone, what else can we do? Pack our bag and catch the train!

India has a vast railway track around the country, you can reach many places in the country by train. Rather than spending a lot for transportation and accommodation, I would rather choose economic transportation and expand my destinations. The train is definitely my option. It offers you many things; comfort, cheap, and new friends. During the long journey, you can witness the changes of the landscape from one to another. Chatting with local travelers is a point plus for traveling by train. You may be disturbed by the constant voices of “Chai Coffee Chai coffee” from the chai wallas who sells chai (Indian name for tea) and coffee or the sound of “panni bottle panni bottle” from the sellers who offer you mineral water or some other sellers with their typical Indian snacks and foods. When the travels end, those sounds are like the dum dum of the drum beating in my heart, as if saying “let’s go for another discovery!

Here are some tips if you choose to travel by train in India to save your budget and accommodation:

1. There are 5 different Indian train compartments: 1AC, 2AC, 3AC, Sleeper and general class.
The AC classes are mostly quite expensive but if you can afford it, 3AC or 2AC are nice options. But if you want to travel in budget sleeper class is my recommendation. The compartment is quite oke and you can sleep comfortably, you may feel a little bit hot during the day (especially summer) with only 3 fans in each compartment. Yet, you can always open the window on the side to get the fresh air and nice scenery. General class is the cheapest among of all. To get to this class you do not need to book in advance like other classes. However, it is usually very rush and crowded.You have to be fast to get your seat (it is not reserved seats by the way), sometimes quarreling with other passengers is inevitable. Better not to take the risk, but if u want a challenge, why not?

2. Choose the night train.
Traveling in night train can benefit you in many ways. First, you can rest well during the journey and when you reach the destination on the next day, you are ready for your exploration. Second, you will feel that the journey does not take long. you only need to come to your compatn=ment sleep and when you open your eyes, you already in different places. Choosing night train also can be an alternative for you who do not want to spend your budget for hotel and accommodation. The train can be your motel (moving hotel). Worrying about how to freshen up? Well, you always can use the toilets in the railway station. For my experience, railway stations are my shelter and my hotels. We can take shower and take some rest in the waiting room. If you do not want to carry your heavy backpack, you can easily post it in the clock room. You also can recharge your energy in every food corner available in the stations. But I have to say this, not all stations in India support for this kind of daring travel so be aware of your belonging and yourself especially if you are traveling during night or if you are a girl (for girl, do not travel alone)

3. Take with you some wet wipes and hand sanitizer for mostly the toilets in the train are not so hygiene.

4. Take with you some books or store some movies on your devices for your entertainment if your journey takes too long. The train journey can be so boring sometimes especially if you have to travel more than 40 hours and alone. Well, I experienced that 42 hours from Mangalore to Delhi and alone. You will feel the sensation as if you are taken into another world.

Travelling can be so interesting at the same time challenging. The choices are either dare to face the challenges or sit idle doing nothing. The roads of passages are there waiting for you to explore it!