At one point in my life, I loved planning my trips to a T, but I have come to realise that a strict itinerary leaves very little room for spontaneity. There have been times when I have come back home feeling underwhelmed with my travels, largely due to excessive research and having a feeling of “seen it before”. So, sometime last year, I decided that whenever I traveled, I would keep certain aspects like transport and stay finalized before the trip. I could add an odd experience that may be harder to book on the spot. And I would leave the rest to be figured out once there. Interestingly, this has led to some amazing experiences that wouldn’t have happened if I was too caught up in “living my plan”. The internet is a great tool to find information and build your own travel plan yourself. But sometimes, knowing too much and trying to fit it all in takes away from the spirit of exploration and impulse. In Kutch, the top 2 things on my agenda were seeing the White Rann of Kutch and the villages, both of which I researched and planned beforehand. Besides that, I had little else fixed, but I came away with 5 interesting discoveries, purely on local recommendations that I absolutely loved.
Vande Matram Museum at Bhujodi
On the last day of our stay in the Rann of Kutch, our resort manager asked us if we would like to see the Vande Matram museum. Not being a big fan of museums, I decided to skip it while some other members of our group decided to check it out. They were left spell bound and insisted we make the trip. And that is how we landed at this museum. Opened in 2017, this is a 4D museum, one of its kind in India and showcases the story of India’s independence through a series of 17 episodes. The storytelling is done through a compelling use of technology, sound, art, architecture, life size models, and effects. Having seen the grandeur of some of the world’s most renowned museums in Europe, I was not expecting to be wowed by this place. But I was so so wrong. It’s grand, it’s innovative and it’s totally immersive. Once you enter the museum, you move from room to room, 17 in total and each room showcases a historical event in India’s freedom struggle. No pictures are allowed inside. But I can tell you that this is a unique experience that you must not miss!
Vintage embroideries in the bustling Bhuj bazaars
The bazaars in Bhuj, Vania and Shroff Bazaar are a treasure trove of interesting things and our hosts at the Bhuj House recommended that we check them out for vintage embroideries. Right when you enter the bazaar, under the archway, you can find a series of shops selling vintage embroideries, woven on blouses, skirts and patches by Kutchi women, worn and passed across generations. It is an absolute explosion of art and colour, and a wonderful part of town to explore.
Using the e-permit facility to get a Liquor license
Considering that Gujarat is a dry state, I hadn’t expected getting a liquor license for a tourist to be this smooth. There is now an online portal for procuring a licence, you fill the form with all your travel details and id proof and get the printout to a registered liquor shop, details of which you can find on the site. The officers on duty will review the paperwork and stamp your permit. We expected it to be a tedious and time-consuming process on the spot, but it wasn’t, We were in and out in 15 min. You will struggle if you don’t have your paperwork ready or are trying to fill the form online on the spot. Once you have the permit, you can buy alcohol from the shop but know that drinking is an expensive proposition in this state.
Sleeping under a Chikoo tree
We stayed at Devpur homestay for 2 nights, a beautiful heritage property in central Kutch run by Krutarthsinh Jadeja. The room I had originally requested for did not have availability for both nights so for the second night we shifted to a tent in the family’s 12-acre mango and chikoo orchard. I was quite sceptical of the facilities; especially uncomfortable toilets make me nervous. But our hosts convinced me that I would love the experience and I decided to give it a try. The orchard was beautiful, and the tent was comfortable. The best part however was a big chikoo tree right outside the tent, it’s branches so luscious and green that it shaded a big part of the tent itself. There was a charpoy laid out and as soon as I lay down, I feel into a deep sleep, disturbed ever so slightly by the wind rustling the tree leaves and the chirping of birds. It was the best sleep I had had in months.
Gujarat Thali at Osho Dining Lodge
From Devpur, on our hosts recommendation we headed to Mandvi beach. While I didn’t find the beach particularly exciting, we were advised to have lunch at the Osho Dining Lodge while there. We headed to this local restaurant between alleys and streets, steep stairs led us to the lodge and we were quickly seated. An over-enthusiastic waiter laid out our thalis and pickles on the table. And then the service began. From deep fried aloo bhondas to dhoklas, Gujarati dal, kadhi, rice, ghee laden rotis, pooris, aloo masala, vegetables and hot jalebis, the variety is immense. And the passion with which the food is served is even better. Our waiter kept on refilling our plates, despite pleas of being absolutely full. He insisted on just one more roti, a little bit more kadhi and rice. Till we were exhausted with all the eating and had to beg him to stop. The food is tasty(though heavy), the experience is even better.
I am glad I left some space in my itinerary that allowed me to indulge in recommendations from locals. What about you? Do you like to plan every detail of your trip or leave some things to chance?