Sunday 14 October 2012

24 Hours in Ahmedabad

When Mr Jules 'let me know' that he had a meeting in Ahmedabad on the day of our wedding anniversary (which was last Saturday), I said I would forgive him providing I could go with him.  You may think that sounds a bit harsh but in between moving out to Mumbai and Mr Jules going back to meetings in the UK, we had missed each others' birthdays, Valentines day, Easter, Diamond Jubilee, Olympics and everything else in between (I wasn't that bothered about the Olympics by the way).  So this time, he wasn't going anywhere without me!

Despite only just getting back from our monster Ambassador tour, we flew out last Friday in the early afternoon (affording me a small lie-in) and made it to our hotel - the House of MG - by 4pm.  A charming colonial-ish property right bang in the middle of the city. I wasn't sure what Ahmedabad had in store for us on this mini-break or even if it had any sites worth visiting - I hadn't done my customary in-depth research first. And what was a girl supposed to do when her husband is in a meeting on a Saturday morning? (You know what's coming up....)

The tuk-tuks are green and yellow in Ahmedabad - how refreshing!
But first of all, we had the rest of Friday together in which we discovered the local market (Manek Chowk) - selling everything from fruit and veg, steel utensils, sarees, jaggery, popcorn and millions of yards of fabric.  I can see that after five years of marriage, Mr Jules knows me better than me - he cleverly located a fabric shop in our newly purchased Gujarat guide and navigated us through the crowds and through tight allies until we found the very well hidden cloth shop (Gamtiwala).  We had to take our shoes off before entering so I didn't hold high hopes (surely in the best shops you don't have to take your shoes off?) but after being directed up the stairs, and taking one scan of the room, I virtually fell prostrate on the floor, thanking Mr Jules for bringing me to such handicraft retail heaven.....for there was the most beautiful array of handblocked and printed cottons I had ever seen!  Of course I went into a total frenzy and got confused by the choice.  I can't even sew! But I knew I needed to buy something and choose quick before Mr Jules went off with his wallet.  Instead of going for the very Indian motifs, I chose three floral fabrics in blues and reds that I will have made into 50s style dresses (a passion of mine).  All for 175 rupees a metre! (just over two quid). 

Measuring out my six metres of floral printed fabric at Gamtiwala, Manek Chowk.
A close up of some of the other blockprinted designs
And again...this one's for you Steph and Liz!
After I had come down off my shopping high, we caught a tuk-tuk back to the hotel and later had a thali in the famous Agashiye restaurant on the roof.  The setting was beautiful I must say, but the thali itself left us a bit cold.  This restaurant is supposed to showcase Gujarati cuisine and especially thalis but I think one or two vital flavours were missing - i.e. ghee and salt.  OK these are not the healthiest of ingredients but on the otherhand, they do lend flavour and depth to Indian food.  Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps it was just plain bland.

Agashiye Thali (regular) - not that fussed about it

But the roof top setting of the restaurant was lovely
So the next day, we had breakfast and then Mr Jules went off to his meeting (ie deserted me).  Not brave enough to hail a tuktuk on the street (from the previous day's experience I could see these lot like to rip off tourists in Ahmedabad), I hired a car and driver for a few hours from the hotel.  Of course I envisaged that I would take in all the cultural sites - a museum or two, a couple of temples and anything architecturally interesting.  But I thought to myself "oooh, first  I will just nip to Bhandej...that looks like an interesting place to go shopping" (previously espied in the guidebook). So, I arrived at the shop Bhandej, about 15 minutes drive away and again went into a complete adrenaline fuelled shopping frenzy!  For here, at this wonderful shop was an amazing array of Indian clothes with a modern twist - kurtas, anarkali, suits, churidar...but all in the most amazing colourful fabrics (this is the girl that adores black) and one off designs.  And all soooo cheap!!! I picked up some lovely pieces for under £20 including an outfit I might be wearing to a certain Scottish wedding next year.... well it was our anniversary, I deserved a treat right?

Bhandej, Shreekrishna Centre, Navrangpura,Ahmedabad
Apparently there is another branch at Grand Hyatt Santacruz Mumbai which I will shortly be checking out!

After that I visited a state run gift shop (rubbish!  selling the sort of hippie mirrored crap you find on Camden Market) and a book shop where I bought another guide to India.  I had to laugh later when I read the Ahmedabad shopping section in this book as I had unwittingly managed to cover 5 out of the 6 recommended locations in the first 18 hours I'd been in the city. (I'm not sure Mr Jules was laughing).

Just so you don't think I am completely shallow I did go and visit an incredible Jain Temple.  Absolutely beautiful with lots of intricate carvings.  Unfortunately I could not take photos of the interior (was tempted to flick out my Nex-5 when no one was looking but I maintained respect for the locals).   I did also have the driver take me past the ancient Muslim mosque and Bhadra Fort.  See how cultured I am?  Oh yes, and I also went to explore some of the back streets containing the really old architecture and visited Mangaldas ni Haveli (which was unfortunately closed, I tried to have tea there).

Jain temple - the front unfortunately covered with scaffolding
And this is why...lots of stone cleaning going on (no doubt with
tooth-brushes or some such similar efficient tool)

I found grandpa in the backstreets of the old part of the city holding his grandson - how cute is that!

The day ended with Mr Jules coming back from his meeting and us taking a quick walk to see if we could get into Bhadra Fort but it was surrounded by an extremely busy local market making it difficult to move and see where the entrance was.  We never did find it.  So we eventually went back for a last fresh lime soda at the hotel before departing for the airport. 

Insanely busy local market next to the Fort
On the shopping front I achieved a lot in 24 hours.  On the cultural front, I performed less well but feel that I got a good general flavour of this very vibrant city.  The traffic is less than Mumbai, it is a hell of a lot cleaner and I didn't see any slums (although I am sure they were there).  The hotel - The House of MG (short for Mangaldas Girdhardas, a textile giant from the old days) - was gorgeous - the kind of colonial, non corporate property that I love to stay in where the service is top notch.  We stayed in a spacious suite with huge bathroom, free Wifi (free because it didn't work), welcome drinks, DVD library. The hotel has an outdoor restaurant where breakfast is served called The Greenhouse as well as the famous Agashiye on the roof. There is even a beautiful looking spa that I did not try and a good quality gift shop (which I also did not try!!).
The House of Mangaldas Girdhardas
Opp. Sidi Saiyed Jali,
Lal Darwaja
Tel: (079) 25506946

The House of MG - our room, restaurants and other scenes from the hotel

Boy hawking giant (and somewhat useless) balloon in the traffic

A glimpse through people shopping at a used clothes market
Mangaldas ni Haveli - a beautifully restored Haveli in the old town
- but unfortunately closed between 2 and 6pm.


  1. Oh wow - that shop looked like fabric heaven!
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  2. I love shopping in markets and the fabrics and clothes look very attractive. Rooftop restaurants can be romantic in the evening.

  3. Wow, I'm so excited to be visiting your blog, after Liz mentioned you at her Shortbread and Ginger blog. For all my years of reading blogs from all over the world, I never had the pleasure of reading one from a resident of India. So, looking forward to coming back and seeing more of your adventures of living there. Love all those fabrics...must have been so hard to choose. :)

    1. Thanks Liz, Terra and's so nice to have people from back home keeping up with me and my blog! take care BombayJules..



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