Thursday, 21 February 2013

Tuesday 19th - More Ahmedabad

Don't tell R but the whole point of this trip is to travel overnight on a metre gauge train while it is still possible.  Today is the day or at least tonight is the night.  Whoopee!  There is the small matter of what to do with the hours before our 23.00 departure.We partly solve this by sleeping in until nearly 8 a.m. By the time that we have had breakfast and packed it is 10  a.m. The Always Hotel Riverview has been just what we need but they nearly blow it by presenting a bill with the wrong room rate. They apologise but take half an hour to reprint the bill. An auto is summoned and we head for the station. There is some cloud cover and it is quite cool this morning. Our auto costs less than half of what we were charged for the opposite trip when we first arrived.
Our man drops us adjacent to the Cloak Room, much to the disgust of the porters. D has to show the man how to find the PNR number on our e-ticket.  Surely we are not the first people to produce one of these at ADI. Bags deposited we set out to find a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet to check it out for supper tonight. We fail to find it but we do see an elephant which dwarfs the sea of autos and two wheelers on the road.

We switch into exploring mode and head down a side street dominated by textile wholesalers. There is one lonely salt stall. When we reach a busy main road a policeman leaps into action and stops the traffic so that we can cross. This section of bazaar is occupied by the clothes sellers and seems very popular with the two wheel fraternity. Today's most used phrase is "Mind your back. Motorbike."
Recrossing the main drag we are now on the street of shoe wholesalers. This is a recommended retail experience as they don't try to sell you anything. Footwear alley leads to chicken butchers place where a particularly bloodthirsty crew wave  bits of dismembered chicken at us. We move on rapidly and find ourselves in a maze of pols with remarkably friendly locals. R made a serious contribution to the Indian dental profession by handing out sweets.

Amazingly we get back to the main street without having to backtrack once. On the south side we find some of the old wooden buildings that are still quite well preserved. The detailed carvings are splendid examples of craftsmanship. Hopefully the tree will be removed before it does too much damage. This time we do end up in a blind alley and have to retrace our steps.

By now it is getting pretty hot so we retreat to the Green House courtyard for tea, sharbat and samosas. This auto ride is only 30 rupees for quite a long trip. People in Ahmedabad seem very chatty and R is soon making friends in the queue for the traffic lights.
 The other notable thing about Ahmedabad is that everybody has plenty of change and nobody turns their nose up at the odd grubby bank note.

 Refreshed we take another ride, this time to the City Museum. This was designed by Le Corbusier in 1954 and is described in LP as a "high school undergoing demolition". We are the only visitors when we sign in and solemnly acknowledge the no photography instruction. Inside there is nobody to stop you doing whatever you feel like.

There are some very interesting displays about the city's history but not all exhibits have English information. There is an interesting section about the various religious groups to be found in the city but the modern design exhibition consists of a few chairs that you are not allowed to sit on. R thinks that the art on display is very good  but they could do with more of it and better information.

The big drawback with M. Corbusier's building is that it doesn't keep out water. It is not obvious that any attempts are being made to stop the roof leaking. During an hour and a half's visit we do not see another soul, staff or visitor. On the way out we are handed a guide to the museum and a map with a suggested walk in the Old City.
On the ground floor we visit the Kite Museum, again utterly deserted. This has a very nice bench seat under a fan and we spend some time there.

In need of further refreshment we head back to the Green House for tea. We also order a bottle of water and spin out our stay in the shade for over an hour. The Museum's Old City walk looks interesting and goes to a few places that we missed so we go for it. 200 yards into it the is a lady doing Henna prints and R, who is under orders not to buy anything else as the luggage is full, decides she must have some. This becomes a spectator sport as one arm and hand are covered with flowers, paisley pattern, leaves, an elephant and even a scorpion.

The map of the walk is quite easy to follow and takes us through the market areas. The array of clothes is dazzling  but the fact that motorbikes and even autos are allowed to drive through the narrow gaps between the stalls makes it a rather disagreeable retail experience and we do not linger. Past the spice market we see the mother and father of all traffic jams, with people manhandling parked two wheelers out of the road to free things up. The map gets us to the Managaldas Haveli a magnificently preserved (or restored?) old house. The one opposite is impressive too.

This takes us to the furthest extremity of the walk which returns by a different, parallel route. The highlight of this is Mouth Fresheners alley where all of the sellers of after dinner mouth fresheners are congregated with their colourful produce.  |By now it is dark and we decide to eat. We have an excellent meal including tandoori chicken at the Food Inn, another LP recommendation that we do manage to find, possibly because it is right next to the Green House. We have really enjoyed Ahmedabad and recommend it.

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