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AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE HUTHEESING TEMPLE
Photo Location : Ahmedabad

Tony Deemer

Roaming the city of Ahmedabad, wending in and out of the Old and New parts of town, Andy McCormick was already mesmerized with the flourish of monuments, art and history. Till he chanced upon this. The Hutheesing Temple is not always on the tourist itinerary. But thanks to his guide, McCormick got a chance to see the intricate carvings on the walls of the mid 19th century Jain place of worship. The temple is dedicated to Dharmanatha, the fifteenth Jain Tirthankar. It is not so much the stunning architecture, but the story behind the temple that impressed Andy. The temple started being constructed during a severe famine in Gujarat, when many were rendered jobless and hungry. The building of this temple employed hundreds of skilled artisans, which supported them for a period of more than two years.
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Naulakha Fort
THE BEST WILDLIFE EXPERIENCES OF RAJASTHAN
MORE THAN PALACES AND FORTS
 
Gujarat, the state that lies on the western edge on the belly of India is replete with a dozen travel ideas. Be it the wildlife sighting at Gir, the vast white tracts of the Rann of Kutch, the spiritual vibe of Dwarka or the stunning Somnath temple. Most often, with a repository so rich, the travellers look at the capital, Ahmedabad as just a springboard. In truth, one can spend a week alone in Ahmedabad. It is one of the richest cities where heritage and museums are concerned, and the perfect place to orient yourself to the rest of the state before heading out.

Sabarmati Ashram
Also known as the Gandhi Smarak Sanghralaya, there couldn’t be a more fitting shrine to commemorate the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The ashram was the former home of Gandhi at the banks of the River Sabarmati. Now, it houses a museum and collection of his things that he used while living here. The museum was conceived by the famous architect, Charles Correa. The ashram is ensconced in a peaceful aura, and has a unique energy. This is the place where Gandhi started the Satyragrah Movement. You will find that the complex is dotted with people meditating or gazing at the photographs to the gallery.
Adalaj Ni Vav
This flamboyant step well was built by Mahmud Begada in 1411 as one of the most well known insignia’s that rules left in those ages. Till date, the intricate carvings on the pillars that support the five stories are largely intact. Built to commemorate Queen Rudabai, wife of Veersinh, the Vaghela chieftain, the step-well represents the Indo-Islamic fusion architecture that percolated through many step-wells of the period. Go here in the mornings to avoid trigger-happy tourists and to take in the sheer grandeur of the place.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Museum

This is the most underrated but memorable experience of Ahmedabad. The museum is a rich repository of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel’s life as a political leader and thinker. What trumps everything is the platter of technology backed interactive exhibits that are on display. The highlight of this large museum is the 3D light and sound show that is organised each evening. It is one of a kind.
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Ravivari Sunday Market
Tribal Museum
The museum within the Tribal Research and Training Institute of the city is another blind spot on the itineraries for travellers. But if one is remotely interested in the vibrant tribal life of the state, this will impart a quick orientation. The well-maintained museum is made in the form of tribal homes, where their features, dressing and occupation are the focus. Gujarat is a tribal rich state and this is one way to see them all.

Ravivari (Sunday Market)
Clothes, utensils, books, stationary, antiques, dumbbells, bikes, false hair, vegetables, fruits, luggage and hundreds of other things fill the streets of the Ravivari or Gujari (Sunday Market) that sprawls along the Sabarmati River. This twelve-hour affair is propped against the old walled city but faces the modern side of Ahmedabad. The tradition of this weekly flea market has been kept alive since the 15th century. A walk through will make you want to buy things that you never imagine using. Keep those purse strings tight.
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SUPRIYA SEHGAL
Footloose in Ranthambore
Beastly tales of the jungle
Ranthambore had been on the list for Supriya for a long time. Eager to see the wealth of the forest and places close by, she landed up in Sawai Madhopur last January and whetted these tips for us. It’s not only the iconic forest that intrigues the travellers but also the villages close by and the experiences thanks to the atmospheric accommodations in town. Here are her top five picks to see and do near Ranthambore
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Gondal local life
With a special corner for palaces in her heart, Supriya went about the town of Gondal as a pit stop to take a break from the more popular cities of Gujarat. Of all the glorious beauty that she has seen in the state, nothing came close to this showstopper of a place. So legendary was Gondal, that it was mentioned in famous texts like Ain-i-Akbari (penned by Mughal Emperor, Akbar himself). It was a celebrated part of Saurashtra region in Gujarat, and still is. Of all the things in the town, these have etched themselves on Supriya’s memory.

Riverside Palace
Built in 1875 AD under the command of Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji, the Riverside Palace was commemorated to his son Yuvraj Bhojraji. The vantage location was chosen to be at the edge of the River Gondal. Till now, the neatly manicured lawns and gardens make the stunning backdrop. The palace was furnished in a typical colonial style with vintage wooden furniture and several pleasant sit-outs. These were sprinkled on the terraces and galleries overlooking the river or the garden, and were the ideal spots to unwind.
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Vintage car collection Gondal
Orchard Palace
As the name suggests, the Orchard Palace sits wedged between a sprawling campus of fruit orchards, lawns and flowering gardens. This is one of the wings of the Huzoor Palace, where the royal Gondal family entertained and hosted guests. Of these, the miniature room was the most famous. The walls of this room were swathed in an impressive collection of miniature paintings and antique furniture.

Royal Garages
The Royal Garages housed an extension collection of vintage cars, owned by the Gondal family. This repository is still intact and one of the best collections of classic cars in the country. The cars range from 1910 to 1955, and include limousines and sports cars from the decade leading up from 1950. It also has four wheel drives, American made brands from 1940 to 1950 and cars from the World War II period. Many of these cars still have the original Gondal State number plate and have been kept in an impeccable condition.
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Naulakha Palace
Naulakha Palace
The 17th century palace of Gondol is the main highlight of the city. This too, is located on the banks of the Gondal River on a grand masonry base. It rises 30 meter above the river bed. The main features of the palace include a high gateway, clock tower from the town side, administrative blocks and a grand staircase. This leads to intricately carved pavilions on the open terrace of the palace. Look out for the exquisite stone carvings, balconies, pillared courtyard, delicate arches, and the Darbar Hall. The ceiling of the Darbar Hall has large drooping chandeliers, stuffed panthers, weathered vintage furniture and antique Belgian mirrors. Gifts received by Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji have been housed in a private museum as well.
Premier Inn sheds weight in India
Premier Inn hotels in India, located in New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune and Goa, are being offered for sale through an international tender process with JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group. The bid is scheduled for December 19 to 23, 2016. Premier Inn’s India portfolio of five hotels in prime locations in the nation’s best performing cities, will be among the largest hotel portfolios offered in India in recent times. They include a total of 583 room keys. Mr. Mike Batchelor, Managing Director of Investments Sales, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group, Asia said, “Hotel portfolios with vacant possession, occupying prime central locations and of this scale are rare and hard to come by in the current market. There is an expected high level of interest from global, regional and domestic investors attracted to this opportunity as they are able to immediately rebrand the hotels to the operator of their choice upon purchase.” India continues to be a top ranked destination with reasonable GDP growth of 7.6 percent. On India’s growing hospitality investment sector, Paul Chakkrit, Senior Vice President, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group, Asia, says, “Given that we are witnessing the beginning of an up cycle in the sector and renewed interest in Indian hospitality assets by global institutional investors, the Premier Inn opportunity of unencumbered income-generating assets in top Indian cities is sure to be keenly contested.”
Lords Hotels & Resorts opens another door
The hotel chain has recently signed its 26th property in Bharuch, in the state of Gujarat. The hotel will be branded under the Lords Eco Inn banner, and will commence operations from December 2016. This makes Lords Hotels & Resorts the largest hotel chain in the state- this is the 26th address of the hotel. The hotel has 48 rooms, full-service at friendly prices for the business and leisure traveller. P.R. Bansal, CMD, Lords Hotels & Resorts, says, “The addition of this hotel to our chain of hotels marks a significant milestone and one that is unique, for us. From the first hotel back in 2007 which was set in this very state to this one in 2016, we have gone on to become the largest chain of true value hotels in Gujarat. Today our hotels dot the entire region. We now have all its four brands including Lords Plaza, Lords Inn, Lords Resort and Lords Eco Inn that caters to the leisure, corporate and also the pilgrimage tourists, which Gujarat Tourism is known for in the state. Of the 15 Lords Hotels & Resorts properties in the state, this will be the sixth ‘Eco Inn’ brand for the group.”
“We have been looking to aggressively establish our presence across the country while maintaining Gujarat as the home. In the last few months we have added three new properties in Jammu, Agra and Thrissur. We are looking to expand our portfolio not just in India but also outside, especially in the neighbouring countries where the hospitality sector still has a huge margin for scaling up. With experience and ability on our side, we intend to capitalize on the opportunity and offer our services there too,” concluded Rishi Puri, Vice President, Lords Hotels & Resorts
Hyderabad- Jabalpur skies connected
Loa cost airline, Spice Jet will commence its daily direct flight on the Hyderabad–Jabalpur circuit from December 23, 2016. Delhi and Mumbai are already connected. Hyderabad is the third metro that Spice Jet will be serving a daily direct flight connecting Jabalpur. The fares for the Hyderabad-Jabalpur route will start from Rs 3500 plus whereas for Jabalpur – Hyderabad route it will start from Rs 3000 plus.
Paro – Bodh Gaya connection made easier
Bhutan Airlines started flying to Bodh Gaya in order to cater to the Buddhist pilgrims that come into India and hop over to Bhutan. Effective 4 December 2016, the airline started flying from Bangkok and Paro to the UNESCO-listed heritage site in Bihar. This is where Lord Buddha gained enlightenment. Flights will operate twice a week (every Wednesday and Sunday) on a seasonal basis, ending on February 26, 2017. A 122-seat Airbus A319 aircraft will be deployed on the route.
Mumbai ranks as the top travel destination for 2017
According to e-commerce website, Booking.com, the financial and entertainment capital of India, will witness an increase in domestic and international tourist footfalls in 2017. Mumbai has been trending as one of the most popular destinations in the world. This is great news given that India has seen a slight lull post recession and Brexit. The data experts at Booking.com analyzed the top 300 destinations based on growth in search and bookings to find the most up-and-coming places to visit in 2017. Pegged against wider trends, Mumbai has recorded increased volume of travel and higher than average growth in bookings. It has moved up ten places among the most searched destinations relative to last year. The other top trending destinations recorded are Reykjavik in Iceland, Cairns in Australia, Savannah in US, Puerto Rico, Kyoto and Jericoacoara in Brazil. Other major travel predictions for 2017 include, traveler endorsements, reviews, preferences and insights and inspired by industry leading understanding and innovation in e-commerce travel technology.

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