Travellers visiting Gujarat should be aware that the majority of food served in the state is vegetarian. In bigger places like Ahmedabad and Baroda, finding non-vegetarian food is less of a problem than in smaller places. If you visit Bhavnagar, the Nilambagh Palace Hotel serves very good food – both veg and non-veg. Many people hanker after Gujarati thalis, but I am not one of these people. Those who are not on the Gujarati meals can easily find well-prepared south Indian vegetarian food like dosas, idli, and vada. Pizzas are also widely available, often with excellent tomato sauce made with fresh tomatos.
Another thing to consider when planning your trip to Gujarat is that it is a dry state: alcohol is not served in any public places. It is possible to get a permit (I have no idea how) to be allowed alcohol ‘for medical purposes’ (!) Gujaratis and others desperate for booze can cross the border into either Daman or Diu, both of which were Portuguese colonies until 1961. Now they are administered not by the State of Gujarat, but by the Central Government of India – they are Union Territories. Alcohol is freely available at almost duty-free places in these tiny places, both of which are well-worth visiting.
If you are thirsty, there are plenty of soft drinks available including the refreshing watered down yoghurt drink chhas (also known as ‘buttermilk’). Tea is the prevalent hot drink. We found it hard to get decent coffee, let alone any coffee. Most Gujaratis in Kutch and Saurashtra seem to be keen tea drinkers.
Discover more about journeying through Gujarat in Adam Yamey’s new book:
The village of Durgapur is 5 kilometres northwest of Mandvi. In the past, when the water table was higher, the land around this place was very fertile. The farmers who lived in Durgapur became quite affluent. Nowadays, the ground is unproductive, but the elegant, richly decorated houses of the village attest to its inhabitants’ former prosperity. Many of the houses have first floor balconies which project over the roadways. These balconies have lovely carved wooden balustrades and are shaded by canopies supported by carved wooden pillars and fringed by delicately carved strips of wood. Many of the older houses have crafted stone window frames and intricately decorated wooden entrance doors.
Today, many houses in the village have been bought by wealthy folk from Bombay, who have also built new homes there. Recently, a large new health centre has been built by members of the Jain community for their own use.
Get to know Gujarat better: boat-building in Kutch Mandvi
Gujarat has long been an important maritime interface between India and the rest of the world, especially Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Many of its folk have been, and continue to be, involved in mercantile activities, sailing, and boat-building.
Mandvi in Kutch, which until 1947 was an independent princely state and is now part of Gujarat, used to be an important sea port. It is famed for its boat-building, which continues briskly even today. The wooden dhows constructed in Mandvi are now mostly built for customers in Dubai. They are built alongside the River Rukmavati that runs through Mandvi.
The timber used is ‘sal’ wood (Shorea robusta) that grows in Malaysia. This wood is both extremely durable and water-resistant.
With the exception of electrical saws, much of the construction employs age old techniques as can be seen in these pictures taken by Adam Yamey in early 2018.
Discover much more about Kutch and the rest of Gujarat in “Travels Through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu” by Adam Yamey, available in paperback by clicking HERE
The same book is available on Kindle by searching Amazon for “Travelling through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu“
Mandvi is a small but significant seaport on the coast of Kutch. Formerly an independent kingdom, Kutch is now part of Gujarat State.
Here are some brief excerpts about Mandvi from Adam Yamey’s paperback book “Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu” (click here:NOW! )
ALSO available on KINDLE as “Travelling through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu” ( click here: HERE ! )
“After traversing a long multi-arched bridge across the wide mouth of the River Rukmavathi, we entered Mandvi. It has a population slightly over fifty thousand. It is no larger than many villages elsewhere in India but is an important centre with a seaport. We passed a circular stone bastion and a stretch of the old city walls attached to it before entering the old city through a lovely, old, narrow stone archway. Cowpats, to be used as fuel, were drying on its walls. Much of the rest of Mandvi’s once extensive fortifications have been destroyed in recent years.”
Cow dung drying on the remains of the city walls of Mandvi
“The bazaar is a tangled warren of narrow, smooth-surfaced lanes lined with shops and some venerable, picturesque buildings. The older buildings are embellished with verandas and upper-storey terraces and much nicely carved woodwork.”
“Numerous motorbikes and scooters wove their way through the crowds of pedestrians, who ambled along paying little or no heed to the motorised two-wheelers, whose owners sounded their horns unceasingly.”
“During our subsequent travels in Gujarat, we began to get used to mingling with vehicles that moved through bazaars, getting so close to us that we were almost hit by them. That we were never harmed by them is a testament to the skill of their drivers.”
“I managed to become detached from my companions and became quite lost in this picturesque environment because I was too busy taking photographs…”
“…Luckily, I knew the name of the shop, to which the others were heading. A kindly shop owner sent his shop assistant to lead me to the shop, where I was supposed to be.”
“I noticed a plastic building shaped like a dome. Standing on the shore, it reminded me of the hemispherical concrete bunkers that the Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha built all over Albania. This one had no defensive purpose. It was the fishermen’s office. Across the almost dried up mouth of the river on the opposite bank, we could see the large wooden boats being constructed in Mandvi’s ship yards.”
“Mandvi is well-known for its production of wooden dhows, which are sold to, and used in, the Arabian Gulf, mainly Dubai. The owner of one of the yards, whom we saw seated in a deck-chair, informed us that the timber for the boats is imported from Malaysia. It is not teak, but the highly durable and water-resistant sal wood (Shorea robusta).”
“After our shopping expedition, we drove to the nearby sandy Mandvi Beach by the Arabian Sea. We walked passed many flimsy-looking stalls and huts selling snacks and knick-knacks. Near these, there were horses and tattooed camels available for hire to visitors.”
“J drove us to the Shri Ambe Dham Mandir … Next to the mandir (temple), there is an alcove containing a greater than life-size model depicting Mother India wearing a gold-coloured crown and a robe (coloured orange, white and green) holding the National Flag of India. Behind her, there is a large map of India showing all of India’s states labelled in Gujarati script. Models of nine men wearing various Indian national costumes (including Sikh and Muslim) stand around the female figure.”
If you have enjoyed these excerpts, then read much more about Gujarat, Daman, and Diu by clicking:
It’s on the way: a new book by Adam Yamey to be published before autumn
Almost wherever you live, you are bound to have met members of the Gujarati diaspora. Yet, Gujarat in western India, where they originated, is hardly known or visited by foreign and Indian tourists.
My forthcoming book describes travels through an intriguing land with my wife. Her knowledge of Gujarati allowed us to speak with locals and gain their insightful views about Gujarat’s past, present, and future.
Join us in our adventures through the land where Mahatma Gandhi grew up and Lord Krishna ascended to heaven. Meet the people, and discover places whose beauty rivals the well-known sights of Rajasthan, Agra, and Delhi.