Road to the West (Part II) : Conclusion
Updated: Mar 4, 2022
Transcending from Rajasthan to Gujarat can be an eye-opener experience. We had heard so much about fluid roads of Gujarat, however, our experience was a complete 180 degrees opposite. We never expected so bumpy roads while entering Gujarat from Jaisalmer towards Bhuj. Though highways were “Work in progress” around Bhuj but coming from Rajasthan, our expectations were at an all-time high and so was the disappointment level.
Sitting on many crown jewels, Gujarat has numerous reasons for tourists to pour and celebrate its man-made as well as natural marvels. This is where you feel the struggle of what to cover and what to skip. Given our constraints, we had Diu as the last stop so the whole itinerary was planned such.
And the trip continues:
Day Wise Itinerary
Day 5: Land of Kutch – “Kuch din to bitao Gujarat me” astonishingly simple yet powerful advertising by Gujarat tourism keeps on playing in your mind as soon as you move towards Kutch. Kutch festival extends from Dec till Feb every year and at every turn, one will see promotional hoardings/entrances while crossing swamps on way to Kutch. It is suggested to plan in a way to reach Kutch around 1:00 PM and still be able to enjoy all things and if you reach earlier than that, you will be tired by sunset (weather is too hot and humid) even at the end of December.
Kutch's visit can be segregated into four segments. and most of the time we kept on roaming in between Segment II and Segment IV throughout.
Segment I – Tent City, Dhordo
The first man-made structure that you will come across will be Tent City, Dhordo a magnificent temporary yet luxurious structure in Kutch where people stay back to enjoy white sand lands. They are highly expensive and confined only for the people with prebooking or booking for a stay. You can maximum go till the entrance and car parking.
Segment II – National Trade Fair and Food Bazaar
Please do not confuse Tent city with the Kutch festival as only after crossing the tent city, the beauty of Kutch and its festival begins. You will have to enter the restricted area as this is very near to the border so permissions are required (it can be applied online to avoid waiting in the queue through this link). Just after the barrier, there is a setup similar on lines of “International Trade Fair” with multiple outlets below one roof, and adjacent to it is the food corner. Food options are average to good (nothing will be amazing but good enough to fill tummy). Gujarat govt. is heavily promoting local tourism and it dedicates one section to growing tourist locations like Statue of Unity, Narmada river camping among others. The shopping arena is good and economical. You can shop from clothes to house decor, handmade to machine-made, stitched to unstitched everything is available in the fair. You can even try your bargaining prowess as well.
Segment III – Fun Activities and Cultural events
The next section after the trade fair is some more campsites and adventurous activities like ATVs, jeep-led paragliding. A temp stage has also been constructed for cultural activities which start around sunset time,
Segment IV – White sand beauty
This is where the road ends and on the horizon is nothing but white salt and nothing else. Govt has built a four-story podium for people to enjoy the picturesque beauty from atop. One can walk on the sand swamps but has to be very cautious as at places swamps tend to cave in and you may land deep into the marsh. Hence not at all places can venture one into the salt marsh. It's better to observe people and decide where one can venture into the white lands. In Segment IV there are multiple activities like horse riding, camel riding, and buddy ride one can try. Do try snacks and shakes here, it's amazing.
Around Segment III, there is space to venture with cars (on the west side, and makes a perfect spot for sunset) however think twice before venturing deep onto salt land as many cars/travelers get stuck in marshland. We observed more than 10 cars being plowed or pushed to just get out of the swamp muds.
Around sunset, the beauty level magnifies to 100x and as soon as darkness takes over, electrical decorations all along the road leading to marshes are astonishing and will force you to take the camera out.
Kutch tents from appearance were nothing like Jaisalmer tents and extremely expensive, so we decided to stay back in Bhuj. Therefore, when we were done and dusted, we went back to Bhuj. However, it is totally up to you, where to hold your ground, if you are interested in sunrises, you would like to stay back in tents nearby.
Day 6: It's Relaxing, It's Beach: This was more of a relaxing day as we tried to avoid heavy-duty traveling and get some rest by enjoying the sunny side of the beach. There are multiple options to explore, around Kutch there is a lake and Bhuj fort (going under some serious renovation in Dec 2020) that can be explored. Considering our options, we opted for a beach i.e. Mandawi beach with unrealistic sunset in the Gulf of Kutch. It is at max 2 hours drive from Bhuj and the roads are good but not great. Mandawi beach is not like a typical Goa beach however it offers some good snacks and water sport activities. They are very general but quite appealing to the local audience. If this is your first time on beachside sports, do try out Thar/Jeep motorized parasailing. It is fun and gives immense pleasure when sailing right next to the ocean, sun, and windmills (though non-operational).
Beach is not very clean and tourists do not take responsibility for keeping a public beach clean which at times is disgusting however as you move along with the beach, after covering some distance crowd will be left behind and bringing in the beauty
Around mid-evening, we were back to Bhuj and spent the rest of the day with good food and great company.
Day 7: Roads of Gir and Diu Glance: After a refresher day, we were all set to leave for our final stop, Diu. We again left early in the morning with a light breakfast. We planned to reach Diu by lunchtime however we got excited when we learned that we might cross Gir in between and decided to go for a jungle safari. Google maps took us to roads which were interior of Gir forest, we got lost and spent hours traversing jungle roads at 10kmph. Thankfully, we were put on track by a group of local lads on our route to Diu. After spending more than 3 hours in Gir with few sightings of deers and bad roads, we were back on road to Diu.
It was around 4 PM when we reached Diu, roads were pathetic from Bhuj to Diu (or maybe Google maps took us for a hellish ride). Inside Diu, everything was different as if the city was charged up and decorated better than a Royal fort. All these preparations were done for the Indian President visiting the UT during the Christmas days. Diu was given a shape lift overnight and it looked like a gem as the sunset approached. We had our supper and quickly freshened up and went on to Nagoa beach that was nearby. The Beachline has a walking path slightly similar to Mumbai’s Marine Drive that looks so amazing in the evening and people were having a family get-together to have picnics around the path with sealine singing melodies in the backdrop.
To our astonishment, we reached the end of Nagao beach where we found a beeline of snack centers and a lot of recently inaugurated seaside food eateries, and the whole street decorated with Christmas lights. We were teleported to whole another world in Diu, even though we were tired to our core, we spent more than three hours just roaming on the streets and enjoying delicious snacks. Diu has that European touch and you get similar vibes as soon as you step into Diu.
Day 8: Exploits of Diu: We started our day with a visit to Naida caves to explore it in tranquillity. These caves hold historic importance as they provided natural cover and shield to the Indian army to overcome the Portuguese army in annexing Diu. These caves are photogenic and provide amazing background to have some amazing clicks. Though cave restoration is always a work in progress be wary of roaming in places marked for no entry. Also, as there is a minimal charge so maintenance is on the lower side, and dark corners will be full of mosquitoes so carry a mosquito repellent with you. Our next stop was INS Khukri Memorial that was very recently renovated for mass gatherings and public events. To our luck, President inaugurated that place a night ago. The transformation was surreal in comparison to the photos that Google had before the new upgrade. INS Khukri’s scaled model is amazing and covered by hard glass making it visible yet untouchable for the audience. On all sides of the glass, you can read about Indian heroes that were part of the INS Khukri crew. Though the sun was shining in its full glory, every moment spent there exploring the rocks around the memorial was worth it. With the temperature rising, our next stop was to relax on the beachside. Of some great beaches, we finalized on Goghla beach as it was clean, less rocky, and less crowded. Recently it was given a shape lift and it now has the cleanest changing and shower area that we had ever seen in India. We spent a good few hours enjoying ourselves on a sunny beach before we left to call it off. Our next stop was Radhika beach, however on reaching that beach we found it was a waste of time, the beach was really dirty and had a heavy stink of fish. So we went towards Nagao beach while enjoying sunset en route. There is a sunset point just along the roadside, giving a perfect over the hill view of the Arabian Sea. Sunset experience from here is enthralling and surprisingly beautiful.
Day 9: And the descend began: It was time now to return to the nest, and we began early in the morning as we missed an important monument in Diu – The Diu fort. We went again with Google maps which mentioned that the fort opens early in the morning around 6:00 AM however on reaching the fort we found it was not open for business. It was very disappointing as we were looking forward to spending some time in the fort. We altered our plan and decided to watch the sunrise from the outskirts of the fort. Diu fort has rugged hills overlooking the sea and the terrain is graded. It is different from all other locations we have been to. Throughout the trip we only spent time looking at the sun setting after a day’s travel, now we were able to start our day with the sun rising as we start our journey back. We planned to reach Mt Abu/Udaipur by end of the day so most of the day we were traveling via pathetic state roads. Till Ahmedabad, we were just praying for the road nightmare to end. You will not find any good options for food from Diu till Ahmedabad, so we suggest you pack along something before starting the journey. The only food options available were limited to Gujarati fried snacks. It was only in Ahmedabad where we could find decent food and a place to sit. Post heavy lunch we were back on road and reached Abu road just a little over sunset where we stayed the night.
Day 10: Fort roads and glimpse of home We again left early and reached Chittorgarh fort mid-morning. Astonishingly, all the forts we visited on this trip are unique, different, and amazing at the same time. Just like Jaisalmer fort, it’s a living fort. You can apply online or pay at the entry, and again like any other Rajasthan Fort, you will be swarmed by guides or pretend guides. Selecting a guide is a personal choice. All the noteworthy places inside the fort, like King’s palace, Queen’s palace among others are approachable by vehicle, and google maps are near perfect. Chittorgarh fort proudly promotes their royalty. Queen Padmavati belonged to this heritage. Fort has lineage and heritage that is visible from every stone in the fort. Inside the fort's museum ancestry has been beautifully explained. It is worth going through the details to learn how Rajasthan got what it has. At the bottom (near the entry and exit) of the fort, you will find restaurants offering authentic local delicacies and they are all worth a try. After brunch, we resumed our journey back home. We took a night halt in Jaipur and resumed our journey to a place called "home" the next day.
Gujarati snacks like Dhokla and Thepla are some of their gifts to the world and we do enjoy them (sorry but our inclination is more towards Rajasthani delicacies) so we went with basic food and easy accessibility:
Bhuj: Our stay had amazing food offering so did not explore much outside except for Domino’s Pizza
Kutch: In Kutch, food options are limited and as mentioned in Segment II you will get multi snack multi cuisine food at this place.
Diu: Diu is a small UT and there are some very good restaurants. Our first option was O’coqueiro where we had lunch, food was amazing as well as the ambiance, but a little pricey. Food shacks at the end of the Nagao beach were also good, try the drinks and snacks. We also tried the food at Hotel Sea View Bar and Restaurant and it was not worth it. Neither the ambiance nor food.
Ahmedabad: There is no end to food options in a metro city, you can try as per the food liking, we ended up at Crush Coffee and Burger king en route
Chittorgarh: When in Rajasthan, Dal Bhaati Choorma is a must. We did not spend time searching for a good restaurant however luckily we got a good option at the fort exit. You will find people distributing restaurant pamphlets in the fort and they will accompany you till the time you have made a decision. We opted for Rajasthan Restaurant and we were happy with the our choice both on flavour and pocket.
Bhuj: Bhuj has good hotels due to its industrial complex, we were in the mood of little luxury so we went ahead with Regenta Resort. It is an amazing resort, though our rooms were not that good due to their small size. Other than that we had no complaint with the resort. Food is next level, location is good, it have hilltop swimming pool overlooking Bhuj and then the best thing: It has "10 Hole" Mini golf course which we enjoyed thoroughly. We also spent another night at Tulsi Residency and it was also strategically located for our itinerary, rooms are good and the food is also good.
Diu: We chose to go ahead with Rainbow Resort, its façade perfectly hides the package, and as soon as you are inside it gets incredible at all levels. There is a swimming pool in the center with a huge glass-top aquarium around the pool.
Abu Road: During our return journey we took a halt. We opted for Hotel The Hind and found it cost effective stay with good food.
Jaipur: We opted for Airbnb in Jaipur and got an amazing 2BHK apartment with all amenities and excellent upkeep. The hosts were amazing and cordial (unfortunately it’s no more listed on Airbnb)
Our journey spend totaled up to INR 80k for this trip for three
Fuel spend: We spend around INR 15.5k on fuel and INR2.5k on tolls during this journey
Stay spend: One of the major cost head and we spent around INR45k where we mostly had two rooms and out of this INR 20k were spent in Bhuj (Regenta Resort) where we had three rooms.
Misc spend: Misc in this case included food, beach sport activities and souvenirs
After 10 days, 5 cities, 3250 KMs, multiple places, and countless memories wrapped one of our longest road trips across west India. Transitioning back to routine life gets difficult when you conclude such an amazing trip.
Till next time!! Stay Safe and Travel, Mi Amor!!