The Vijay Vilas Palace belongs to the Jadeja Kings of Kutch. Mr. Siddique the taxi owner and driver asked me when we entered Mandvi if I would like to go to the hotel first or visit the palace. I opted for visiting the palace. Wikipedia tells me that Vijay Vilas Palace has been built by King Khengarji III for his son and heir Vijayaraji. The construction started in 1920 and it was completed in 1929.
The entry fee is 20 rupees and the camera fee is 50 rupees. The space around the palace is huge but people mostly see the palace and walk away. I thought I would like to walk around the complex too but I took so much time inside the palace that I had to give up on walking around.
I am not very imaginative but when I looked at this room I was wondering what it would be like to sit down and have a cup of tea in this room. Better still, how would it feel to sit alone or with friends with legs folded on the sofa, the way we do at home! I guess it would feel like being a king or a queen?
A little while later I came upon an even better place for tea! The palace was not too crowded. The walls have a lot of photographs explaining various events around the palace and the family.
The view from the top floor of the palace is to die for. From the top you have uninterrupted 360 degree view of the surroundings. It is quite soothing. Without the petrol fumes it feels quite close to heaven actually! I liked it so much that I sat down for a while doing nothing. Others had the same idea. People walking around the place kept mentioning that movie Lagaan was shot here. Later I found out that not only Lagaan but Hum Dil De Chuke Hain Sanam has also been shot here.
I came down and sat for a while on the lower level as well. I witnessed an interesting conversation between Maan Singhji and two Delhi type SLR toting yuppies. Maan Singhji told them to move on as they had been sitting in the palace doing nothing for the last two hours! They initially protested but then moved on. I started chatting with him saying the place was so beautiful that one wanted to sit down.
He told me that he has been with the palace for last 32 years and his parents were caretakers as well. He mentioned that the King and his family still uses the palace in summers, otherwise they live in Mumbai. I asked if the place had air-conditioning but he said it was not required it remained cool in summers too. He pointed out that there was a 80 year old life in this palace though it was not functional anymore.
After a quick walk around the main palace compound I decided to head back. I am told that they offer luxury tent accommodation on their private beach but I wonder if I will ever give it a try!
To me Rukmavati Guest House (Mandvi, Gujarat) was recommended by Mr Krutarthsinh Jadeja from Devpur. When I walked into the place I saw a Tripadvisor sticker on the door. I made a mental note to talk about it. I was greeted by Mr. Vinod the owner of the place. After some confusion over my arrival dates, he took me to my room and asked if I would stay. I happily decided to stay.
Rukmavati Guest House is a budget place so I paid 600 rupees per night for the room. It was the single occupancy rate. There is no catering (other than tea, very important and basic breakfast) available but you can order by the phone from local restaurants for food to be delivered to the guest house which then will be served to you. It worked fine for me.
While handing over my identity proof I started chatting with Vinod Bhai. His wife and he told me that their twin daughters attend school in the US as Mr. Vinod’s elder brother is there. I asked his wife if she missed the kids. She said the kids would have moved out of Mandvi anyway after 10th as there were no good schools around, so they might as well move to the US.
It was one of the rare days when I sat for two hours and read a book at the terrace of the Rukmavati Guest House. It has a huge terrace, part of it you can see in the video. Now that is how a vacation should be! But I do so little of reading a book or doing nothing! In the night I was sitting on a table outside my room to have dinner. My companions were a lady from Spain and a gentleman from Austria. The lady asked if I had a family to which I said yes. Then she qualified it, was my family with me at Mandvi, to which I said no. It looked like that answered the question she had!
The Austrian gentleman told me that in the about 10 years ago he was supposed to go to Indonesia that didn’t happen. He came to India instead and since then he has been coming back to India. Indonesia never happened! After talking for 45 minutes we decided to call it a day. We never asked each-other’s names!
But the most killer conversation was with Vinod Bhai when I asked him about Tripadvisor sticker. This is what he told me- “yes some people go and write somewhere on the internet, something called Tripadvisor. Then one day Tripadvisor sent me some papers saying mine is a good guest house. I thought I would put the sticker on the gate.” When I expressed my surprise he added, “I believe in running my guest house well, rest is not in my hands.”
The next day I had an early start to the Rannof Kutch. If you are looking for a budget accommodation in Mandvi you will like Rukmavati Guest House.
Mandvi was on my radar on this visit to Kutch because I wanted to go near the sea. The Vijay Vilas Palace (post pending) was a bonus for me. I just spent one night there but then most of my vacations are like that, so I am not going to complain. I just made sure that I got to spend the evening at the Mandvi beach so that I could catch the sunset. And I have been rewarded with many beautiful pictures.
Before the sunset I actually waked away from the crowds on the beach. For half a kilometer, where people converge the beach is littered. It is not too bad but it is not clean as well. Hence I walked away half a kilometer and enjoyed the clean stretch of the beach. But I knew that at sunset I would get better pictures on the beach as there were horse buggies, camel men and people around.
As I was clicking the first camel, there came another camel across my frame. As I was using a heavy 75-300 mm lens on a tripod I could not do much. I managed only a partial capture before the second camel man stopped some distance from the first one. Later in the evening I was thinking I am now prone to turning my holidays into work as well with lenses, tripod and pictures to worry about. But for quite sometime I don’t think I am going to get detached and be happy just to watch a sunset!
Soon another camel came into the view. As they stood next to each-other and started chatting I got an opportunity to change the lens and click all of them together. And while I am writing this I am thinking lucky are those who sit and just stare at sunset without worrying about f stops, ISOs and silhouettes. Like in the picture above how I wish I moved a little so that glow line of the sun was separate from the legs of the camel! Well, there is going to be a next time!
This post is part of Skywatch Friday. Do check them out. I have now been doing these posts for years, it is so addictive.