A one night sojourn to the heartland of Gujjuland i.e. Jamnagar which was en route my native place Jodiya made me trace back my genes to being a total foodie and my undying affinity towards food. The talkative, the food lovers, the bargaining sorts you know you'll find all the gujjus here.
Jamnagar has been synonymous to jalebi and fafda for all the other communities at large. But my one night sojourn will attempt to tell you what lies in this nagar beyond the banal jalebi and fafda routine. The journey to Jamnagar from Mumbai is a good 14 hour run in the Saurashtra Mail that takes off from Mumbai about 8-25pm. It is preferable to take a three tier AC if one wants to enjoy the entire next day without signs of fatigue. General sleeper is the fun sorts but leaves you with lesser energy for next day as the sleep would be disturbed. With the usual delay in train incidents one lands in Jamnagar at about 12:30pm the next day. One already starts witnessing men in white cotton Kediyas and a white turban and the traditional ladies with a unique attire of a choli, a ghaghra, a dupatta, some jewellery and black tattoo like artwork all over their hand.
Where to stay? You will be surrounded by Rickshaw walas and Chakda walas (yes that's what the local vehicle is called) as soon as you step out of the station like a piece of jaggery encircled by flies. Asking them for good hotels will land you only at a hotel where you will be paying commission for your chakdawala. We did that mistake; you don’t do it and read this article instead to exactly know where to stay. So the best way to go about is that you tell them confidently that you want to go to Teen Batti area (which is about 5km and has most of the decent hotels). The fares should be nothing more than rupees 10 per person for the journey if the chakdawala is trying to squeeze in 6-8 ppl in the chakda. However if you want to book the entire Chakda for yourself rupees 80 is what they will demand and only little bargaining is possible. Lots of drivers will crowd around you while you talk to one so figure a way out to talk to talk to them one at a time. Then after good 15 - 20 minute ride you land at Teen Batti area which pretty much looks like a junction and around it you will find Madras Hotel (which is famous in jamnagar ironically) and Rajmahal for dining. For stay your first option should be Punit hotel located 3 minutes from Madras Hotel if you are looking for a slightly high end stay with big Ac rooms’ charges at Rs. 800 per room and a suite for 4 pax would be 2k inclusive of taxes. The rooms and services both are good however it would be good to check it out before one pays for it. Another slightly up-scale hotel would be Kirti Hotel again situated at the junction and diagonally opposite to Punit hotel at a distance of 3-4 mins. Prices are around the same with a few bucks here and there however there is a little scope of bargaining here. Cheaper ones would be Kum Kum Hotel and Araam guest house in the same vicinity but once again, please ensure you see the rooms before you pay if you are picky about mediocrity. Food in the hotels would definitely be expensive and worthless so the best option is to jump to the local Brahmaniya Thali Lodge which is at the distance of Hop Skip and Jump from Kirti Hotel. The food is sumptuous, light on the stomach and conveniently priced at Rs120 for an unlimited Gujarati Thali which includes three vegetables (Two normal and one pulses or Chana) one farsan (could be Khandvi, Dhokla, Bhajiya etc), lots of chaas which becomes really interesting after a dash of jeera powder, Ghee wala phulkas (Tiny, thin, soft and light rotis), Kadhi (something to look out for because of its unmatchable taste) daal , Rice, papad, onions, pickles, chutney etc. Unfortunately the sweets are chargeable at Rs. 40/- but it has a lot of variety as well. Another locality for food is the street opposite of Govind hospital which one sees enroute while travelling from Station to Teen Batti area. One would also find lots of street food options near the Masjid near Chandi Bazaar, the thela of Vegetable Cone is a look-out for.
Must do - Must buy - Must go Specialities Bandhini is undoubtedly a specialty of Jamnagar and leaving Jamnagar without purchasing the colorfully dyed material would leave the trip without its proper closure. Best Bandhini Work for saris and dresses - Mahavir Stores which is not exactly a store but a two-storeyed store located near Jain Derasar and the Chandi Galli. All the locals swear by its credibility and purity and is a must go. They have a plethora of variety in saris,materials etc and picking one atleast is inevitable (Old Mahavir stores is shifted is relocated closeby.) Chandi Payals - Another elongated and scrawny lane which all jamnagris swear by is the Chandi Galli. It claims to have some of the purest works in Silver and Gold however it boasts more of Silver. The payals come in cheap and affordable and some of them have really good designs. Bargaining is allowed at most of the places and one mustn't risk spending much there. My best bet was lovely silver payal.
Food Best quick bites - Shrikhand Samrat is a shop-cum-thela situated right outside the dargah exit of the Chandi galli. The boisterous Gujju owner will treat you to its best meals if you get involved in some banter with him. The Cheese Basket Kachori and Kesar filling Pedas are a look out for. But there's a lot of other finger licking fast food as well like Dabeli, Franky and Pani puri again very modestly priced at Rs. 30-40. They also claim to offer a plethora of upvaas dishes which takes them to an unmatchable pedestal for quick food places. The little store-cum-thela boasts pictures of Narendra Modi coming there and a peda being named after him called the NaMo peda. I vouch for the taste. Best Pan- Jamnagar is known for its Pans and that one would know only of this when one lands there and sees multiple pan joints at every street turning. As pan stalls are as many as there are Vada pav stalls in Mumbai it would be difficult to scout for the perfect panwala. In my one night sojourn I found out Manoobhai paanwala which is in a lane opposite Kirti hotel and behind President hotel but is worth the hunt as it's meetha pan for 10 bucks is nothing but sheer addiction. I guess the paan is just an excuse, for the Gujarati’s to leave their homes post dinner at night to huddle up and chat. Pretty much their local CCD. Goti Soda/Masala Soda - There is something about the Masala they put as one wouldn't mind dunking it down thrice a day with a consistent routine. Its savory, tasty and addictive. In any nook and cranny of the lanes. Masala soda will make you it's best friend within a day guaranteed. Chaas - You would find that in the thali as a loyal accompaniment. This desi beer has some addiction to it and the jeera powder makes it super yum and digestive. The more you have it's less. Best Gola - The traditional dish gola or chamchi gola as fondly called spares you from the trouble of sucking up the juices and dunking the gola repeatedly inside the class. This dish gola is filled with dollops of goody goodies like oodles of Malai, shredded Dry Fruits, Jelly, succulent flavors and the quintessential ice. Extra servings of Malai and Dryfruits are unfortunately chargeable, however it is not pertinent to go for one as the first serving itself is good enough to never let us get the taste of plain ice. However a better idea would be to watch your Golas being prepared live and then asking him to add things according to your needs. It is not difficult to spot the Gola Wala as one would not miss it because of the crowd perpetually sitting on stools right outside the thela. On a quiet street like that this seems to attract the most residents and tourists looking for a mid-night snack. The menu has a plethora of indulgences to append to your calories, the chocolate one was the most called for however we called our dips on the Rajbhog Gola and Dryfruit Gola. Both worked well for us and filled us up happily as we went the usual 4 by 2 system. Easy to locate this thela is again about a 10 minute walk from the President Hotel and somewhere falls around Pancha Towers. However a quick chat with any if the helpful shopkeepers around President Hotel will land you there rightly. The Golas are moderately priced with the most yummy and heavy Gola just making a small hole in the pocket worth Rs. 40. Of course one can’t sign off from the Jamnagar Travelogue without a mention of the ultimate Jalebi Fafda which the city is known for. The one’s near Gurudwara (which is pretty famous) are the yummiest ones and freshly prepared every morning. The papaya salad which accompanies it is worth an extra serving. For the chai lovers please pick an extra packet of fafda as it goes perfect with the chai. Other places to explore are the food stalls located near Govind Hospital and a couple of temples situated at the outskirts if one wants to go all touristy as well. Jamnagar closes down in the afternoon as they need their afternoon siesta so one could shut themselves up in the room when the sun shines at its brightest.
Afternoon most of the shops are shut so avoid venturing out between 1-4ish. They are particular about their post lunch siesta so it would be better to respect that and have an extra glass of chaas to get the perfect sleep post lunch. The local internal travel costs generally 5 rupees a seat on the local rickshaw fondly called as the Chakda and if they asking for more bargaining is the way to go. However a long distant travel to a a neighboring village around 45 kms away costed us a meager Rs. 400 for a one way journey. It would be interesting to come here during navratri as the place would be done up and all colorful. Ofcourse Jamnagar has its share of touristy places like the temples and lakes closeby which I've intentionally missed out on as they are easily googlable. Overall its a good enough place to stop by explore and relax back for a day. It's definitely a foodie's delight if not a foodie's paradise. Happy trippin