Eat your way across Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Out of Mumbai (530km)
Gujarat’s bustling capital city is usually associated with fafda, jalebi and other traditional (and vegetarian) Gujarati fare. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a thriving food scene, complete with meat and more. Let Bhatiyar Galli be the first stop on your culinary journey. From juicy chicken cutlets to succulent mutton tikkas, you’ll find a wide variety of mouth-watering meaty delights. After an evening of indulgence, if you find yourself craving another meat fix as early as 6am, go try Moti Mahal‘s iconic bheja fry. Be warned, it’s strictly for the hardcore carnivore. Since a trip to Ahmedabad is incomplete without snacking on some Gujarati snacks, drop by Chandravilas, which is known for dishing out the freshest fare. You can even see the fafda being fried – which is as fresh as it gets. End your eating sojourn with a traditional Gujarati thali at Agashiye. Go prepared for an elaborate feast though – this one ends with a decadent dessert and the need for a long post-meal nap.
Discover a kingdom of toys in Channapatna, Karnataka
Out of Bangalore (70km)
If you drive just an hour south-west out of Bangalore, you’ll reach a special little place. The tiny hamlet of Channapatna is home to one of India’s oldest crafts – lacquered wooden toys – and makes for a great quick getaway from Bangalore. While it’s also famed for its silk manufacturing units and the 1,200-year-old Sri Nadi Narasimha Swamy Temple, what makes Channpatna unique is its large community of over 300 artisan families crafting the distinctive wooden toys. Once the favoured toys of rural India, these small tough playthings in bright shades of indigo, red and turmeric, with their smooth, rounded edges, were traditionally associated with auspicious occasions like Dussehra. Set out to explore the little hamlet – you’ll run into craftsmen who will be more than willing to share the production process of the toys. From smiling caterpillars and dancing dolls to vibrant trains and trucks, you’ll find a large variety of toys to choose from, to take back home.
Go bird-watching on Lake Chilika, Odisha
Out of Kolkata (508km)
This time of the year, Lake Chilika, Asia’s largest brackish-water lagoon, turns into the winter home for a staggering variety of birds, some of which fly in from as far as Mongolia and Russia. Begin your bird-watching experience at Mangalajodi, a little hamlet on the northern edge of the lake. Keep your eyes peeled – you’ll find an abundance of open-billed storks, flocks of black tailed godwits, and even purple moorhens, locally known as Chilika chicken. Carry a pair of binoculars, take a local guide along, and you’ll spot several never-before-seen avian species. If you do wish to take a break from bird-watching, there’s nothing better than catching sight of some Irrawaddy dolphins at play. The distinctive feature about these dolphins is their large melon head and the absence of the beak that is normally associated with these aquatic mammals. If you’re lucky, be at your patient-best and keep your eyes on the water, you might even catch them leaping high into the air!