December to February is wedding season in India. Astrologically, it is a good time for holding significant events. As every year, we received quite a few wedding invitations this year and one of them happened to be near Vadodara, Gujarat. So, we made a short weekend trip to the city in late February. Though we were going to be busy with the wedding for most of our trip, we managed to find some spare time to explore Vadodara. As you might have guessed, one partial weekend turned out to be quite short for exploring what is widely considered to be the cultural center of Gujarat. We probably just skimmed the surface at best. But we had an interesting time, and this post is the first part of our Vadodara “micro-trip”. During our first evening, we visited the Sayaji Baug (garden).
Sayaji Baug is one of the famous landmarks of Vadodara. Sprawling over 113 acres of land, the garden is home to 98 different species of trees, a zoo with an interesting selection of more than 1100 animals and birds, lots of open spaces, a museum, a planetarium and much more. You can read all about its history and architecture here. We were advised to ride a toy train first up, as it would give us a good overview of the entire Baug (garden). So, we entered Sayaji Baug from gate #2, which is close to the train ticket counter. We bought our tickets and were directed to a waiting area, where we were seated in a queue.
(toy train approaching the waiting area)
(an apt name for the train)
(toy train got a lot of interest from kids and family audiences)
The train was named the Sayaji Express (not to be confused with the Sayaji Nagari Express 19115/6). The train could probably accommodate about 200 odd people, and ran on narrow tracks. A few minutes after we sat in the waiting area, we were joined by a large group of kids from a school. The group was on a picnic and judging from their enthusiasm, the toy train seemed like their most awaited attraction of the day. As the train pulled in, we were seated in an orderly manner, and we were off in a few minutes.
(on board the “Sayaji Express”)
(an enthusiastic group of children visiting from a village nearby)
The toy train is highly recommended, as it passes through various parts of the Baug, and gives you a good idea of places that you would want to explore once you are done with the ride. We went past various open spaces, playing areas and jogging tracks of the Baug. It was a very peaceful atmosphere, something of a rarity in cities across India. The cleanliness at the Baug was also quite impressive. Another thing that was appreciated by us was the exercising equipment which was free-to-use. There were weight training and cardio machines that allowed visitors to do various exercises and by making it free-to-use, the local government encouraged healthy living.
(looking out from the train)
(very clean and orderly atmosphere)
(an icon of Gujarat – Amul store)
(a water fountain in the middle of a small garden)
(one of the many kids playing areas)
(an outdoor gym with cardio and weight equipment)
(a clock made of flowers and grass)
After we passed what looked like a large clock made of flowers (and it showed the correct time too), we entered the zoo area of the Baug. The zoo area was divided into an aquarium, a section of birds and a section of animals. We saw some huge peacocks, some crocodiles, a lion and lots of gazelles. Since the train was moving, we did not have enough time to really check out the animals, and so we decided to revisit the zoo area after the train ride.
(toy train entering the zoo area)
(birds sitting on a tree)
The train ride lasted about 15 minutes in total. We were dropped back to the starting point at the end of the ride. From there, we walked towards the zoo. Along the way, we stopped at a point which overlooked the Baroda Museum and a row of water fountains. At a specified time in the morning, the sunlight refracts in a certain way and one can see rainbow-like colours through the gushing water of the fountains when standing at that point. We could not see these colours as it was evening time when we went. But the view still good enough to make this point a photo stop for lots of visitors, including ourselves.
(water fountain with Baroda Museum in the background)
Just after the Baroda Museum came an area with multiple flower beds. There were all kinds of flowers of various colours. There was also a very European looking building, which turned out to be a Health museum. Back in the day, it was a guest house for visitors to the Maharaja of Baroda.
(the Health Museum)
(the area outside the health museum is full of all sorts of flower beds)
We finally reached the zoo area only to discover that the bird section and the lion section was closed. It closes at 6pm, so make sure you go there early if you are planning a trip. We instead saw some other animals. Each enclosure is clearly labelled with the animal name, its habitat, its food preference and other such information. Such detail is another reason that makes the Sayaji Baug a great place for kids to visit. Among the most interesting animals we saw were crocodiles, gazelles, monkeys and spotted deer.
(in the zoo area)
(a species of Gazelle at the zoo)
(crocodiles relaxing just beyond the pool)
(well labelled signboards explain facts about various animals)
Before we knew it, we had spent about 2 hours at Sayaji Baug. We still had not visited the planetarium or the aquarium. We also only briefly walked around the Baug, but did not go to the various open spaces. We probably should have spared half a day for this awesome garden. But we were short on time, and had to visit other places too. As we headed out, we coudn’t help but think that if we were residents of Vadodara, then Sayaji Baug would be one of our favourite spots in the city. We had a great time there and I highly recommend anyone visiting Vadodara to check it out.
We were off to the new Vadodara Central Bus Station. More on that in the next blog post.
Items: Sayaji Baug Vadodara (Kamati Baug).
Price: Entry to Baug is Free. Toy train ticket is ₹40 per person.
Location: Near Kala Ghoda, Sayajiganj (almost city center). Telephone: 098795 97273.
How to get there: Take a rickshaw or taxi. Almost every driver knows Sayaji Baug or Kamati Baug.
Also Visit: Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara Central Bus Station
Notes: Gujarat Tourism site is here.