After visiting the famous Sayaji Baug, our next destination was the Vadodara Bus Station. We had read quite a lot about this station in the news. Some people even compared it to an airport. Interestingly, this bus station in Vadodara originally started out as an experiment. If it were to be successful, the station was planned to be replicated throughout various cities of Gujarat. After visiting the station, I can definitely say that it is unlike any bus station in India. I was also told that such bus stations are now planned to come up in 8 other locations.
Since the station isn’t too far from the Sayaji Baug, we just walked over from the garden to the station. It was a 20 minute walk. However, my recommendation is to take an auto rickshaw, as the walk is full of smoke and dust kicking up from passing cars. The distance from the Baug to the bus station is about 1.5 kms. Upon reaching the bus station, we initially thought we had reached a mall. There was a huge PVR cinemas (a popular movie hall chain) sign board on the main building along with a board that said “Ved Transcube Plaza“. We realized later on that Ved Transcube Plaza is the official name of the station. It is a unique concept where a private company has teamed up with the state government to “modernize” the local bus station.
(walking towards Vadodara Bus Station)
As we entered the area outside the station entrance, we noticed neatly lined-up stalls outside the main door, selling various street food items. These stalls were a modern version of street food hawkers who crowd out the approach road to a station in India. Surprisingly, there was also a practice cricket pitch laid out next to the front door along with a machine to fling tennis balls towards the player.
(area outside “Transcube Plaza” aka Vadodara Bus Station)
(a cricket practice pitch outside the station)
After passing through a mall-like security barrier, we headed straight inside the building. Upon entering, the first thing we felt was the cool air-conditioning and the bright lights of stores spread out over three floors. We walked towards the back of the building, wanting to explore the entire area before going to any of the shops.
(main entrance to the station building)
(inside the building)
As we were walking, we noticed that the building not only had retail shops, but also a dormitory, a bus-ticket counter, a tourist information office, a banquet hall and a “deluxe” waiting room. We even came across a large water fountain, but only part of it was functioning. As we reached the back of the building, we saw multiple boarding gates where buses came and went. It was a great place to people-watch, as we saw people from different regions of Gujarat, with different dressing styles and accents. Apparently, the bus station handles more than 30,000 passengers daily.
(walking towards the bus boarding gates)
(passengers at various boarding gates)
(passengers at various boarding gates)
Next we headed up to the retail shops. The first floor had various clothing and branded shops. But, the second floor was the best of the lot, as it had the Heritage Market and the Crazy Lanes. Both these areas stocked a collection of local Gujarati arts and handicrafts related products. The two most interesting stores were one selling traditional turbans, and another selling beautifully designed ladies footwear. It is well worth checking out the second floor stores if you are near the Vadodara Bus Station. By the time we were done visiting the shops, it was already dinner time. So, we did not have much time to check out the food court, the gaming area and the movie cinema.
We headed out of the bus station and searched for a rickshaw to take us to the upmarket area of Alkapuri. Alkapuri is like the downtown of Vadodara, where most of the well known shopping and food places are. Since we wanted to eat something light after a heavy Gujarati lunch earlier during the day, we went for some south Indian food. The locals had recommended a restaurant called Curry Leaves. This place had very high reviews for serving amazing south Indian food. It can be a bit tricky to find the restaurant though, as it is not located on the main Alkapuri/RC Dutt road. It is down a lane next to Standard Chartered Bank. Since we were not too sure where exactly Curry Leaves was either, we negotiated a fixed fare with the auto rickshaw to take us there rather than go by the meter. This tactic helps when you are in a new city and do not know much about the roads. With a couple of phone calls to the restaurant and some guidance from the people on the street, we managed to find the Curry Leaves restaurant.
The place was clean and hygienic, but a bit empty when we were there (it was about 8pm on Friday). We took a seat and ordered some Rassam-Idli and a Mysore Masala Dosa. Both were promptly served, delicious and well cooked. The chutneys were quite authentic as well (we got two types of them, the white coconut one and a red one). I highly recommend Curry Leaves if you are looking for some authentic south Indian food in Vadodara.
Thus, our first day in Vadodara ended. We were starting to get the hang of the roads and the various landmarks of the city. The food had been amazing too and its people were friendly. Next up on our visit list was perhaps the most famous landmark of Vadodara, the Laxmi Vilas Palace. More on that in the next blog post.