Bhuj, the major town of
Kutch, is an old walled
city- in the past the city gates were locked each night from dusk to dawn. You can lose yourself for hours in the intricate maze-like streets and alleyways of this
fascinating town. There are walls within walls, attractive
crenellated gateways, old palaces with intricately carved wooden pavilions, and striking, brightly decorated Hindu temples. Bhuj resembles much of India before the tourist invasion, and you're much more likely to come across that
disarming hospitality which was once the hallmark of rural India. Unfortunately if there has been no monsoon, the picturesque lake remains dry.
The tourist of ice (Tel: 20004), housed in the. Aina
Mahal, is staffed by the very
helpful Mr. PJ Jethi, who is a mine of information on anything to do with Bhuj and
Kutch. It's possible to arrange a guide (Rs 300 per day) through the tourist office. Ask Mr. Jethi for details. The office is open daily from 9 am
to 11.45, and 3 to 5.45 pm except Saturday. It sells a small booklet about Kutch for Rs 5, or there's a more informative one for Rs 25. Excellent postcards are also sold here for around Rs 5 each. Changing money in Bhuj is a big
problem. The State Bank of India on Station Rd offers money-changing facilities; however, it seems to favour Thomas Cook travellers cheques (weekdays, from noon to 3 pm). The Hotel Prince will change money for their guests.
you feel like taking refreshing dip, there's a swimming pool at the Lakeview Restaurant, at the south end of the lake. It's open to the public from 7 to 10 am, and 2.45 to 5.45 pm
(Rs 10 for 45 minutes). The GPO is about a five
minute auto-rickshaw ride from the bus stand. There is also a branch in Darbar
Gadh, in the walled city.
The Indian Airlines office (Tel: 21438) is open daily from 10 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 to 4.30 pm. There are four flights weekly to Mumbai (US$85). Gujarat Airways (Tel: 25198) also has four flights weekly to Mumbai (LIS$90). As the Indian Air Force has a base at the airport, there is tight security there.
The private bus companies have their offices in the bus stand area, and have services to Rajkot (six hours, Rs 60), Mumbai (18 hours, Rs 450), Ahmedabad (seven hours, Rs 90 for a seat, or Rs 140 for a berth - yes, sleeper coaches!), and other areas in Gujarat. Patel Tours, Sahjanand Tours and MK Tours can all book sleeper coaches. STC buses run to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan via Rathapur and Tarada (15 hours, Rs 163). For other places in
Rajasthan, such as Abu Rd, Ajmer and Jaipur, you'll need to get a bus to
Palanpur, and a second bus from there. There are regular departures to the villages of
Kutch; see Around Bhuj for details.
New Bhuj railway station is one km north of town down a little back road from the north gate
(Sarpat Gate) of the old town. It's possible to travel to Ahmedabad via palanpur (491 km, 16 hours, Rs 128/382), but it's quicker to get a train or bus to Gandhidham to connect with the overnight
Gandhidham Kutch Express (300km, seven hours). The total rail fare
ex-Bhuj is Rs 115/410 in 2nd
1st class. To book a ticket, you don't have to face the hassle of going out to the railway station. For Rs 20, some travel agents will make the reservation for you. One place that offers this service is Hemal Travels (Tel: 22491), near the bus stand.
A share taxi to Mandvi is Rs 20. They leave from the STC stand.
An auto-rickshaw to the railway station costs Rs 20, and to the airport, at least Rs 30. From Darbar Gadh to the
bus stand shouldn't cost more than Rs 8. There are places renting bicycles along the road outside the bus stand
(Rs 3 per hour, Rs 20 per day Scooters such as Vespas and Honda Heroes can be hired from the scooter hire shop close to
the bus stand. However, they're not economical, at Rs 200 to Rs. 250 per day, though you may 16 to negotiate a discount for longer rental.