As Indian states go, Gujarat has a long way to go before becoming tourist friendly. It may be the homeland of many a global Indian (the Patel clan comes from there), but it’s lacking in some of the things that draw tourists, namely the Taj Mahal and alcohol.
Nevertheless, as Gujarat borders on Maharashtra, we decided to pay a weekend visit. Mind you, we didn’t go to the cities like Ahmedabad (home to Gandhi’s erstwhile ashram) or even to Surat. Instead, we flew into Rajkot and drove an hour to the village of Wankaner, a dusty, but bustling village and home to the Wankaner Palace.
Like most former Raj palaces, Wankaner has tried to position itself as a heritage hotel. A friend of ours had stayed there sometime back (“I’m personal friends with the Raj,” she said), so we figured we’d book. The idea sounded quirky enough, and we were under the impression that we’d be staying in the Ranjit Villas – in a real Maharaja’s palace! When we arrived, however, we found we were the only guests at the Motiwadi Royal Oasis, the summer residence of the Wankaners, just 2km away. As we would also discover, no one (other than, perhaps, close personal friends) is allowed to stay in the actual palace – the former Maharaja, Raj, and their family still live there – and no one even stays at the Royal Residency, as parts of it are still under renovation as a result of damage from the Bhuj earthquake.