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Published: October 31st 2009
Gujarat... A state not as well known to us Westerners as are other ones such as Rajasthan, Goa, Kashmir, etc... And it makes it very interesting because I can really feel like this is a more authentic indian place, where people are not as used to tourists as they are in more tourist-oriented places. It is not that remote, but still, it is far from the big markets you find in Goa, or the 10 page menus you see in restaurants trying to cater to everybody with american, italian, chinese and israeli food all in one place.
Gujarat is very close to Pakistan with a mix of hindu and muslim cultures, a very dry and hot climate right now, and the same noisy organized chaos one can find everywhere in INdia!!! Same cows, same dogs, but add a few goats this time.
I arrived in Mandvi today after a drive in a shared taxi. The rule with shared taxis is this: if you think it is full, it means you can probably fit at least two more people. This time I was lucky and sat between two women and a baby. I then arrived at a wonderful guest house, Rukmavati. The owner is the sweetest and most helpful indian gentleman, he gave me a sheet full of info regarding hotel services, things to see and do in Mandvi and around the village, he gave me a tour of the hotel where one can have unlimited amount of filtered water, access to a fridge, cooking facilities, hot water in the bathroom, etc, etc. Beautiful patio too, just too hot right now. I love it. He also gave me a map of the village, but somehow it always ALWAYS seems a lot easier on paper... Still, I managed to find the restaurant where I wanted to go for a great gujarati thali (with a little help from 2 local guys) and better yet, I found my way back to the hotel! The good thing here is that when 2 bigger roads meet, they have a statue of somebody in the middle, so I try to remember if the statue was facing my way or some other way to remember where to go on the way back. Really handy.
So I love it here. And yet I get so much attention when I walk down the streets that sometimes I feel really shy. I only saw 10 other tourists in Gujarat so far, so I guess we really stick out. Also being a solo woman traveler, and being "very high" (tall), it's hard to go unnoticed. But everybody smiles at me, they go out of their way to just say hello, and it's all very pleasant. I have more communication problems here than anywhere else I have been in INdia so far, fewer people speak English, very few shop signs have english writing, and although I know hindi letters, gujarati script is different so there is no hope here. But it's great, we laugh a lot and somehow it all works out. Yesterday I was asking for the "khadi shop". Khadi shops sell amazing fabrics. But people tried to point out "candy shops". Happy Halloween!
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