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Published: February 14th 2008
I am in Rajasthan! Jodhpur! And this feels like the real INdia, quite different from Goa, where people are used to tourists... Right away, in the train, i could feel a bit of a different atmosphere. People are very curious, I see a lot of question marks in their faces. What is this woman doing alone here? And it could actually feel scary, but when you realize they are just puzzled, you also realize that it's quite a normal reaction in a country where women are not yet as "free" as we are in the west. And I think the best thing I solo woman traveling can do is wear their local clothes. The salwar kameez is one of the best way to show respect for their culture and it opens a way to the heart of many.
Just to explain that better, I have been in Jodhpur two full days now. And all I do here is walk down the streets looking for something (post office, train station, etc), getting lost and finding my way back. This takes the whole day. Jodhpur is a crazy city with nothing but backstreets and twisty roads. Looking at the map in the Lonely PLanet I thought it would be easy, but they only show about 20% of all streets , and they look a lot straighter on paper...
So i was walking down the street the first day, lost, and was rescued by a nice INdian who gave me a ride on his motor bike. Then yesterday, I walked in the same area again, not lost for once, and a young INdian came to ask me my name. He asked me if I was staying at Singvi's hotel, the only one in the neighbourhood. I said yes. So he walked with me and offered me to show me a lake very close to the hotel. And so I went. It was a lovely place, totally unknown of tourists because there is no way a guide book could tell you how to get there. But it was great. And the young fellow told me he had never seen a foreigner with a salwar kameez before, so he was surprise and asked the Gods to see me again the next day so he could talk to me!!! I couldn't believe it! That a person could be so happy to just talk to me! He thanked me 10 times for coming to see the lake with him, when in fact, I should be the one thanking him. He said "you were wearing blue yesterday. You understand my English? I never talked to a lady foreigner before...". It was Raju.
And today, VAlentine's day, I have been wished Happy Valentines by many. I read lots about people having bad experiences in India, but I have to say, so far, all I have seen of Indian is either people with questions marks in their eyes, or very very friendly people wanting to just say hello, asking me where I am from, etc. The kids are the most amazing, less shy, and they just love to say hello and will actually run back to me just to shake my hand. It is touching.
So, back to the train, after a half hour, and some switching of seats from the locals, I ended up sitting next to a very very colorful family. Many women, all dressed in yellow, orange, pink saris, and a few brothers. THey were looking at me first, really unsure. But after a few hours, with a lot of head wobbles, and smiles and stuff, we warmed up to each other and one of the guys started saying a few words in English and soon enough they were sharing their food with me, and buying me chai, and smiling and laughing and the women told me I looked like an Indian and we compared anklets and laughed again. It was fun, busy, tiring, but great. The guy showed me pictures of his family too, and it was OK with "my sister his son" (meaning his nephew) but I got lost when it came to "my sister his brother". But I guess it didnt matter in the end. I had company sharing my seat until I was ready to drop. Then I fell asleep and woke up to a very very cold morning in Rajasthan. Wearing sandals.
Then I was rescued by a rickshaw driver (they are supposed to be trying to rip people off? Well, I had a really different experience again. The guy was nice, and didn't charge me much and didn't ask for commission at my hotel...), I had intended to walk to my hotel but, this was such a crazy idea now that i know how confusing it is... I can only laugh at myself. SO I ended up in an amazingly beautiful haveli, a hotel that is on top of a hill, with a view from the top on the fort and the old city, and a room that is "expensive" ($15), but I thought I should treat myself after 2 nights in the train. And I love the place. I met some other travelers, one of them being a travel guide and we had a lot of fun chatting while looking at the sunset from the roof top.
SO jodhpur is a busy place. So many cows in the streets, and the new Jodhpur is insane but still fun to experience. I walked around a lot, the little streets with blue houses are so pretty. It is so scenic. I found the train station again yesterday and booked all my tickets for the rest of my trip. I was amazed that i could get a "ladies quota" and wait in line for the "ladies counter" in a country where women are so repressed... But they do have certain privileges and I was glad I wouldn't have to board a train without a reserved seat again! Then I went to an amazing restaurant, where I was the only person in the whole place! I had one of the local specialties and never had to eat again for the whole day.
I like Jodhpur, I like it's craziness, it's friendly people and huge contrast with my peaceful quiet life in the Yukon. I could stay here for another week. I wish I had more time. But I am going to Jaisalmer soon, to find my camel that will take me to the desert for the night of the full moon.
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