Googling to Gujarat!

Old Feb 19th, 2017, 11:20 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
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Looking forward to your eloquent descriptions of Gujarat!
indianapearl is offline  
Old Feb 20th, 2017, 05:55 PM
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I'm also on board waiting to hear about places less traveled and fearful that I'll have even more places to put on my list after reading about your experiences. Have a blast.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2017, 03:20 PM
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Hi Calinurse, hope you are having a good time and the weather is pleasant too.

Haven't heard from you for a few days, guessing it may be difficult to get internet connections in some places.

Waiting to hear from you about your great adventures.

Have a safe and memorable trip.
ileen is online now  
Old Mar 4th, 2017, 09:34 PM
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Thanks again for all above wishes! I returned this morning after a trip that was even better than I'd hoped! Gujarat is an amazing unique state, and quite different from many other parts of India. Culture shock between Gujarat and neighboring Rajasthan (where I spent three days in Udaipur at trips's end) was almost as great as that between India and the USA.

There are few other Western tourists. There's virtually no hassling, pressure to buy, or shopkeepers' greetings "Namaste, Madam--you are from...? " as a sales pitch that's part of the experience, for better or worse, of many better known spots in the "golden triangle" and other areas which see lots of folks like me and you. No "Candy? Pen?" or car-window-tapping from little kids. Instead, there's a sense of "Nice to see you; welcome" that's sincere and not monetary. Gujarat is an economically thriving state. Tourism is not its bread and butter, and it shows in numerous ways. I love nearly all the places I've been to in India, even with the tourism gauntlet-running, but admit it was a nice change to not encounter it for most of the trip.

Ah, the road to good intentions were to write every day. There were times when internet connection was spotty, or nonexistent. Most evenings, even in wifi'd places, I lacked brain energy at day's end to clearly put thoughts to paper. Ironically, the place with the most "down" travel time (Hodka) had neither wifi nor mobile signal, and its very hot dusty desert location made the thought typing --or doing more than sitting like a vegetable--physically and mentally draining. My admiration for those who find time and energy write trip report chapters from the road every day (Sartoric, Dgunbug ) and for all of you who manage to remember and write after the fact, is even greater than it was before!

To be continued, slowly but surely. Meanwhile, if any specific questions, I'll gladly reply. It would give some structure to my current jet-lagged thought process.
CaliNurse is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2017, 09:41 PM
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Calinurse---A Big Welcome home!
Waited for your return, so you can share the latest about the adventures in India.
I am now getting ready for my trip, although tickets not booked as yet, but browsing to see the fares.
Thanks for sharing your visa experience using old and new passport. I have gained confidence from your experience, thus hope I will have no problems.
My visa expires in July, but I plan to travel in April for just about 9 days, so hopefully all will be well. Share your opinion please.
Also what was your experience on the new money notes from ATMs. Not sure what is the latest news about this topic.
In addition, how was your shopping experience? Did you find some unique items.
Well, have a good rest this weekend.
ileen is online now  
Old Mar 4th, 2017, 10:12 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
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CaliNurse, so glad you are home safely. I have three questions:

1. What did you like best?

2. What did you like the least?

3. Did you get an Indian SIM card for your phone? If not, how did you make calls?

Looking forward to hearing more about your trip, in between doing your laundry and going through your mail.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2017, 10:21 PM
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A few things, while I can't sleep (India time is exactly opposite California's).

Money: No problem getting cash. All ATMs in all towns and cities had sufficient supply; there were no lines anywhere. However only 10,000 rupees can be withdrawn in one transaction. So if you want more, you have to do another transaction a minute later! This means another ATM transaction fee (separate from your bank's transaction fee--mine does not charge). The ATM fee is about $4.00.
Everyone had stories about "demonetaziation" and its difficulties, especially for local villagers, but now that things have settled down, all I spoke with agreed it was necessary. The only remaining issue is that there are no longer 1,000 INR notes, which seems more silly than inconvenient ('though there's that too).

Airline: Etihad was great. Service was excellent to outstanding . Food and drink were omnipresentin business. They have an "anytime" policy--no standard meal times. Only one food item was disappointing: "strip loin steak" was more like "strip mining steak" --hard as a rock.
Flights were SFO to Abu Dhabi, then Abu Dhabi to Ahmedabad. On return: Jet Airways from Udaipur to Mumbai (where I spent a day) then Mumbai to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi to SFO. On the latter segment, you do immigration "pre-clearance" in Abu Dhabi into the USA, which means at the end of a 16 hour flight, there is blissfully no long line or clearing customs, when all you want to do is get home ! I'd wondered how this would happen in terms of airport logistics. In SFO, the plane arrived to the International Terminal, to a gate which is used for incoming domestic flights that use that terminal. So Immigration is totally bypassed. I wonder if, having passed through immigration,you are then technically in the USA?

Airports: The enormous international terminal at Mumbai Airport was the only one where I found chaos. Dropped by the ever-helpful tour company folks (more later--great as always!) at the correct entry door for Etihad (only passengers allowed beyond that point I searched for Etihad counter, to check-in a heavy bag. Most airports have signage to indicate which airline belongs to which area. If it was there,I missed it. Searching in vain, I questioned assorted people behind desks , and was met with either stares or vaguely pointing fingers--each person pointing to a different area! I already had my boarding passes, issued by Jet earlier--perhaps that was the problem. One man directed me immigration and security. No check-in? So i carried-on a total of three bags, comforting myself with the thought that at least i would miss the typical "will my bag arrive?" anxiety at the arrival carousel. For a huge international airport, the lack of helpfulness and clarity and English comprehension was surprising.
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Old Mar 4th, 2017, 10:34 PM
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Welcome home !
I expected you some time today, thought, either she's having a great busy time, or poor wifi. Both right, well done to you. Looking forward to as much nitty gritty as you can manage.
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Old Mar 4th, 2017, 11:18 PM
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Ileen, thanks for the welcome home!

Money--see above! NO problem whatsoever with getting cash at ATMs, or using credit card. All the money I saw was current (no expired 1,000 rupee notes--this was something i irrationally obsessed about before arriving). Penalties for merchants messing with money are high and apparently no one is going to risk it. To which area are you traveling? I asked assorted visitors, guides, and drivers along the way, and all, from different areas of India,said the same: after two-plus months of intermittent problems, there are almost none now, and local people are agreeing it was a good and necessary move, albeit with accompanying initial pain.

NO problems with using two passports--your current one, and the one with the old visa. I was surprised by the LACK of surprise when showing them both. Do keep both passports together. There was an area I visited in which gov't permit (always a fascinating exercise in Indian bureaucracy!) was needed (e.g. the Rann Desert) and both passport and visa are checked. Though you likely won't need any official permits where you you go, you will need to show both current passport and the one with visa for airplane flights (five in my case) . I put a sticky noteon the the ten yr visa page to avoid fumbling.

Shopping--Gujurat is very much about unique crafts items, with interesting visits to remote villages to see some amazing means of production! I also visited some old fav shops: Fabindia (disappointing in Ahmedabad, and with the spaciest sales people around) Anokhi (beautiful but limited selection at the one by City Palce in Udaipur) and the totally wonderful Soma, which is based in Jaipur but has a great shop in an Udaipur neighborhood. Another chain store for very, very inexpensive (by USA standards) fixed price clothes is Westside--in all the big cities in India I think.

California Lady! LOL going through mail and laundry!! Yup, you've caught me!

SIM card: I did not bring a phone from home. The local Indianpanorama folks had a mobile phone waiting for me on arrival. I sent its number to my family in case they needed to reach me in a non-wifi area. I used that phone for one brief call back home, which was amazingly inexpensive. Otherwise...I used Viber!!! If you havent already, download the free app for WhatsApp or Viber, and have anyone with whom you want to speak during the trip download it too. IF you are in a wifi area, voila--you can receive/make calls via the app. However, note that there is big time difference between our fair state, and India, so aligning call times is challenging. Mostly though I just used texting, as it doesnt require wifi, and in nearly all parts of India, you 'll have cell service: Vodaphone, Airtel or Reliant (which exactly opposite --it stinks!) ATT assured me making/receiving texts via iPhone is "free" as long as the text messages were green, not blue , lettering. Ha! We'll see when the bill arrives!

You can get a gadget though that attaches to your own phone i you can pretty much make calls anywhere, even without wifi. Check with your tour company on-ground reps. They should be able to provide one and explain its use. Or you can ask for a mobile phone, and alloy's have to do during the trip is "top it up" and add rupees value, which they can explain

There was a two day period when neither wifi nor basic connectivity were available to me--not even basic phone calls could be done. It felt like going back decades in time. Good lord--no phone!!

Likesh dear, listing all will take a long time. Hoping my upcoming posts will explain it better. INDIA!! It really IS incredible! The openness and sweetness of most people, the color, the chaos, the aliveness, the old and familiar mixed with new:cows crossing a freeway in their own sweet time; fast new cars alongside ox and camel drawn carts; little stands with brightly colored foil snack packs, next to enormous shopping malls; the noise of car horns mixed with loudspeaker music from temples. I've said it before and will repeat; In ten minutes you'll see at leat 100 photo opps!! Right alongside the "bottled water only" and "carry tissues or t.p" rules is: always always always have your camera handy!!
Dislikes--the hassles!! (see earlier post re the pressure in very beautiful but tourist-dependent Udaipur). However, this is much less where you are going in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, than in the Golden Triangle/Rajasthan cities areas.. Also, of the many wonderful places i stayed on this trip, only one was disappointing. It was the place with no phone reception, in a dusty desert area. But that's not what was bad--it was staffed by indifferent, lazy people who (to give benefit of doubt) were probably burned out at the end of the tourist season. The accommodation (mud hut) was expectedly dusty, but it was inexcusably grimy and dirty too. I'll describe it in more detail later in the tr. Different strokes---an Aussie couple I later met stayed there for three days and loved it, whereas i could hardly wait to leave after two nights. Go figure. This was the one negative lodging choice in an otherwise excellent itinerary.

ok,.. back to laundry...and bed!
CaliNurse is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2017, 11:43 PM
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Sartoric, thanks for the welcome! it is great to be back home. I love traveling, but miss my family very much when gone.

I thought of you often! Why? As Inquest mentioned above--Gujurat is a "dry" state, which requires amusing detours and challenges. Not quite like your backwater boat trip to the 'off-license" though!! I rarely indulge, but the place i described in the reply to Calif Lady would have driven me to drink.....had I had some!
Within ten feet of crossing the border from Gujarat into non-dry Rajasthan (during the Danta to Udaipur travel day) there are a bunch of spirits-selling shacks, "English wine shops" and even a resort whose sole purpose according to the guide, is catering to Gujaratis to wishing to drink and party as they can't legally do at home.
I made one detour to a licensed liquor supplier shop. in Bhuj, Gujarat. It's in a surprisingly elegant building, with all sorts of whiskeys, wines, name it! It was separated from the main hotel (Hotel Ilark, where i had a delicious Gujarati thali lunch); many large hotels ing the state.have a similar set up. A document showing proof of purpose and identity --in true Indian bureaucratic excessive paperwork and forms fashion--has to be completed. Quite an adventure, and certainly different from just popping into the nearest neighborhood shop when fancying a pint!
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Old Mar 5th, 2017, 05:11 AM
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Calinurse- welcome home. I've been looking for you daily and look forward to more details on what you saw and experienced.
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Old Mar 5th, 2017, 05:19 AM
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Welcome home! Glad to hear the trip went well and looking forward to more info on Gujurat.

Good to get the info on the visa, as I have a ten year visa in an expired passport.

Note on phones - I travel with my own phone as my T-Mobile plan offers low cost service in 140 countries. India is one of them.
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Old Mar 5th, 2017, 05:55 AM
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Welcome back! I am following and glad you had a good time though was a bit concerned about how things were going having not seen anything.,

Verizon offers an international package which includes India for $15,00 per mo. I haven't checked about Oz and NZ as we would find that useful later his yr.

I have used Viber and WhatsApp too.
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Old Mar 5th, 2017, 07:40 AM
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I am looking forward to reading more about this trip and learning about how much you liked Gujarat. I am especially interested because several years ago, while in India we met a French couple, who'd spent quite a bit of time in India and who had ventured into Gujarat for a two week trip; they didn't like the state at all.

On one of our trips we briefly crossed into Gujarat for a time, and I do remember all of the liquor shops in Rajasthan near the border.

We need to renew our US passports this year, and I guess you answered a question I have. We too have ten year Indian visas. I was hoping that we could request that the page with the visa be bound into the new passport to avoid having to carry two passports. It sounds like this is not an option.
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Old Mar 5th, 2017, 07:55 AM
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Julies--you can get the old visa transfered into the new passport. You should read the Cox and King website for details.

CaliNurse--thanks for sharing the info. on the ATMs and the new money notes.

Have a good rest and then write lots of details, love to hear the latest.

Happy your trip was safe and mostly hassle free.
ileen is online now  
Old Mar 5th, 2017, 08:20 AM
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Welcome back, CaliNurse! I'm so excited to read about your adventures in a less-touristed part of India -- so very interesting to travel to a place where tourists are not everywhere.

I had a feeling that Udaipur might be a culture shock after the less hectic and slower-paced Gujarat and it sounds like it was a shock. Udaipur is lovely but it is a very touristed destination. I remember arriving and being in the middle of an awful crowded and noisy travel jam. No surprise, it's India!

Looking forward to hearing all about the trip!
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Old Mar 5th, 2017, 02:33 PM
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घर मे स्वागत है CaliNurse!

Looking forward to reading more about your Gujarat adventures.

So Immigration is totally bypassed. I wonder if, having passed through immigration,you are then technically in the USA?

Yes, once you went through Preclearance Customs in Abu Dhabi, you were back in the US. Or so we were told by the US customs official there, who said "Welcome home" to us.

My memory about checking in at The Mumbai Airport was that the entrance to the Etihad area was all the way at the farthest end of the terminal. It was a dedicated area for Etihad.
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Old Mar 5th, 2017, 06:02 PM
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Thank you all for your interest and patient waiting for this report!!

Progol, you're right-- Udaipur was a shock! After ten days in laid-back, no pressure Gujarat, my guard was down! The area in which I stayed--the lakeside on Western edge of Lake Picchola-- felt more "local" than "tourist" but was still a contrast to the first part of the trip.
Rje, interesting about re-entry status as a US citizen. The customs official who readmitted me to the USA was from Kerala! Wish I'd have known about Etihad's Mumbai checkin location, since not one person I asked knew. Weird!
Dgunbug, thank you!! I marvel at your daily reports from-the-road in light of my failure to do so.
Jacket watch, my fellow RN Retiree! Being now on a fixed income, it's bit scary, having spent too much money, knowing I can't just "pick up double" to pay off the credit cards!
JulieS-- How old were the couple you met? Did they have a guide? While that's not necessary in most of the country, Gujarat is a state where "winging it"--except maybe for people half our ages.--is going to lead to a less than optimal trip. Will explain this more in a future post.

Arrival: Two good trips on Etihad Business Class with points. The entire trip, SFO round trip, cost $50!

I shared small business class section on the 2.5 hour Abu Dhabi to Ahmedabad flight with a young NRI couple returning to Amhemdabad for yearly visit. Wife warned me to be careful of the usual overcharging of tourists, but said she felt perfect safe in Gujarat, attributing that to its "dry state" status:"People don't get crazy from alcohol here." I later learned there are ways around it--for example, at end of trip, was at village where illegal brew is made and sold. And as noted above, there are ways tourists can obtain their tipple. But the general consensus among Gujaratis, from what I as a tourist could gather, is it's good thing to not have it easily available. Recently Bihar state followed suit. The candidate who promoted "prohibition" won the election by appealing to women voters, promising, "Vote for me, and you won't have to deal with drunken husbands!" (Disclaimer: such "facts" are based on assorted conversations and are not meant as sweeping truths!)

On board the plane, as part of the imminent landing announcement, the flight attendant advised passengers to have boarding pass available. What?!! First time I'd heard of needing a boarding pass to get OFF the plane! I'd tossed mine in the loo trash bin. My sleep-deprived, slightly paranoid imagination went into overdrive. Boarding pass to disembark? Why? A stowaway or criminal on board? Or a way to get even with POTUS' recent change in USA policy immigration policy? "OK, American traveler, see how you like being detained and sent back home after twenty hours of flight time!!' While I knew this was not real, it was yet another reminder of what it must have been like for people from certain countries arriving at US airports on that crazy weekend.

Leaving the plane, there was indeed an official, asking for the boarding pass. Apologizing, I told hm I'd already thrown it away, but could retrieve it if necessary. He shrugged, smiled, and waved me on. I never did find out the reason. Btw, this was my first time noting the absence of "head bobble" in Gujarat.

Immigration/entry: Presented current and expired passport with ten yr visa good through 2021. The serious-demeanored official wordlessly placed on his desk a device which resembled a small battery operated pencil sharpener. After looking at it for thirty seconds, I asked what it was. "Camera" he replied, then removed it. "Oh! If I'd known it was a camera, I'd have smiled!" He then traded seriousness for his own smile, and waved me through.

Greeting: The interior of Ahmedabad's airport terminal was not crowded, but the outside area was jam-packed ! There's always that moment of wondering if the expected company travel; representative will be there with my name on a sign, and sure enough, there he was in a crowd of what looked like 100! Jani led me to the waiting vehicle and introduced me to Vikas, who would be my driver for the time Gujarat. Commenting on the crowds, Jani laughed. "Welcome home, welcome home! Forty people wait at the airport for one person. If they want to welcome their family home, why not do it AT home, instead of making a traffic jam here? If they can't wait for the person at home, and insist on being here, they should say 'Welcome Airport.'" His sense of humor made me feel very much "at home." We drove about thirty minutes into the city, as , after a two yr absence, I got reacquainted with India. As always, there were 100 noteworthy amazing familiar but still unique sights within ten minutes. It was dark outside. Night markets lit by small fires. Cows,donkeys, dogs. Motorcycles, cars, tuk tuks, animal-drawn carts. But vehicular traffic chaos and trash was less than expected. (I found this pleasant aspect to be true nearly everywhere in the state.) We passed a big billboard from the Anti-Corruption Minister. The rep shrugged somewhat skeptically. "At least the government is trying" he said, with the tone of "I'll believe it when I see it."

We arrived in the old part of Ahmedabad. The driver stopped. Jani led me on a five-minute walk down a winding alley too narrow for most cars. This, like other neighborhoods in the old town, is called a pol.

The lodging, French Haveli, is in an old restored haveli. It's fantastic. Talk about "immersion"--it is very much part o this fascinating neighborhood of families out on the street, old mostly unrestored havelis, a Jain temple, afew shops, a community blackboard which lists relevant neighborhood news, omnipresent animals. There's "Holy Cow!" and "Holy S..t!" This reminds me of another necessary habit: the need to look ahead and down simultaneously.

French Haveli was built in fashion typical for the time, with an open courtyard and rooms around it.
I met the two other guests--a woman from New Delhi who owns a shop in New Delhi's fabulous Haus Khaz shopping area. She's en route in Gujuarat to check on village textiles around Bhuj city. There's a thirty-something solo Japanese woman tourist who's on her fourth trip to India. We all discuss, over masala chai, what we love about India. The New Delhi lady says it's getting away from the city, that despite hectic modernity she can still feel "rooted" in village life. I describe how the country makes me feel alive in a particular way. The Japanese woman says it is difficult to explain in English--she isn't sure exactly why she loves India, but it keeps drawing her back.

My room reminds me of Provence, with floral indian bedspreads and simple wooden furniture...and a modern bathroom! Sleep, after long long travel day, beckons on the typically firm mattress.
CaliNurse is offline  
Old Mar 5th, 2017, 11:23 PM
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Welcome home Calinurse. Looking forward to your detailed TR of Gujarat.
inquest is offline  
Old Mar 6th, 2017, 06:19 AM
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Well yes I too have done plenty of double shifts of all sorts including the dreaded 11p-3p one and then went back 11p the same day. What we did when we were young!

However I'll take retired any day. . We try to get miles anyway we can actually including buying them when they are on sale, getting them at a reduced rate after purchasing a ticket, using our CC's for everything, etc. and my wife just got the Chase Sapphire reserve card. Great deal. Its a $450.00 fee annually BUT $300.00 of that goes for travel, even tolls, hotels, cabs, Uber, etc. Then you get 100k miles bonus to your mileage plan or 1K cash back. We took the miles.

Hmmm. I wonder if hubby abuse is a problem, especially when they are looped? Also wonder what home brew tastes like? I would be afraid to try actually.

A boarding pass to exit the plane?? Weird. Many yrs. ago we had to show our ticket (yes it was when they still had paper tickets) like 5 times. We showed it one last time at the gate and it was taken but on the ramp to the plane was a gal who asked for our ticket??? Crazy! I was incredulous and told here they just took it! She let us go. And OMG no head bobble! Cant be Indian. .

Its too bad the Japanese lady could not better explain why she liked India so much as its so different from Japan. maybe its the contrast that she can't get over?

Still following!!
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