Ahmedabad, Gujerat, India
November 15th – 17th 2010
The 15-hour (really, 17.5 hours) bus-ride from Aurangabad was quite brutal. As I couldn’t get a sleeper, I had to sit in a chair that, despite its ‘luxury’ status, had small roaches crawling on the walls beside me. I spent some time battling them but I soon realized there were just too many to kill so I just leaned away from the walls. I wish they would do some pest control on the bus. I’m too scared to take another Indian bus now so I’m going to stick to trains if I can help it. (Depends on where you are and where you want to go, sometimes, there are no trains so buses are the only option.)
The guidebook was right – Ahmedabad is a very smog-filled city. The auto-rickshaw driver that brought me to my hotel followed me right in. I’m assuming he wanted to claim he recommended the hotel to me, thereby getting a commission. Of course, any commission paid will mean I would have to pay more. But this time, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t think the commission would be that much. (I recently read that some places even give up to 80% of the room rate as commission, meaning the guest is paying a TON more! From now on, I’ll say something to the guesthouse if the auto-rickshaw driver did not bring me there on his own recommendation.) Luckily for me, that day, the rates were roughly what they were in my guidebook so I wasn’t cheated big time.
(Good street food.)
The streets were packed with people, some cars, many auto-rickshaws, bicycles, and motorcycles. At times, I found it difficult to breathe. There were plenty of shops lining the streets. One thing I’ve noticed is that in India, they love having multiple shops in a row selling the same products. (This theme was also constant throughout Africa and Turkey.) Is this because the city mandates this, where shops are grouped by product types? If I were a business owner, I’d want to set up shop where there are very few other shops selling my products, not where all my competition is. Of course, this would probably help the consumer in terms of prices.
I managed to visit the Dada Hari Ni Vav, a great looking stepwell, located a little ways from the city center. I actually walked there after plenty of auto-rickshaw drivers didn’t know what it was (come on fellas, it’s supposed to be famous!). The closer I got though, I started meeting people who could point me in the right direction. After spending some time checking it out (it was eerily quiet as I descended the steps to the bottom of the well), I walked back and found some auto-rickshaws. I asked one of the drivers if he could take me to the supposedly ‘world-famous’ (guidebook famous but not locally famous I suppose) Calico Textile Museum. The guy looked a little lost but told me to hop on. I figured maybe he did know where it was. I also wanted to do an experiment – use the meter instead of agreeing on a price beforehand. So he set up his meter and off he went.
Based on the map in my book, it was supposed to be relatively close. I started getting suspicious when he drove around, stopped here and there to ask people on the street for directions, then driving in what I thought to be circles. When he started crossing the Subash Bridge, that’s when I knew he was truly lost. Not only that, he had run up the meter as well. I told him to stop and let me get off, which he did. The meter read ‘160 rupees’ – ludicrous, as most trips are around 30-50 rupees. Why did I not act sooner? I had faith that he would get me there and I didn’t realize the meter ran up that fast. I pulled out 50 rupees and told him that’s all he was going to get because he was trying to scam me. We ended up getting into a slightly heated argument about how much I was giving him. He tried to pull a few street vendors into the mix, pleading his case with them and I was trying to do the same, albeit without much success as those fellas couldn’t really understand English. We finally pulled in a street vendor who could speak some English who also knew where the Calico Textile Museum was. The driver and I agreed on 20 more rupees for him to get off my back and me hoping he would drive off a cliff. I walked all the way to the museum and barely missed the 10:30 am tour. What’s worst of all is that, no matter what time I arrived, I probably would’ve missed out as the tour was booked full for that day but the day ahead as well. A French couple there and myself tried pleading to the front office to let us in that day as we weren’t staying very long but they were staunch. So after all that, I didn’t get anything out of it. At least the next auto-rickshaw driver knew where Gandhi Sabarmathi Ashram was so I got to enjoy a little glimpse of Gandhi’s years in Ahmedabad, doing his thing.