More Hotel Problems, this time in Jaipur
We were up and out after our excellent buffet breakfast at the three star hotel we'd chosen the night before, to start our Rajasthan tour of Jaipur. Our Jaipur hotel is definitely a much higher specification hotel than we're used to staying in, but all is not well.
We'd settled on this hotel at about 8.30pm the previous evening. Our flashpacking budget in India for accommodation is around 1,000 rupees per night on this tour, as we appreciate that we'll be staying in busy tourist areas. This budget should provide nice spacious hotel rooms with private bathroom, WiFi toiletries and usually breakfast. In our previous blog post about our driving tour of Rajasthan
, I wrote that we discussed our tour budget with our driver before hiring him and starting the trip. His first hotel was something we'd pay 600-700 rupee a night stay, after negotiations they wouldn't budge on 1400 and offered to send buckets of hot water if we wanted a room for 1,000 (breakfast not included) we walked.
The second hotel had a swimming pool which was closed, as it is winter here, and a beautiful room and breakfast included, but wifi only in reception and they wanted 1,500 which again we thought was overpriced, so returned to the car. At this point we informed our driver we would pick the hotel, "no no please see one more" he implored. He then took us to a centrally located hotel that had beautiful heritage style rooms, “let me speak with them first” he said . He came back to the car and said I can get you a room for 1200 without breakfast, this is over our budget but we were tired and hungry so went to take a look.
The quality of this 'heritage hotel' couldn't be questioned and it had wifi in the room, although we did have to hack it by changing the DNS server address. For some reason lots of Indian hotels either block sites, such as the major hotel aggregator booking sites so when you arrive you can't compare prices unless you have your own sim, as we both do.
Our Hire Car Drivers Jaipur Hotel Commission
The room's rack rate was 3,500 rupees which is what people were paying coming direct out of their hire cars, a good slice of this going directly into their driver's wallets. A young Brazilian guy who was checking in got a couple of hundred off the rate, but most we saw paid the full tariff. We got the room for 1,200 rupees and then spent 30 mins trying to get breakfast thrown in as the restaurant prices were expensive. In the end we got access to the international buffet breakfast 100 rupees each. This is over our budget and there are much better hotels on-line so were going to have to do some research and let our driver know he will have to give up his commissions as we're going to be choosing the hotels from now on.....
The driver tries to scare us with horror stories. Such as one traveller who was on a budget, and ate and stayed at places not recommended by our driver. Apparently, the poor guy ended up being hospitalized, if only he listened to our driver all this could have been avoided - hmmmmm!!
Thankfully the new google maps update will help us navigate to them as I'm pretty sure he will never have heard of these places or know how to get to them.
Rajasthan Tour of Jaipur - Things to Do in Jaipur
On a much lighter note, we've had a really great day in Jaipur. Firstly we did the touristy thing a took an elephant up the Amber Fort (900Rp. per elephant) a ride that takes about 15 minutes. Our driver said would take five minutes and he knew a better place that we could ride on elephants in a village for an half an hour for the same price but we've done this before at a conservation centre and you just don't know how the elephants are treated. We decided on the ride up to the fort after checking the stables, none looked in distress, no chains or suffering to be seen, although their ears look like they had taken a battering over the years.
The Amber Fort was a fantastic place to get lost in for an hour or so to shake off the wobbles of the elephant ride up here. There are loads of passageways and crevices to seek out your solitude from the masses here.
Jaipur is on the golden triangle tour with Delhi and Agra as its partner peaks, so these places are probably (hopefully) the busiest we will see in the whole of India. Compared to Delhi and Agra the touts and drivers are far less insistent here. Even the phalanx of sellers that besiege you as you are queuing for the elephant ride are all good natured and a no thank will send them off to seek out their next international tourist.
Incredible India is occasionally Incredulous India
John got into a foul mood at the end of the day, he skilfully managed a situation with six barbers who tried to ramp up the price of our haircut and shave after we had agreed a price at the outset. We were surrounded, razors in their hands, as they tried to increase the price 10 fold by saying we had a facial and expensive creams were used. John laughed his way out of the situation, although I knew he was really angry, and threw the money that we'd agreed to pay at them, ironically we were going to tip but not after that.
This just topped off what turned into a very long day of hassles after a promising start at the fort in Jaipur. One of those days where India can frustrate the hell out of you, no single thing would set you off in a bad mood, but if you allow it they combine with each other and you can become irritable.
John is now also getting frustrated with the driver, who is doing a great job but skimming a bit of commission off everything. We prefer to be truly free and get best value, which John explained to him before we hired him and said the better value we get the better tip he gets, which he sincerely meant.
The Advantages of Travelling as a Couple
To be fair it's well over a year since we started our around the world trip, and we think we are now pretty good at it. It is testament to us both, that we have worked as a team. We have learned exactly what our strengths as a couple are. It is definitely cheaper and easier travelling as a pair, although there a many advantages I'm sure to being single. I am more patient, analytical and better in a crisis and I don't have much time or interest for fools. I take care of the research and planning.
We are both quite organic in our organisational skills, but John has the ability to respond quicker to a new situation if time is against us, while I may still want to analyse the options which sometimes isn't worth the effort. John can be more chatty and charismatic when required and has no fear in asking blunt and direct questions (even if a times they can be slightly embarrassing) which I'm sure has averted us from potentially costly situations.
We’ve not been robbed, lost anything or conned in any major way but India after over a month in the country has just started to test John's sense of humour and good nature. I hope it's just a bad day, but anybody that knows him will understand when I say he is at "gritty teeth" (snarling) stage and we all know what the next level will escalate to.....
We both had an ayurvedic massage today for an hour, to try and rebalance our chakra's. Mine was way too intimate and John said his was crap. The oils used weren't good, although we did check on the quality before starting. It smelt more like cheap vegetable oil. Again our driver dropped us off here, and waited so no doubt he received a commission.
We agreed to humour our driver and attend three different shops so he could make some commission as he is struggling, and rightly so, to make it from us, he did tell us not to buy anything from these places. This didn't take long and they were spread out across the day.
One was to a ridiculously priced jewellers which were offering poor quality gem stones. The second was to an equally expensive textiles shop and the icing on the cake was to a rug factory and the only small rug we liked, which was beautiful started at 4,000 USD. The whole thing was slightly bizarre as the quality on offer nowhere near matched the price of goods for sale, but obviously somebody is keeping these people on business.
However, if you do want to find prices that reflect the quality and your good a negotiation then the bazaar is worth a walk round whilst checking out the fortifications and palaces around the city. There are also some great street food places, just head for the queue with most locals for the freshest and best deals. We had some lovely pakora and samosa midday snacks while wandering the shops and pink city buildings.
Jaipur tourism is better organized than most places in India
One saving grace, is Jaipur does tourism very well. Toilets are marked as free, so no hoards of people trying demand money whilst you're taking a pee. Signage at the sights clearly displays fees and says tipping not allowed which is useful to point to when a guard asks for a tip for answering a simple question. We have enjoyed experiencing the excellent sights on our Rajasthan tour of Jaipur, and wouldn't have missed it, I guess everybody has a bad day from time to time, and this gloomy post should not detract from the great sights this city has to offer.
Let's hope for a better day to tomorrow, a good nights sleep will allow us to fall in love with 'Incredible India