Hello! I'm Renee Garland. I've been traveling to Asia for the last 13 years in order to escape snowy Maine winters, hoping to live sunny adventures. My company began 11 years ago with $250 worth of chopsticks. I started selling them at craft fairs and festivals all over coastal Maine. Unfortunately, many people didn't know much about chopsticks! (or Asia for that matter.) Nonetheless, I trudged through the festival scene for several years expanding my inventory to clothing, accessories, gifts, and art. The mission has always been the same; to work with individuals, women's coops, and small home-based businesses to help support and encourage small enterprises. I opened my first store in Portland, in 2006 called "Waterlily." It's filled with Waterlily brand handmade gifts produced both from my travels abroad, and by local artists. I still go on buying adventures, 'cause that's what it's all about. . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Accomodations- India style

The accommodations in India... let me tell you- we have heard everything
"yes, sure madam you will get hot water",
"yes, clean room, no problem",
and my favorite "yes oh, that rat oh, don't worry madam- he lives here",

Our stay in India so far has been quite colorful, to say the least. Guest Houses/Hotels ranging from complete dump/shithole, to sleeping on some body's floor, to staying in a 500 year-old fort. Prices ranging from USD $2.32/night to about $24.00. (Four months of travels, and you need to conserve the $$, no 5 stars for us)

So, we thought that we'd be smart about a room on our way to Jaisalmer, India(especially after the last Mumbai experience) and prebook based on the Lonely Planet recommendations. Called ahead, and "no problem madam, saving room for you" Ok, great-

On the train to Jaisalmer, one of our travel companions met a very sweet guy who had just opened a guesthouse in Jaisalmer and was renting incredibly cheap rooms, and even was willing to take us for free to his hotel from the train station, and if we didn't like it we could go on our way. He stated that he had been coming from a wedding out in Jaipur, and was just now coming home. Lucky us to meet this guy! It seemed so easy, and sure. Supposed to be the "best views of the fort", and "very near to the fort"
So, we decided ourselves to forfeit the prebooked hotel res. we had made for sleeping inside the fort complex. Hopped in his jeep, strange that he didn't carry a piece of luggage from his travels. . . Stranger still that we were not the only fellow travelers that he cheerily met on the train. We were then followed by 4 other foreign travelers he had met and brought on.
We all get to the hotel, nice rooms, and ask "what is the price?" He says, "As you wish", What? we think- how can we choose? So I say 200 rupees- $4.65 "ok, no problem"
The place doesn't look actually all so new, as I look closer.
How old is this place" I ask another guy there at the hotel?. "Ahhh, it is a few years old." Hardly new at all then. Now I am starting to suspect something is up.
We are all in such a good mood, we didn't realize really what was going on.
We sat down for the complementary chai that morning, and then a handsome salesman boy comes up who speaks excellent English, and starts in on their Camel Safari. Ahh, now I understand, we have just been completely suckered. Jake had read about these places, they reel you in with cheap hotel rooms, and if you don't want to take their very very expensive camel safari, they literally kick you out onto the streets!
So, the man on the train actually got on a few stops before, and hustled the tourists to stay at his hotel, which after we walked out of the hotel, realized how far away from the fort it was. The fort itself is a dream- when we saw it we immediately realized just how stupid we'd been to not stay inside the complex. We secretly checked out the hotel to which our earlier reservation was made, and I felt a bit sick to my stomach! What a mistake! But, everything happens for a reason, India teaches you.
The good news is that we kept wandering, that first day, (which was yesterday) and found an even better place, that was a bit more expensive, and reserved the best room for the following day. So we just this morning checked out of the scam room, and checked into the fort, at the best hotel with honest people, and the best views. And all is well! To top it off we have actually decided to take that safari for tomorrow. We are asking for it.
That should be the next journal entry!

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