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Dave-car-rajasthan-India

Dave arriving at Vijay Guesthouse

We fired Shanker, our driver today.

It had been a chain of events leading up to the parting of ways, but the final straw came when we got to Bikaner.

We knew that we wanted to stay at The Camel Man’s Guest House. Vijay’s Guest House.
Our camel safari wasn’t the exciting experience that we expected in Jailsalmer, so we wanted to try a company that was recommended by a guide book to compare.
Shanker would not take us to the camel man, he went to his commission guest house first.  We didn’t like the room or the price so we asked him to move on.

Yet Another Argument with the Driver

He argued with us and said that this guest house is better. We said that we don’t care and that we want to go to the Camel Man.
We didn’t know the area code of the Camel Man’s phone number (we had his number from the LP, but it would not work without the area code) and when we asked Shanker what the area code was he wouldn’t give it to us.  He called Vijay himself and wouldn’t give us the phone.

Note: The Lonely Planet needs to put area codes in front of the phone number, you can’t call any of the numbers in their book because you need the area code of the region you are in.  Especially using a cell phone.  So be warned, if you are using a cell phone in India, get online and get a list of all the area codes of the places you will be visiting.  Only once in a while we have found the area code of the city in the fast facts section. But most of the time, you can’t find it.

We had no idea what Shanker said to the Camelman, but he did tell us that a room was available.  Good news!
When we got to the camel man, Vijay himself was there to greet us.

Vijay asked us if we had a reservation.

We were worried that he must be fully booked and told him that no, we did not have a reservation, but we emailed him the day before to enquire and even emailed him a couple of weeks earlier to see if he had room for a camel safari.
He then had a heated conversation with our driver.
After their discussion, we asked Vijay what happened.  He said that our driver told him that WE didn’t want to come to this guest house and that Shanker insisted that we come to Vijay’s and that Vijay should pay him a commission.

That was the final straw.

We had Shanker as a driver for the past 6 days.  Two days shy of half of the 15 that we hired him for.   We had paid for half of the trip already and decided that it was time to cut our losses.
We sent him on his way.
He didn’t even seem to mind.
I cannot even tell you how free we felt after he pulled out of the driveway.  We had our freedom back. We could stay in Bikener for as long or as little as we like and we didn’t even mind about the money anymore.  All we thought about was how much money we would now be saving.
We settled in and Vijay told us that we did a good thing.  Our driver was a scheming bad man.

Changing Luck

Later that day, Vijay asked us if we wanted to go to town with him.  He had some errands to run and would be happy to take us to see the palace that had been turned into a hotel.
We had our own private tour as Vijay did his work.  A guide took us through the conference room, the elephant garage, the swimming pool and the bar.  It was fascinating.
This used to be the residence of the Maharaja’s of Bikener.  Now the royal family has turned part of their estate into a hotel.  They still live on the premises.
As one man said to us, our good fortune is the Maharaja’s bad fortune. We have the ways and means to stay in this hotel and to tour it now.  This is someone’s home and now it is open for tours.

Maharaja-palace-indiatiger-skins-hang-on-wall-maharaja-palace-

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They obviously must had some pretty bad Karma in that family and learning about the Maharaja’s history, yep, I think Karma has come back to haunt them.  They killed quite a few tigers and their conference room shows it.  It is shocking to see that someone would still display this endangered species in this day and age.  It really isn’t anything to be proud of having all those hides on a wall.  I think that I would take them down.  But then again, is it any different from the hotel that we stayed at in Alberta where they had bear and moose heads all over the wall?  Man is very brutal.

On With the Tour

We set off to another hotel where we stopped in for some Pakora’s and Chai. We felt like V.I.P.s
Vijay is very happy to flaunt his connections and wealth and we are happy to be the people he is showing off for!
He told us about how he is the general manager of the place. He doesn’t work there, but he will always be the general manager and can stay and eat there for free whenever he likes.
His friend then told us that Vijay has royal blood and is very important.
We nodded with the proper gestures of admiration in between bites of our pakora’s.

The End of the Evening

The evening ended with a stop at a fish stand.
Vijay asked if we would like some whiskey.  We said, “if you would like to get some whiskey to bring back, we will enjoy a shot with you.” He didn’t mean that he was going to buy some for the guest house, he meant that he was going to have a shot right now.
He pulled our a bottle from behind the seat with some plastic glasses and poured us all a shot as we ate yummy fried fish.
We joked that he was probably sneaking a little nip without his wife Daisy knowing before he got home.
It was quite the fun evening.
We certainly felt that we had made the right decision letting Shanker go.
We told his boss Jamil (the owner of the car) that it wasn’t Shanker’s fault as much as it was his.  He shouldn’t run his business this way.  People should be able to go where they want to go and see what they want to see.
Now that we are free, that is exactly how we will be traveling again.

To See more photos of our time in Rajasthan Click on our photo gallery at picturetheplanet.com

Information for Vijays Guest House

  • Rooms 500-800 Rs
  • Breakfast 125 Rs
  • Lunch 150 Rs
  • Dinner 150 Rs
  • Internet – They have wifi but charge you 60 Rs per hour regardless of wifi or computer use.  they turn of power in between uses.
  • Hidden 10% Service Charge on everything that you are not told about. BE PREPARED

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10 Comments

  1. Trisha Miller

    Once again you did the right thing – and I admire that you took the time to give Shanker’s boss your feedback, since it’s possible that he isn’t aware of Shanker’s behavior. A lot of people never speak up. And of course, there are those who would not even know any better – they’d just stay and eat wherever Shanker took them, thinking he knows best. Sad. But yaay! I’m glad you have your freedom back!
    .-= Trisha Miller´s last blog ..Suzy: Week 22 – The Interview =-.

  2. Shannon OD

    Ok, I could be totally off here…but I seem to remember have the same area code problem until I discovered the area code at the beginning of each section – I am nearly positive it is there some where in the book – like in the very intro paragraphs, or the first information about a new region….or I could just be crazy.

    Beyond that though, this story is just incredible – I am so glad to hear that you guys got rid of the driver and then had a really wonderful time with Vijay – it sounds like he showed you some great Indian hospitality!

    1. davendeb

      Hi Shannon, you are right to an extent. They have the area code in the Mumbai and Delhi fast fact sections. Rajasthan didn’t have any area codes listed. It is very random. Thanks for the tip!

  3. dajanand

    we had a good stay at vijay’s guest house. the service was good, the food was good and the people are nice.

    we stayed for 3 days and that was just enough. for cheap and good rest we surely recommend this guest house.

  4. Pingback: history of bikaner

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  6. Hedley

    Thanks for the insight into Vijay (I’m thinking of visiting him in December). How was his safari (compared to the one in Jaisalmer)?

    I’m curious about how you came to employ Shanker. Was he provided by a tour company, or did you find him independently?

    Regarding the tiger skins in the palace: I agree that skins displayed like that on walls is problematic in this age, but don’t necessarily agree with taking them down. I’m of the opinion that putting the evidence of history out of sight is counterproductive, in that the visibility of it provides opportunity for context and discussion. As long as they’re hanging on the walls, we can be triggered to think and talk about the ethics of trophy hunting, and be provoked to remember how things once were. Each succeeding generation has less historical context, and thus information can be lost to common knowledge. Keeping history visible helps to ensure that that knowledge continues to exist.

    HB.

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Hedley, We found Shanker independently. We were talked in to hiring a driver by our tuk tuk driver in Udaipur. It was through his business. Against our better judgement we said yes, and it was really our own fault. We had no intention of having a driver, but we gave in. The guys in India are just so good at sales, they make you feel like you need them. Anyway, once we cut him loose, we felt great freedom. To tell you the truth, I think that the Camel Safaris in Jaiselmer would have been great, but we let Shanker talk us in to going with his guy. We should have looked around more to find what we needed. Bikinir was fine, but not really that much different in service. The Camel Man was fantastic and very kind, but the safari itself was about the same. Jaiselmer actually felt a little more authentic. Although we had a great time.

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