Saturday, November 8, 2008


We heard that in Africa and more so in India, that you don't do anything for yourself. I thought mainly this applied to carrying your own bags and that all the other "stuff" we would do on our own. We had gotten used to finding our way around (without help) Europe and had been reasonably successful at it.

In India, you have to "use" others. We tried to walk in Delhi and got 200 yards before we succumbed to the services of a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw). The cities of Delhi and Jaipur are too large (15 million and 2.6 million) to negotiate on your own. Busses are overcrowded and a place to have your belongings ripped off. To try to drive would be a nightmare because there are few if any rules of the road. Walking, especially at night....Duh!!!

The movement from place to place has a cheap price and an expensive one. The cheap one is the transport itself. The expensive one is the hassle of everything related to travel here in India. You walk out of your hotel and are approached by an "advance man" (my term) who asks you if you need a taxi or tuk-tuk. You answer by saying where you want to go and must ask how much. Usually the first price thrown out for a ride from our hotel in Jaipur to the Old City would come in at 100 rupees. We say "too much" and he (always a man) asks how much? We respond at 30 rupees. Finally after some back and forth we arrive at 50 rupees. This is only $1.00. Cheap transportation...but a big hassle. The tuk-tuk driver does the same song and dance each time you get into his "car": Where are you from? Would you like to see (name any site of interest in Jaipur)? Would you like to see some Punjabi outfits, how about some rugs, or shoes? Always "The shop is owned by a friend of mine and will give you a good price". Well the shops they bring you to are more expensive, geared to tourists and pay the driver a commission for bringing you in. Transparency (NO). If this happened once, it's happenned dozens of times just to us.

Couple the above with walking in a market or bazaar. Every shop you walk by you have to say NO! to being invited into their shop. If you do go in, you are shown the whole inventory, from soup to nuts. If you say no to a "Ganesh statue", you must need a wall hanging.

When you are ready to go home you must repeat the transport issue. We got in a tuk-tuk yesterday to go back to the hotel and tried to re-confirm the price after we were on the way. The driver changed his price from 50 rupees to 50 rupees each for lisa AND me. We said to stop, got out and started to walk away. He said "no, get back in, how much?" We responded at 50 rupees for all of us. After his weak attempt at doubling the price and failing, he wanted to be our best friend, as expected.

Jaipur and especially Rajasthan are noted for this behavior to Western tourists. These drivers aren't criminals or even bad people. They are just trying to get by like we all are. But it's tiring. We talk to people at the hotel who seem exhausted from being out for only a few hours. Thankfully our hotel is nice and a wonderful refuge from the jaws of the tuk-tuk.

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