Tourism is life line of Varanasi and biggest attraction for tourists has always been Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the river Ganga. I can’t even think of any tourist of pilgrim coming to Varanasi without having desire to at least visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple and have at least one boat ride on the river. As per the data of UP Tourism board nearly 7 million tourists had visited Varanasi in the 2017 and the number is growing every year. But because of bad infrastructure Varanasi was not able to impress tourists and pilgrims as much as it should have done. The city was a complete mess until 2014. Luckily Varanasi elected Mr. Narendra Modi as the member of parliament from Varanasi and he is also the current Prime Minister of India now.
Ganga Cruise Alaknanda
During his tenure of past 4 years this city has changed a lot. They worked a lot for cleanliness under Swatch Bharat Mission which had huge positive impact on the city. Mr. Modi always talks about tourism hence he personally took interest in developing tourism facilities in Varanasi. And the most recent change is Ganga Cruise. We had small boats (hand rowing and engine run both) which can handle 4-6 people. Hand rowing boats are fine but the there was a huge increase in number of engine boats which had basically ruined the whole experience. It is very loud and since it is run on a diesel engine it creates huge pollution. People want to have peace when they go on a boat but these boats were very bad.
Ganga Cruise Alaknanda
I have had so many guests who were disappointed with the boats. If fact they were willing to pay extra to have a bigger, safer and comfortable boat but it was not possible at all because we did not have any other option. But finally we have Ganga cruise as well which will leave positive impact on tourism in Varanasi and will definitely attract more tourists. The government has started this new cruise named Alaknanda and I have been told that it is a double-decker cruise ship which will be able to carry more than 100 passengers at any given time. The liner is equipped with 60 luxurious sofas to make your voyage incredibly comfortable and have eco-friendly bio-toilets. It also has an extensively equipped kitchen which will serve both veg and non-veg dishes to please your taste buds.
Ganga Cruise Alaknanda
The lower deck of the cruise is fully air-conditioned and has a small stage which boosts all the needed multimedia functionality. To keep you connected to the modern world it also offers free on-board WiFi. The upper deck is a restaurant and will let you enjoy the view while hogging on your favorite food! The cruise is even equipped with numerous safety features and an on-board lifeguard for emergencies. When Cabinet Minister Mr. Nitin Gadhkari proposed the idea of Motorways, many People mocked him….but look at it….it is indeed happening…..it is the future.
I started to blog about six years ago and I have always enjoyed it so much. In fact blogging changed my whole life: it improved my writing, my thinking, increased my social networking and got me a lot of attention. In the beginning I was just writing about anything, even my guests staying at my guesthouse but later I took it more seriously and I started writing about social issues, tourism, corruption, politics etc. But now I have been going through really strange situation ever since my blog has gotten good ranking on google. I never paid any money or put any extra efforts to get good ranking on google, it all happened automatically and I was always so happy and proud of my blog.
But ever since I have been getting good ranking on my blog, I have also started to get threats from different people who are upset with my writings. It was the first time last year when I had to remove one of the posts I wrote about a very famous TV show filming in Varanasi. I just wrote about my views on how they contacted me first, wanted to offer me the assignment but when I asked my salary they said that they did not have a fancy budget to pay my salary. Later I introduced one of my friends to the team and he agreed on working with them. When the crew arrived in Varanasi, I was surprised to see how big budget they had. And finally the producer asked my friend to get him some empty receipts so that he can fill some crazy amount and get money for it.
It was a very strange experience for me because I had already worked with so many TV channels from all over the world and none of them ever asked for such thing. I finally wrote about it and it became a serious problem for me because the producer sitting in Mumbai office found my post way before the show was ever on TV. The crew started calling me several times a day and threatened me by saying that they know so many people in Varanasi, they will go to the court against me etc… Finally under pressure of the crew and my friend who worked with them, I had to remove that post and it was a very upsetting moment for me. It took me more than a few weeks to recover from that incident.
Anyways, something similar again happened with me last week. I wrote a post about a guesthouse in Varanasi based in my person experience about how stupid the guesthouse staff and owner were in dealing with their guests. Actually one of my groups was staying at this guesthouse in the year 2011 and I got a call from the guesthouse owner the same day the group arrived saying that I should tell my group that I can’t provide any services to my group. I was surprised to hear it and I asked him if he was sure what he was talking about and he said that if I provide any boat, taxi or tours to my guests then they would kick the group out of their hotel. The owner also suggested me some stupid excuses like I can tell my guests that I don’t know anything about Varanasi.
Anyways, I informed my group about it and they also talked with the hotel owner, they had a little fight but later everything was fixed. But the guesthouse owner had threatened me by saying that I am new in the industry, I don’t know the rules, I should not try to be so smart and he will see me. I decided to write about it on my blog and same thing happened what had happened with that TV group. They started calling me, sending me emails and such things. Finally I got a call last week from a dude in my neighborhood who asked me to remove that post. I thought a lot about whether I should remove that post or not and decided to ask the group what they thought. I was surprised to see that the same group was going to stay at that same guesthouse in their next trip to India.
They said that it is convenient for them to stay at the same place because it is the closest guesthouse to the building where they have all of their business in Varanasi. I was kind of upset after hearing this but thought what can I do if even the group is not supporting me. So finally I removed that post also. All these removal of my posts and similar incidences all across India have raised a serious question about whether I should still write about corruption or not. Recently a writer was arrested and sent to jail because he made a comment on Facebook about some politician. Where is the freedom of expression and freedom of speech? At a moment I had thought to take help of Police but later realized that Police is definitely more corrupt than any the camera crew or the guesthouse owner.
I don’t know if I will ever write about corruption issues on my city level because I feel threatened by these local mafias. I have a family and I need to think about them as well. And in any case I never feel like having enough time to become part of bullshit politics. Peace.
Shiva Ganges View guesthouse is located near Manmndir ghat in Varanasi and is also well known as red bungalow as the whole building is painted red. The location is very nice as it is situated right along the river side and is walking distance from Harishchandra Ghat, the cremation ground. I had a French guest staying there and told me something about the guesthouse which made me write this post. In fact he was staying at Hotel Haifa before meeting me but changed the hotel only because of my report about corruption at Hotel Haifa and I really appreciated it.
Anyways, it was my first time when I got to enter the hotel and my first impression was very good. The hotel is run by an old man named Mr. Tondon whom I saw greeting his guests and doing all the formal things. After a while he asked me about what I do and when I told him that I am a tourist guide, he asked me to meet with him later personally. He said that he has a lot of work for tourist guides and would like to work for him. I knew that I would not be able to work for him as they do not even pay the real wage of tourist guides decided by government of India but I just agreed on meeting with him later.
I knew that if a tourist guide ever gets an assignment through any guest house or budget class hotels then they have to give a cut from their wage to the hotel and I just don’t do this. And in any case, since I charge more than the government rate he would have not been able to afford me. I went to the hotel several times while my guest was staying there and every time I had a positive impression until the day before my guest left. He asked for the final bill and bill indicated the amount different than what they had agreed before the guest checked-in the hotel.
When the guest moved there the first day, Mr. Tondon, the owner, asked for Rs. 3500 per night but on the last day he gave the bill of Rs. 4000 per night. When the guest asked about the difference of Rs. 500, he said that he was not sure about the room he was going to rent. It was crazy, how come a hotel could the tariffs? And in any case if they agreed on Rs. 3500 then it means Rs. 3500. It could not be Rs. 4000 without informing the guest. The guest was very upset and tried to convince Mr. Tondon that it was his fault and he needed to charge Rs. 3500 but Mr. Tondon was very profession in saying that it was not a fault of anyone but it was just a mistake that happened unintentionally.
The guest decided to give up as he just wanted to relax and did not care about Rs. 500 extra but it was really disturbing for me. This behavior of Mr. Tondon made me curious to see the room. I went to see the room of my guest and it just did not look worth Rs. 3500 or 4000 per night. The architecture was old and unique but walls were dirty. It had a strange golden color on ceilings. The washroom was also dirty and I just did not get any feeling of staying there. I would never ever give Rs. 4000 per night for such a room. I often have to book the hotels for my guests and if their budget is over 3000 per night then I prefer Hotel Ganges View, Palace on Ganges or Rashmi Guesthouse.
Palace on Ganges or Ganges View rooms are expensive but they are worth it but Shiva Ganges View rooms were not worth Rs. 4000 per night for sure. Another complaint about Shiva Ganges View was noted by a Hindi teacher named Mr. Binit Mishra who had a student staying there. On the very first day Mr. Tondon asked him for 50% as commission but Mr. Mishra immediately denied to give him anything. Mr. Tondon said that if he doesn’t get any commission then he won’t allow Mr. Mishra to enter in his hotel. Finally Mr. Mishra informed about it to his guest and the guest checked out the hotel.
It is really strange behavior from hotel owners in Varanasi and I often have to encounter through such situation but I never understand how a business owner can do it. What do they think of the business? Do they know anything about how the world is changing and it is becoming easier to find information online? Anyways, it was such a stupid behavior of Mr. Tondon and I hope someone gets to read this post before staying there. I have already made a few reports about other crazy services in Varanasi. But it doesn’t mean that I am trying to target certain people. I believe that it is better to take action than being quiet or keep complaining. And I will be keep writing about anything weird like Shiva Ganges View guesthouse. Peace. Thanks.
Something really strange happened with me today that made me realize the condition of the tourist guides in India. My brother who is an Italian tour escort called me a few days ago saying that one of his friends from Varanasi wanted to start a travel agency and needed my advise. He had already visited my websites and was impressed with it. Finally I got a call from this gentleman interested in starting a travel agency in Varanasi. He basically needed suggestions tours that could really attract foreign tourists.
I told him about the unique things I knew about Varanasi that I show to my guests like road side dental clinic, bull shop, facebook baba, walking tours. I told him a little bit about the concept of LGBT tourism also. Everything was fine, we had a nice conversation but suddenly he told me that he had a group of foreign tourists traveling to Varanasi and he needed a tourist to show them around. I was going to tell him about Incredible India office in Varanasi but he said something that just shocked me seriously.
He said that he had heard that tourist guides in Varanasi charge a fee for their work and I was what??? I asked where there is a place where they do not charge a fee? And he said that tourist guides in cities like Agra and Delhi do not charge any fee and they work for free. I asked him why somebody would like to work for free and he did not know why such thing could happen but he was so confident as he had already used service of such guides who work for free.
I knew why guides sometimes work for free. It is because they are more interested in bringing their guests to shops rather than showing them around. I told this to him and he asked me if there was no such scene in Varanasi. I told him that I was not aware of such guides for sure. I told him that there is a set rate decided by the government of India and in fact Varanasi is the most expensive place to hire a tourist guide because tourism starts before sunrise and ends after sunset in Varanasi hence guides are paid for 3 half days (4 hours each).
But he really needed a free tourist guide even after knowing that these free guides take the guests to shops and not to the tourist sites. I called my brother asking if such things happen in Delhi and Agra and my brother also said that yes there are such guides who work for free. But once you are with them they start telling you so many crazy stories and bring you to the shop that finally you buy something and they get a commission. I really could not imagine how someone could even think that tourist guides are free?
His guests will be staying at the Radission Hotel in Varanasi and I know that not everyone can stay there. The people who stay at hotels like Radission are rich tourists and I was wondering about them that even after paying so much money and spending so much time they would meet a guide who works for free and brings their guests to the shops instead of touristic sites. My brother and a lot of other tourist guides tell me the same story that they are still treated as a guy who entertain tourists by telling funny them stories.
There is no standard of tourist guides in India and I also notice the same. I feel really proud that I am tourist guide because it is really nice profession. I meet people from all over the world, I teach them and they teach me and finally I make money which is good on India standard. India is known for being delayed all the time and we are only people who are always on time (when working 🙂 We represent our country which is a huge and very important responsibility. Ministry of Tourism calls us tourist guides cultural ambassador of India.
I think government of India should take some steps to make tourist guides respected in India. During my tour guide training I was told that Ministry of Tourism was planning to start an annual award for best tourist guides from different regions to encourage tourists guides to provide best services and people to take interest in it. Whatever was told to us about government planning seemed very nice but today when I see what government has done in favor of tourism then everything seems the same. I recently visited Incredible India website and I was shocked to see when it was updated last time.
Incredible India is the most famous brand of tourism in India. One can see the importance of this word just by googling India, India tourism, tourism in India. I think people google these words way before they buy their flight tickets and the first link that appears on Google is Incredible India website which has all these information that comes from world war II time. They are still saluting the medal winners of commonwealth games which took place last year.
They request tourists to use only authorized tourist guides but do not have any list of them. There are awards mentioned on the website but there is no category for best tourist guide, I don’t know when the government will take tourism seriously. Tourism already contributes 5.90% to our GDP and this percentage can increase a lot only by making small changes but… I don’t know when government will start thinking about such issues but they really need to.
I am very happy and proud today that government took my citizen report seriously and took some action against the corrupt government employees. Today I visited Sarnath to make a followup report and I was really shocked to see the change. A lot of my colleagues had already told me about the change in system at Sarnath but I was really not expecting for that huge change. The first change that I noticed is that staffs at the ticket counter were different. Actually the main guy who was involved in the scam was transferred first and later suspended (maybe, not sure yet).
new tickets with bar code and unique number
I bought the ticket as I entered in the monument I saw second change. The ticket looked different. This new ticket had a bar code and a unique number. The third change was that the ticket checker was different. He took my ticket, teared off into two parts, kept one part with himself and returned one part back to me. Fourth change was that my camera was checked whether it was a still photography camera or a video camera. Actually there is a charge of Rs. 25 for filming and they just wanted to make sure that I was not going to film anything without paying the fee.
tickets were teard off
Fifth change was that now there was a metal box instead of a sack to collect the ticket and this metal box was locked which means once the tickets go inside no one can take them and resell them. I went inside for a walk and again noticed changes. Now there were more security guards really working. They were walking continuously, stopping people from walking over the ruins, helping people and they all looked very active. After walking for an hour and making the report I just went near to the entrance gate and sat there for a while to see the affect of my report.
new ticket checker
I saw that each and every ticket was checked, teared off and was kept in the box. I saw another change of stopping people from bringing any eatable items inside so that people do not throw the waste and monument stays clean. I had also noticed monument was a lot cleaner than it used to be. Finally I wanted to photograph the new employee and I did not know how to ask him for it. I made a plan that I asked my friend to stop me once I reach near the exit and get photographed. This way we wanted to pretend that I was getting photographed but in reality we wanted to photograph the new employee.
shaked hand happily cause he did not know that I was the who exposed the curroption
We did the same, as I reached near to the entrance gate, Babu called me and said that I should get photographed in front of the entrance also. I stopped there and was pretending to be photographed and suddenly the ticket checker called me and did exactly what I wanted. He asked me to come close to him and get photographed together. He did not know that I was responsible for all the change. He did not know that he was transferred to Varanasi only because of me. He did not know that he could not make any illegal money by reselling the tickets because of me. hahahaha.
I was a little bit nervous about they identifying me but nobody could identify me as all of the staffs were new. I had really great time today and I was so so happy and proud to see the change. CNN IBN again showed my report.
CNN IBN contacted me a few weeks ago asking about corruption related stories from Varanasi. They said that they have a show called citizen journalist in which the people themselves become the journalist and expose the crime. I already knew about this program as it is very popular in India and decided to give them some stories. Actually they had contacted me after reading my blog so they had already read a few corruption stories that I had written on my blog. I had also been noticing corruption on ever level just like another Indian citizen and now I had a platform to talk about it.
Anyways, I gave them total of four stories- one about corruption in MNREGA, corruption in drinking water supply system in Varanasi, corruption in sewage treatment plants, encroachment over old and sacred ponds of Varanasi and scam in ticketing at Sarnath. They asked me to find someone who was personally affected by these corruptions and would like to come on camera and talk about it. I contacted Lok Samiti to find someone who had faced any kind of corruption in MNREGA. I knew about a social worker named Shanti Lal Jain who has worked a lot on Ganga and contacted him to talk about corruption in sewage treatment plants.
Stupa at Sarnath
I had recently read a magazine which talked about a retired engineer who used his right to information act to ask government about the present condition of ponds in Varanasi and High Court of Uttar Pradesh asking Varanasi city administration to restore all the ponds that were illegally captured after 1957. I contacted this gentleman and he also agreed on telling the story to CNN IBN. Now it was turn of scam in ticketing at Sarnath which I had personally noticed several times, actually every time I went to Sarnath ever since I got my tourist guide license.
entrance gate of the site
The scam in Sarnath was that the ticket collectors at the entrance of the excavation site would keep the whole ticket with themselves and resell it. Whereas by law they are supposed to tear off the ticket into two parts, keep one part with themselves and give one part back to the tourists. This scam was going on in Sarnath with the support of government employees and tourist guides as well. If tourist guides support them then they also get a cut. I was also offered the same service several times but I never supported them as I always believe in this Hindi saying- खाना है तो हांथी का लीद खाओ, गधे का नहीं (if you want to eat the shit then eat the shit of an elephant better than the shit of a donkey :))
filming of the show
The area of my work is full of such opportunities where I can get commission all the time when I feel better asking for money rather than bringing my guests to shop so that I get some money. Anyways, I had always thought to do something about stopping this corruption and now I had a chance. But I was a little bit worried about about my safety. I called my brother who is also an Italian interpreter and works in tourism industry to have his advice and he was like go and fuck those people.
explaning the corruption
So I agreed to work on this story with CNN IBN. In order to prepare for the story CNN IBN asked me collect some evidence of the corruption. I went to Sarnath with my friend Babu and we filmed the ticket collector taking the tickets and keeping them direct in a sack. Finally the crew arrived in Varanasi and at first they worked on other stories. All of the stories were successful and affective. The woman who had faced corruption in the MNREGA got her salary and Varanasi administration started working on the ponds.
I needed a few foreign volunteers to act like my guests. I advertised on couchsurfing and a few people wrote me also but finally I ended up choosing a British couple staying at my guesthouse. We went together to Sarnath on the filming day and first they filmed me working, talking with people, doing things… Finally they went close to the entrance and sat about 30-40 miters away and filmed people coming inside, handing over the ticket to the ticket collector and ticket collector keeping the whole ticket in the sack.
the ticket collector at the gate
After they had enough evidence we went for lunch. I was not enjoying lunch at all as I was really tense about what was going to happen next. I was mostly worried about ASI taking some action against me. They could easily cancel my license by saying that I was found scratching the monument or something. I knew that the local officers would not be happy with myself after exposing the crime. Finally lunch was finished and I was asked to come on camera and explain the crime by standing right next to the entrance gate.
very tense moment
As the big camera appeared and I was holding the mic, so many people came to us. I was surrounded by at least 50 people who were trying to understand what I was talking about. Luckily the show was in English hence not many people understood what I talking about. At first they asked me to explain the corruption and then we bought a ticket and gave it to one of the volunteers and asked her to go inside, give the ticket to the ticket collector and see what happens.
Obviously the ticket collector took the ticket and kept it right away in the sack and this was the moment when we entered in with the camera. As the ticket collector saw us he immediately teared off the ticket, went to our volunteer to return half portion of the ticket. We asked him why did not he tear off the ticket right away and then ran away from there. Now there was no government employee at the entrance so we checked the sack and found more than 500 fresh tickets which were all going to resold.
Babu, Erica, Chitra and I
We were filming all this and suddenly one government employee who was posted at the ticket counter came. We asked him how come all these tickets were not teared off and he had this really funny excuse that all the Sri Lankan tourists who come to Sarnath just throw the tickets on the street so they collect it and finally tear them off in the evening time after the monument is closed which was completely false because I had personally seen them taking the tickets out of sack and bringing them back to the ticket counter so that they could resell it.
the officer in charge's office
After he could not answer us, he asked us to come inside his office where he had this another funny excuse that the young couples who come to Sarnath everyday throw the tickets on the street because they do not want to be caught at home that they went to Sarnath. I was kind of laughing after hearing all these funny excuses. We came back to the entrance gate to talk with a few visitors and suddenly this lady showed up asking what was going on. She asked us to ask her questions as she was also an employee of ASI who was posted at the museum.
We asked her if she was aware of the scam and she was like yes, I have seen it hundreds of times. We were shocked but it was really good that she admitted it. She also said that tickets are resold and each and every government employee working at the excavation site is involved. Finally we went to the officer in-charge of Sarnath but he also ran away as he saw us. Story was completed and I was feeling so proud to have done it. I was really happy with the public support.
When we were filming at the entrance gate, we were surrounded by 100s of people who shouting fuck these corrupt people, don’t leave them…I think this support gave me real power and energy that I was able to expose the crime. The next morning all of the news papers reported this news but none of them talked about me or CNN IBN. Although they said that the officer in-charge of Sarnath, who had ran away after seeing us, said that he was not aware of such corruption and would take action against the people involved in it.
I know it very well that he was also part of the corruption and had intentionally given this news to media so that people think that he did not know about this corruption. I asked CNN IBN to contact the regional office of ASI in Patna and head office in New Delhi and ask them to take some action. I hope that ASI will take some action and now I also feel much secured because of that lady officer of ASI who had admitted that this corruption of reselling of tickets was going on in Sarnath. Here is the link of the show on CNN IBN website-
I visited Bhopal for first time with a friend and I really loved that place, especially the way Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department has organized tourism in the state. There was problem with the hotel but it was okay. We stayed at the Ranjeet Hotel near the railway station. The hotel was nice for the amount I paid but when I tried to book it over phone from Varanasi, they said that there was no room available. We arrived in Bhopal around 10.30 PM and we did not have any hotel booked but we knew the name of Ranjeet Hotel so we just decided to show up there and check our luck. Although they had already told me over phone that there was no room available, when we arrived there they gave us a room. It was strange but good.
We had one important work in Bhopal which was to visit Chingari Trust to learn about their work which we were able to do the very next day after we arrived in Bhopal. Now we had plenty of time to see the city. We took some suggestions from the people working at Chingari Trust and went to visit the two lakes of Bhopal named Bada Talab and Chota Talab. Both of the lakes were just awesome. They looked clean and there were several options of water sports. The Chota Lake is separated from the Bada lake by an over-bridge. We did not play any sports but we just walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere.
beautiful kids at the mosque
After visiting the lake we took an auto rickshaw back to the hotel. But on the way to the hotel I asked the driver if he knew any good place to visit nearby and he told me about a mosque called Darul Uloom Tajul Masjid. I had already read about this mosque and wanted to visit it for sure so we decided to visit the mosque before going to the hotel. The visit to the mosques was one of the best things I did in Bhopal. The mosque itself was beautiful and really huge. This mosque is one of the biggest mosques of Asia. This mosque was one of very few mosques of India where they allow women, non-Islamic people and foreigners to enter in the mosque.
hyena in the naitonal park
Darul Uloom Taju Masid has an Islamic school inside the mosque and I met a really nice student studying there. He showed me his school, told me about his life, took me to his room… He said that he had already studied up to class 12th in a regular school but after completing class 12th, he decided to study Islam hence he joined the mosque. He showed me his books but when I wanted to touch his Quran, he immediately asked not to do so. He told me that since Quran is the most holy book for Muslim there is a certain procedure of cleaning the body before even touching the Quran. I was really impressed to see his respect for holy Quran.
lion was also there
I talked with him for about two hours and to be honest it was one of the best conversations I have ever had. We talked about politics and Hindu–Muslim tension also. He said that the reason behind tension between Hindus and Muslims are completely prohibited in Islam hence the people who create tension are not real Muslims for sure and if they say they are real Muslims they are telling a lie. I had also heard about this thing before and I was really happy to meet a young Muslim believing in this idea. I see these kind of people as the real development of India. We shared our contact information and I would love to meet him again whenever I go to Bhopal again in future.
The next day we went to visit a small national park called Van Vihar. Van Vihar was also awesome. It was situated near to the Bara lake. They had bicycles for rent, battery-run vehicles or walking was also an option. It was really quiet and nice place. There were so many animals such as lion, tiger, leopard, deer, bear, hyena, crocodile, monkeys… All the animals seemed to kept in a good condition. It was a 7 KMs ride from one end to the other end of the park. Plastic bags were not allowed and it was a no-horn zone which means you just don’t feel like in India. At the other end of the park there was a cafeteria serving snacks. We rented a bicycle and watched the animals and enjoyed the quiet place a lot. It was a really nice experience.
look at the right side ones
There was something very interesting at the park. They had arrange different kind of urinal for Muslims. Actually Muslims have to sit when urinating hence a different kind of urinal system was arranged for them just next to usual urinals that we see elsewhere. This urinal system was setup closer to the ground level so that they squat and pee. I have traveled to so many places in India, have a lot of Muslim friends and have been to their homes also but had never ever seen anything like that before. Awesome. Actually Bhopal has a huge Muslim population and this might be the reason why they arranged such thing.
wetland for birds and crocodiles
The next day we went to Bhimbetka and on the way back to our hotel we visited an ancient Shiva Temple called Bhojpur Shiva temple. The next day we went to Sanchi. All of these places were really nice and I loved being in Madhya Pradesh. The weather was nice, it was really green and a lot quieter than where I live. The sites were clean, I never met any tout and everything looked cool for the tourists. My state has thousand times better tourism opportunities than Madhya Pradesh but only because of politics and government ignoring tourism all the time, very soon Madhya Pradesh will lead Uttar Pradesh. It was a very nice place to visit.
The seventh week of the guide training program is done which was the orientation tour of Agra>Jaipur>Delhi. Our first city was Agra where we visited four monuments- Taj Mahal, Red fort, Sikandara (Tomb of Akbar the Great) and Itmad Ud Daula. We had one guide for fifty participants. Agra was a crazy city. The water there was so sour. We were suggested by our institute to use only bottled water. There were touts everywhere trying to sell something all the time to everyone near the monuments. We were brought to a few tourist shops also. Those shops were huge, literally huge.
The shops in Agra, Jaipur and Delhi had arranged our breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a good opportunity for them to bring two-hundred tour guides all together to their shop at one time. They showed us around their shop, explained us how do they work and gave some gifts also to all the participants. I am sure it was a good deal for them. But the shops were so expensive. All the stuffs in those shops were at least ten times more expensive than the normal market rate but the quality of the product was also very nice.
We visited four monuments in Jaipur as well- Jaigarh Fort, Amber Fort, City Palace and Jantar Mantar. The condition of water in Jaipur was exactly same as the water of Agra. I liked all the monuments but City Palace. The City Palace was a very very commercial place. They had opened only a small part of the palace for the visitors. If somebody wants to visit other part, which is not open for visitors, they can do it by paying extra money and this extra money is decided by looking at the visitor’s profile. The City Palace doesn’t accept tour guide licenses given by the government of India; they issue their own license.
If somebody wants to have that license, then they will have to pass an exam organized by the City Palace. If a government approved tour guide goes to City Palace to do the guiding, then either he hires a City Palace guide or he pays some money to the City Palace. Our guide in Jaipur told us that City Palace is open for all kinds of activity. If someone wants to celebrate their birthday in the palace, they can do it by paying some money to the king. If somebody wants to hire the king and have him welcome the guests, it is possible by paying him.
After Jaipur we headed to Delhi which was crazy as usual. I heard something really crazy that TGFI (Tour Guide Federation of India) had instructed all the tour guides to not train us during our orientation tour of Delhi and that is why our institute had a hard time getting a guide to give us tour and train us. None of the guides in Delhi agreed to work with us. Finally the institute had to hire a monument guide. It was crazy to see how opposed TGFI was. They are the people who had sued the government against this training program but when they saw nothing happening in their favor, they did this crazy protest.
The shops of Delhi were also not so helpful as the shops of Jaipur and Agra. Even though our lunch, dinner and breakfast were organized by the shopkeepers in Delhi but the experience was not as good as the Jaipur and Agra one. My overall experience was nice but I did not learn much during the tour because there was only one guide for fifty participants but it was okay. I know that I will not start working somewhere out of Varanasi right after getting the license because I want to study first. I will start working in Benares first, then study about other cities, maybe go there and hire a guide and then work in other cities.