April 23-26, 2008: Jaisalmer
Heritage Inn Rating: Average to good
The hotel staff greeted us with a mala and had a welcome board with our name posted – nice touch. The rooms were very average with poor lighting (too many energy efficient bulbs with not enough light) although they were clean and overlooked a nice courtyard. The staff in the dining room was fairly attentive but the breakfast (included) was mediocre. Lunch and dinner (not included) was quite good.
Guide: Kamal Rating: Average to good guide.
At the beginning of the tour, Kamal was informative about the fort and the dam, giving the history of each in some detail. However, it would have been nice for him to accompany us into the Jain temples (much like other guides were doing with their groups) to explain some of the carvings on the walls. Beyond the beauty of them, they were meaningless because we could not understand the symbolism of them without benefit of someone who knows the history. Again, this guide would have served us best if he would have turned off his cell phone and done what he was hired to – guide. In the evening, he explained that he would take us on a silver tour into the town to see the silver craftsmen and their work but instead took us to a showroom where a silversmith plied his jewellery. The same thing happened with the textile tour. What we saw was a showroom with salespeople trying to sell us blankets and cushion covers rather than how the garments were made. His cell phone again provided much distraction for him with not much else for us. He explained the next day on the way to the camel ride that he was disappointed that he spent the previous day with us and we did not purchase anything so he got no commission. He may need to understand that ALL tourists do not come to India with the intention of buying trinkets. Some actually come to appreciate the history and culture.
After lengthy discussion of karma, I explained my interpretation of karma to him (karma is part what you make of your life and part destiny and your effort is proportional to your reward), our purpose for this trip and our lack of interest in craft stores, he redeemed himself somewhat and arranged for a camel cart for my parents since they would not have been able to do the camel ride. At the end of the tour, he said that he learned a valuable lesson from me that day - one that he will carry for the rest of his life. I hope so!