Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Incredible India?

Last week I was staying at The Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge, Ranthambore. This property, Vivanta by TajSawai Madhopur Lodge, is the only heritage hotel in Ranthambore that was built some 80 years ago and used to be the camping lodge for hunting expeditions of the Royal families.
This Lodge has a long history of hosting the rich and the famous, including Queen Elizabeth who had stayed here while visiting Ranthambore. I am visiting Ranthambore after eight years. The last time I was here, I had put up at the Oberoi Vanyavilas. This time I decided to try out the The Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge which is more close to the city.
The General Manager of this property Nagendra Singh Hada is from the Jhalawar district of Rajasthan. His knowledge of wild life is vast. He is also the man behind opening of the Taj property in the Gir forests in Gujarat which is the only home of Asian lions at present. With old trees and manicured lawns, this 12-acre sprawl is home to numerous species of birds.
While driving from Jaipur en route to Ranthambore, I stopped at a spot called Gangaur some 60 kms short of our destination. It seemed a decent place and I decided to have tea. I was surprised to find that a cup of tea cost me 80 rupees. 
I have travelled thousands of kilometers in this part of the region in past 20 years and my understanding was that a cup of tea could at the most cost Rs 25 in such modest ambiance. 
I picked up a CD of Pandit Ravishankar from the same place and its price tag read Rs 750/-. I know for sure that it should not have been more than Rs 130 or Rs 160.
I inquired from the person in the counter the reason for such steep pricing. The man replied that I could have it for Rs 500. I was somewhat annoyed and inquired further and he put the blame on the owner of the shop and confessed that these rates were targeted at the foreigners. I saw through the whole game.
There is a huge inflow of foreign tourists who make a beeline for the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and the game parks. Not only is there any other decent stopover in and around that place but also on the entire route. This makes it a happy fleecing ground.
I understand that there is a different rate for Indians and foreigners while entering the Ranthambore National Park (picture)
But charging four to five times the rate for CDs, books and chocolates defies reason. Is this what Incredible India all about – daylight robbery? 
Are we encouraging tourism or promoting cheats.
One more thing, if you really want to have fresh Rajasthani style home food, Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge is perhaps the best place for it. If you are visiting Ranthambore you must have tea and kadhi with mogar kachori at Pappu's shop outside the Park.
ess bee

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