Lal Ghat Guesthouse, Udaipur, India
I stayed at this gaff midway round my trip round Rajasthan in the late 1990s. It was the only point in the trip when I resisted the Indian drivers incessant hotel prescriptions, for which he received a commission that you could hardly begrudge him. I wanted to stay near the lake. Mahinder, the driver, recommended a hotel in another district. This is what I wrote about the Battle of Lal Ghat.
“Finally, after nine hours on the road, we reach Udaipur. Mahinder goes without consultation, as per usual, to his preferred hotel partner. It is situated up a hill, far away from the town and the lake. For the first time in six days I put my foot down and refuse to check-in. It is not so much that the rooms are shabby, which they are, it is just that I cannot bear the thought of being stuck up here away from the town, again.
Despite Mahinders disappointed expression and his warning about the area I want to go to: dirty and smelly; I hold firm. On the journey down to the town, Mahinder stops again at yet another hotel. This one is on the lake, but not in the town. The hotel is posh, but modern. I am now committed to original character and I refuse to even look at a room – very brave.
So Mahinder gives in and drives to the area in the town that I have insisted on: near the Jagdish Temple, the City Palace and on Lake Picholas shores. The dire warnings persist: this bit of the lake is man-made with fetid water that attract very many mosquitoes, many people get a fever (malaria), the streets are narrow and crowded, no vehicle can pass along them etc. etc. I say that, in that case, I will walk. Mahinder says it is up to me, he just knows whats what. He continues that the Rough Guide or whatever book I have consulted in the matter will lead me astray, listing only hotels that are now closed, or under disreputable management. And so on.
Sometimes you have to be very thick-skinned to put up with the Indian way of doing things. I walk down an alley to the Guesthouse. I feel a bit bad because I have cost the driver his commission but he can have a bigger tip at the end of the trip to compensate.”
This is what I dug my heels in so hard for.