Actually the first note on taxes started last night when we wanted to settle the bill at Kattil (to avoid doing this 0545 with a waiting Riksha) – a surprise 7.5% luxury tax had been neatly added to the bill. Not much money but unfortunately I’m a man of principles and of course had to object to this (no mentioning before and never happened at other places either).
An escalated discussion which came to a smooth end – likely by the convenient arrival of one of the Swedish families who were staying long-term at the same place (and had neither heard about any luxury taxes or been informed). In the end the owner paid his own taxes and we paid the previously agreed price. The train journey to Ernakulam went smoothly (except moving cars twice) though.
In Ernakulam we strolled a bit and had breakfast at Indian Coffee House (great chain – and a cooperative) and paid Kairala, a government-owned handicraft shop mentioned in Lonely Planet with *drumroll* price tags and set prices, a visit A taxi to the airport and an eventless flight later we arrived in Delhi.
Arriving in Delhi I saw that I’d got two missed calls from an unknown number so I decided to call back, and ended up at “Tax authorities and Debt collections” (Skatteverket & Kronofogdsmyndigheten) which didn’t seem pleasant at all. It turned out to be that the tax authorities didn’t simply have my apartment number which they needed since we moved, phew…
With no reservations we thought first to check out some Choice Hotels and see what employee discount Mona could get. However the friendly “we-get-the-best-price” stall at the airport smelled of commission racket. And indeed that seemed to be the case, as were the pre-paid taxi-drivers who had no clue how to get to an hotel (unless it was one were they got a hefty commission). My patience vaned and we asked to be simply dropped off at Connaught Place (most central place) and we would scout Internet access there (since the airport didn’t have of course).
Well at Connaught Place the official (I’m no longer 100% sure but it looks authentic on maps etc at least) tourist information kept up the commission scams but since they offered us internet access it was slightly embarrassing for them when I pointed out I could book their suggested 3-star hotel (a hostel in fact) for less than half of their amazingly-oh-my-god-we’re-ruining-ourselves-discount. We agreed to check out a place which had at least roughly the same prices on hotels.com as their suggestion though.
The place wasn’t bad, but had rock hard beds and were reconstructing their elevator shaft. We how bought some sandwiches and tea and the commission racket guy eventually got tired of waiting for us and left. We used Internet, paid for it with tip and asked for a taxi to a place called Le Roi which seemed to get good reviews and was rather close nearby.
The taxi arrived, and it was a 16-year old guy who must have stolen a cornflake package where he found a driving license. No language skills whatsoever, including stating his price. After he had stopped for the fifth time, reversed through a major crossing (in traffic) we had enough and gave him 50Rs (more than fair) and then he suddenly asked for 200Rs more. In a brief discussion were we described his driving skills and the simple fact he didn’t take us to our destination and he left. We were on the street in a not so safe looking district but at least we wouldn’t get killed in traffic.
Asking our way and showing the address to Le Roi turned out to be easier than expect and when we finally got there the rooms were awesome. The price offered was 3500Rs and and some added taxes, I pointed out I could book online right now the very same place for 3000Rs and got that price straight away – including all taxes. It seems to good to be true to find this gem after a extremely long day of travel where also the worst parts of India have shone through but the place had (a lot of) good reviews.
Time will tell but slightly after midnight we fell asleep, after Mona getting a electric heater sent to the room as complimentary service when we asked if it was possible to raise the temperature of the room just a notch. Despite the length of this post I’ve promised Mona to mention the fact that when I tried to turn off the flatscreen TV I jumped half a meter backwards as it buzzed loudly – it turned out to be the doorbell which had been perfectly timed.