The location of Singh Guest House is a little south of all the craziness of the old city center and because of its location, it is quieter, has a decent garden where you can relax from the madness of Varanasi, and you can also have your rickshaw driver take you right in front of its gate and it is only 2 minutes walk to the Ganga River. Unfortunately, that is where all the benefits end.
As we were checking in the guy at the counter said for us to come back to the counter after we got settled in and they would provide us with a map and some information about Varanasi. It sounded fair enough so we returned and some older bald guy came to the counter and we told him that we wanted to get some information about the city. He pulls out a map and starts his sales routine about how he offers this great river tour for 2 hours down the Ganga River with a great English speaking guide for only 350 rupees per person! Then he tells us that after we return they will take us on a tour of some of the nearby temples for an additional 150 rupees/person. “So, do you want to book now?” he asked in his pushy voice. Wow, that’s a lot of money we thought! Especially since we were told by the tourist office that we could get a ride down the river for 100 rupees for the both of us! We didn’t expect the guest house would try to rip us off so much! Oh, and where was that information that they said they would provide? I guess that was it!
Later that evening as we were heading back to our room he approached us about the tours and we politely declined and he just walked away without saying a word. The next morning we were sitting in their restaurant for breakfast and he was sitting on the nearby couch and he just ignored us. He didn’t offer us a menu or anything. We finally had to ask someone even though there were other employees milling about.
As we headed out for town after breakfast a different employee followed us out to the street. He was polite and asked us where we were going. Uh oh, we thought, here we go again… Sure enough, he starts his sales pitch about how they have their own silk factory and they can arrange a special tour for us. Uh huh. Sure. But no thanks, “We are not interested in silk” and off we went to visit a Lonely Planet Recommended silk shop. 🙂
I don’t know why we kept giving them business, but we returned for dinner later that evening and the only one who really appears to be working there is a boy of about 13-15 years of age and from his stone faced sullen expression, you can guess that he hates his job. He never says a word, just takes orders from the older folks and he appears to do all of the cooking and clearing of tables. The other guys sit around a table playing cards most of the time. So during our meal we ordered a typical bottle of mineral water. The boy returned with the bottle but as we removed the plastic wrap seal the actual seal of the bottle was broken and the bottle appeared very dirty. Now maybe we were being a little too cautious, but you have to remind yourself that this is India – not the cleanest place and it’s better to be safe than sorry. So we asked to get a new bottle and the boy took it away and showed it to the guy who appeared to be in charge. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, so I pointed out that the seal was broken and we wanted a new bottle. Then out of nowhere he starts yelling, “I’m going to get you a new one so why are you fighting with me!?” Then stomping his feet he angrily walked away. Wow, where did that come from I thought … I just wanted a new bottle of water. I may have been firm with him, but at no point did I yell or appear to be fighting with him.
The power goes out frequently in Varanasi, so I don’t blame Sing Guest House when the power goes out. However, if you plan to use the internet you will never get a full hour’s use because the power goes out at least once per hour. In our case it went our after about 40 minutes. We asked the main guy who appeared to be in charge (the same guy, before he yelled at me) if we can use the remaining of our 20 minutes the next day when the power came back and he said “no problem”. The next day we used the internet and said that we were using our remaining 20 minutes and again he said that is fine. However, when we were ready to check out the older bald guy, who still seemed bitter that we didn’t book his boat tour charged us for the extra 20 minutes usage. We told him that the other guy said we would get to use our remaining 20 minutes since the power went out the night before. His response was, “It’s not my problem that the power went out!” We then asked him, “So if we use 5 minutes and the power goes out, you are going to charge us for at least 1/2 hour?” His response again, “Not, my problem”. While this was only 25 rupees that we were arguing about, it is the principle of the matter. He was clearly one of those guys who just wanted to squeeze every rupee out of you. I called him a cheater and the his response to that was, “ok, I am a cheater”. Fine.
Located at Jain Ghat, it is about a 1/2 hour walk to where all the action starts at Dasaswamedh Ghat, but it’s also an interesting walk as you get to see a variety of people and their activities along the river. The downside, is that you have to deal with constant boat drivers offering you a trip down the Ganga River at exorbitant prices and little kids insisting that you buy candles from them otherwise you will have bad karma. Also, make sure you have a flashlight if you are walking at night as it can get very dark and you don’t know who is lurking around the corners!
So if you don’t mind pushy sales people with bad attitudes, a poor boy who does all the work, and don’t mind giving extra rupees for using the internet, you just might enjoy your stay at Singh Guest House! Otherwise, steer clear of this horrid place, because with all the other crazy things that happen in Varanasi, the last thing you need is for your accommodation to be another problem.