I have spent the last few years traveling through India and most often than not I have gone to see a local monument / UNESCO heritage site etc. As i enter a new city or a historic town I get stopped by everyone. Usually its starts with the Autowalla who knows a fantastic hotel for me to live in to the so called guide who waits for me outside / near the ticket counter. If it was just one of each who seem to stop me it doesn’t matter but this seems to be steadily getting worse. Most often or not i would get told that I am going the wrong way, I would get get lost or its closed for the day until I get them to take me in.
This happenend in Jantar Mantar a few years ago. A friend from the UK was visiting and both of us were travelling through Rajasthan. We had heard of the Jantar Mantar from another traveller and landed up in jaipur to see it. We had heard about stairs leading to nowhere, ancient sun dials, clocks that had time etched on the ground etc. We landed up at the site at about noon and the first thing that happened before even we bought tickets was a group of guys who are guides started to talk to us about taking us inside and showing us around for a fee. We said no and they persisted till they figured out that we would not hire them.We bought tickets and went in and started to walk around. It was a piss off, We couldn’t understand a thing. I tried to google information while inside but did not get enough of it to understand what was happening. I think that was the time i regretted not having a guide around. We looked for a guide and found one. He wanted 500 Rs. Outside the guys were charging 300. I assumed since i am already inside it should be cheaper, it wasn’t.
The next time this happened was when i was in Orcha, they place has about 100 small little sites and is beautiful. The guides there charge about 1k to show you the couple of important ones. Again this time i said no to them and walked in. Looking at these beautiful temples with absolutely no understanding of why or when it was built is boring. Google info and found some and visited those sites. I think i keep saying No to a guided service is because I haven’t budgeted for it before i leave home.
This time around in when i visited Jaipur on work, i managed to find some time to go and visit the Jantar Mantar. First i walked around by myself and again since i did not understand anything i started to look for a guide to show me around. I found one and apparently inflation has happened and they charge 700 rupees. Hired him and he showed me around a few sites. I asked him a bunch of questions about the place and he knew a few. Inspite of all of it the feeling of not knowing enough still persisted.
I had this idea a few years ago to create an app that mapped out features of historical sites around India. It will also give you a list of places and a map to get to them. The idea was to remove the guy in between. No more haggling with guides for bette rates and better yet no more half assed info. Maybe this app is something i should go ahead and build. Maybe my ticket out of working for someone else. I have had itchy pals for a while to start something. The idea is there, next thing to find is someone who can build it. I am going to take this idea and run it by a few friends to see if it has merit. Hopefully i would find a VC who can give me inputs. Now the part i have to figure out is, does this have merit that someone would pay like 500 Rupees a month. Maybe they will, maybe they wont. I have no idea but its time to find out.