I can see why Shanti house and Gouri who runs it have received so many good reviews, because they are worth it. Apart from the rooms, which are basic (bucket wash and Indian toilet) but beautifully decorated with good beds, the point is you effectively get the chance to stay with an Indian family, a rare opportunity. You are eating what the family eat, especially Tara's excellent thali, plus a range of travelers fare.
It is the family (Gouri, Tara and their 3 year old daughter) who make this a special place to stay, not minor details about the rooms or the roof terrace. Gouri was wonderful throughout from when he met us off the night sleeper train from Dehli, which was 1.5 hours late, to his excellent walking tour of the old city (200R), and advice on visits, trains and camel rides.
He is the opposite of greedy, and was completely honest about any commission he might get from traders or factories if we went. Everything we got was reasonably priced from the room to meals to water, with no intention to rip anyone off. In fact when we were there, some Spanish travelers he helped with last minute accommodation stole an expensive blanket.
He advised us on travel and was able to book us a night sleeper from Jaisalmer to Jodpur that we had been told at the station was completely overbooked, for a 100R commission. He also told us the best train to Jaisalmer and the rat temple. Apart from practical advice, he was a mine of information about Bikanir and Indian customs, including getting us some Pan (betel) to try (it is horrible!). He didn't try and force camel rides or other visits on us, and isn't tied up with any agencies or agents.
I think this is an excellent place to stay, but be careful you get the right one because another hotel has called itself Shanti house and bribes rickshaw drivers to take you there instead, so ring up first and get Gouri to meet you, his English is very good.
Now a word about why you should visit Bikaner, which is missed by most tourists. It is precisely because there are so few tourists (and no coach parties) that it is so wonderful. The whole place is very friendly and interested in you while being much more Indian and rural than more developed tourist cities. A stay of two or three days will let you explore the old city (with Gouri's tour getting you started), visit the fort and see the rat temple. This is a great trip, apart from the rats there are loads of wedding parties, who want to involve you in their colourful ceremonies. 10R train ride (10.30am) or local buses are really frequent and there is an excellent local restaurant just outside the temple compound where all the wedding parties eat.
Bikaner has good trains to and from Jaisalmer, Jaipur and Jodpur all about 4-5 hours or there is a night sleeper to and from Dehli, about 12 hours leaving at 10 pm but not from main station in Dehli.
I can't praise Gouri and his family or Bikaner enough, a great visit.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The only guest house in the old city. Mentioned and thanked in Lonely Planet. We currently have 3 rooms with attached bathroom and 1 with separate bathroom. Free pick up from bus or train. I am also available for city tours or other travel advice. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Shanti House Hotel Bikaner