When I Ran From a Hotel Bill (Aka Journey with Difficulties)

When I got out of the ashram, in Cheriyanad, where I had just completed the 10 day Vipassana Meditation, I went back to Chengannur to stay for the day. The next day I was going to the Ayurvedic retreat I had booked two days later.

The next morning I asked the receptionist what time I had to check out, and he told me I could just check out whenever I wanted to. I thought that was very nice of him, and he had been very friendly and helpful when I stayed there the last time, before I went to the ashram. I figured, since they didn’t have a lot of guests it didn’t matter to them.

At around 4 pm I had packed my things and was ready to leave. When I wanted to check out there was another receptionist who told me I had to pay for the day. I explained to him that his colleague had told me I could just check out whenever I wanted to. He didn’t care, check out time was at noon. I explained that I had asked when the check out time was and that I had been misinformed. It made no difference to him, I just had to pay for the day.

I argued with him for at least 15 minutes. I made him call the other receptionist who denied that he had told me I could check out whenever I wanted to. I tried asking him, to look at it from my side of things. He was clearly not able to do that, and wouldn’t even consider looking at things from my perspective. I told him that I wouldn’t pay when it was his colleague who had made a mistake. Had he given me the correct information I could have just left earlier.

After I had said I wouldn’t pay him, he got really agitated, and arguing with him turned from nearly pointless to completely pointless. I suggested we made a compromise where I paid for one third of the day, which was more than the extra time I had spend. But he couldn’t do that because his boss would ask why he hadn’t written the full amount in the book.

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Almost no passengers with the train. Yes, this is from India. (Taken with my greasy, slow phone.)

I was running out of time, my train was leaving soon, I considered paying, but I felt I was being cheated, and I didn’t want to make up for their mistake, or their bureaucratic company issues. I considered just running from the bill, but there was a guard outside, with a few other employees, and I didn’t know how he, or they, would react. They all knew something was going on, because they could see our heated argument. I didn’t want the police involved and I certainly didn’t want to miss my train. I had paid quite a lot for the Ayurvedic stay, and I knew it could take a long time to get there.

Out of the window I could see a line of tuk-tuks, or as they call them in India, autos. They were standing ready, and originally I had considered walking to the station, but I didn’t have time for that anymore. I would have to run out to those guys and quickly get one of them to take me to the train station. I tested the receptionist a couple of times by walking a bit back as if leaving, and he didn’t really react to it, so I decided to take the chance.

I paid him one third of the bill, even though I wasn’t supposed to, in an attempt to make up for the trouble, and then I told him I had a train to catch and left. The guard was looking at me while I walked towards him, and the exit. I walked right past him but he didn’t react. I hurried out to the auto and went to the train station. I tipped him some extra because he was quick and didn’t try to charge me extra just because I was a foreigner.

At the train station I was looking out for the police, in case he had called them. I would be very easy to find, since I was the only white person, and if the police asked anyone, they would all know exactly in which direction I went. Fortunately, no police came and the train arrived only 10 minutes delayed. Everything worked out – sort of.

The Ayurvedic retreat was 5-10 km southwest of a town called Bavali. I just had to get to Cochin (aka Kochi) and then a driver, from the retreat, would pick me up.

But on my way to Cochin I found out that the pick up wasn’t free, as I had thought. I had misread the information at their website. I didn’t want to pay for a 3+ hour taxi ride, so I chose to continue with train to Calicut Airport (aka Kozhikode) from where the pick up would be free. I had spend a lot of my budget on the stay, so I didn’t want to spend anymore than I had to.

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This room made me so happy.

I arrived in Cochin in the evening and I was told the next train to Calicut was either at 11.50 pm or 6.15 am. I decided to take the one in the morning, and get some sleep. I found a hotel nearby, slept for a bit and had the alarm wake me up at 12 am, so I could go back to the train station and buy a ticket for the morning train.

For some reason it wasn’t possible to buy a train ticket for the next day, because the trip was less than 200 km/124 mi. The trip from Cochin to Calicut was 180 km/112 mi in total. So, I had to get back after midnight to buy a ticket for that day.

I left at 6 o’ clock in the morning and took the train as planned. After a couple of hours I arrived at a train station in a small town where everyone left the train. I asked around and was told it was the end station and it would go back in half an hour. They told me that in order to go to Calicut I would have to take the train back half an hour, to a city called Thrissur, and then get another train. I had already emailed the retreat to pick me up at 6 pm. They had told me to just go to the train station and then they would pick me up there.

But I couldn’t tell them I was delayed because my sim card had run out of credit. I didn’t know how much I would be delayed anyway, because everyone told me something different. I had been told the entire trip would be 2 hours when I bought the ticket, some people in the train had said it was 4 hours, others said 8 hours and one even said 12 hours. I was worried I would show up in Calicut too late, only to see the driver had left again because they couldn’t get in contact with me.

I asked if it was possible to find a bus or a taxi. But they had no busses going from that town and all taxis were on strike throughout the state, this particular day. There was no way I would find one. I had to wait around, go back to Thrissur and hope for the best.

Back at Thrissur train station I bought a ticket for the next train which was supposed to leave 2 hours and 40 minutes later. I had originally thought I could have been in Calicut by this time, but I was not even halfway.

After 3 hours and 40 minutes the train arrived and I could continue my journey. The next part of the trip was supposed to be 4 hours but luck smiled at me and it only took 3 hours. Not that it helped me much, because then I just had to wait at the train station for the driver.

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I even had a lounge area!

When the driver was supposed to show up, I couldn’t see him anywhere. I walked around for a while, and thought that he maybe was on the other side of the rails. I went to the other side, but still couldn’t find him. On my way back to where I had first been waiting, an Indian guy came up to me; “Are you Casper?”

The driver had been trying to find me as well, but he had been waiting on the side where I had arrived. But because I had arrived early I had gone to the other side which was the main entrance. I was not used to being picked up by drivers, and since the retreat catered mostly to tourists coming directly from the airport and going back to the airport the driver didn’t expect me to move to the main entrance.

The taxi ride was around 3 hours, and at 9.00 pm I finally arrived at the retreat. It had been 15 hours since I left the hotel that morning and I had traveled 280 km/174 mi. That’s an average speed of 18,6 km/h/11.6 mph. I had expected things to be slightly faster, but it was nice to finally arrive. They had dinner ready for me, and several people serving me.

They had been waiting for me for hours, expecting me to show up earlier (and so had I) since I had already paid for the day. Then they showed me my room, and I was so surprised to see it, I smiled from ear to ear. Never had I had such a big nice bed, and such a spacious and clean room. To me it almost felt like a castle, and I was so ready to test the bed. 2 days of travel was over, as well as 10 days of intense meditation, and now it was time to relax and enjoy my last 2 weeks in India.

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This cute little thing was guarding my room the next morning.

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