When travelling to Peshawar, recently I stumbled upon the Hotel “Grand”. The reason is easy to understand. It was the only (read: the only!) Hotel in the decent middle-class category that answered to my inquiry for a room. It took the Manager only about ten minutes to mail me the requested info. Getting into direct contact with them de facto in “real time”, was both important to me and easy, since the majority (well, almost all) of the Hotels in Pakistan, within my price-range, have obviously taken an oath not to run an own website or provide reliable and (working!!!) contact information via yellow pages. As a result the traveller is very often re-directed to a commercial travel agency’s homepage where they write a lot of non-relevant and frequently simply wrong information (sometimes even via copy and paste to different Hotel descriptions – how stupid can you be?) concerning the desired Hotel. Moreover their “special deals” or “special discounts” are simply one thing: over-priced. Since none (!!!) of the provided e-mail addresses did work when contacted for clarification, I really do wonder, where all these personal information we’re supposed to provide (including credit card info) goes.
So, with the “Rose” having some sort of technical problems (as I heard soon later) and all other addressees not bothering to reply, I felt happy to receive a speedy reply by an obviously dedicated Manager – after all you do not go into a city like Peshawar, with your Backpack shouldered looking for a room.
Once in Peshawar the Hotel Grand is not hard to find – by Taxi or Auto-rickshaw. It lies on big “University Road” leading out of the inner city towards Khyber Agency. Coming from the “Daewoo” Bus stand (opposite the “General Bus stand”) it is more or less a straight journey through the City of about 15 minutes, passing “Balar Hissar” and the “British Cemetery”. However, it is a good way apart from the “old” city of Peshawar with its Meena Bazaar, Mahabat Khan Mosque and Qissar Khawani. Going there from - and coming back to the Hotel takes time and costs between 120 Rs and 200 Rs per ride in a Taxi or Auto-rickshaw. So, every time I went to the old city I felt a little bit as of “going into town”. Also when returning to the Hotel, it felt a little bit like leaving this part of the city, I came for. It simply is a more or less non-descript building on a non-descript busy street of south Asia. The vibe and the sounds of Peshawar’s old streets are Miles way. So, it basically was perfect for me to have a safe and relatively comfortable place to arrive, when entering Peshawar, and after two or three days move on to where my heart really was.
It is a comparatively modern, multi-storey building with a lot of glass catering mostly to regional business-men. Their cars are parked in front of the Hotel, guarded by a double post of armed security men. More cars are parked in the inner yard of the Hotel. The Lobby is pleasant with seating areas and an efficiently working reception-team.
A lift gets you to your storey, where all rooms are arranged in a triangle around an inner courtyard (like often in Pakistan) – thus creating an enclosed parking lot (like in an old Kervanserai).
The room I was given was on the second floor. There was a bathroom which clearly has seen better times but which was still ok. Though I was reluctant to sit in the (probably) 50 year old plastic bathtub, talking a shower with reliably constant hot water was good. Despite being a little worn down around the edges, I definitely had not the feeling of better not to touch anything in the bathroom. Towels and sheets to cover the tiled floor where provided and clean. Soap and a little sewing kit were provided too. For avoiding walking into the bathroom with your street shoes, plastic sandals are provided to the traveller (like in almost any Muslim Country’s Hotel). They were probably 5 sizes to small for my feet and looked like right out of my granny’s cupboard, but they served the purpose.
The second room of my “Deluxe Single” had a slightly kitschy touch (for my taste). There was one big glass-front covered by a thick golden-green curtain to avoid anyone looking inside. The walls had several small lamps in early 20th century style, producing a very yellow light; there was a sitting area, a writing desk and a television on a big refrigerator, centring the curtain-clad glass-front.
The double bed was pleasantly clean and smelled fresh. The mattress was thick but not to soft – for my taste, fine. The room’s carpet had been cleaned, recently. In terms of equipment and maintenance this room was clearly two categories above the “Rose’s” appearance.
An included free breakfast was part of my rate. I found the breakfast room (also Restaurant) a little bit strange, without being able to name anything really freaked-out. It was rather dark being situated on ground-floor level and looking out onto the parking-lot. Tables and chairs were of iron, like some retro garden chairs. Entering the room, you were first greeted by a big waste container, standing between the entrance and the counter where two guys waited for orders or for their time to clean-up the leftovers from the leaving client’s breakfasts.
The buffet was basically ok. An attempt has been made to bring about a culinary compromise between urban-Pakistani breakfast habits and those with a more rural background. Tea (black & green) and Coffee was provided by portioned bags and as instant variety. Hot water came from a samovar. There was a bowl with some crazy orange coloured (but well tasting) fruit jam, butter packs lying nearby on a tray.
Then there were three (or 4?) bowls, standing in a row on the buffet table. The ones, which can be shut with a down swinging lid, thus keeping the food fresher and warmer. While one of them contained local Nan-style breads (I was offered toast bread though), another one was filled with dozens of poached eggs. Again another one contained a local breakfast soup with meat inside. So basically everyone could find a minimalist solution to store some calories at the start of the day. But here in this room were obviously some weak points. The table cloth was a living chronicle of previous guests’ (hopefully only) breakfasts. While the remaining food and the used cutlery had been removed, the smaller leftovers like jam splashes, bread crumps and egg fragments had not. Thumbs down. At around nine the buffet looked pretty plundered with all bowls standing open; a table waste container was overflowing and the breakfast-crew looking very bored behind their counter. Considering taking here a (comparatively) expensive lunch or dinner? Out of question; even more so as there are a couple of decent restaurants plus a supermarket just across the street.
So, I found my stay in the Hotel Grand to be a pleasant one, but at the same time I did not cry when I left after two days to head for the old part of the city.
My pros would be:
- the reliability and quick response to a customer’s inquiry
- the cleanliness and maintenance of the rooms
- no credit card needed for direct booking; cash on departure was fine
- the rather uninspiring location
- the restaurant: appearance, prices
Price (Oct. 2012): 2400 Rs. (20 €) for a Deluxe Single room including breakfast and taxes
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