The Mayfair Hotel is one of the best and most comfortable hotels in Darjeeling, among a small handful of alternatives. The super deluxe double rooms have high, wood beam ceilings, rich wood wall panelling and good reading light. They are comfortably appointed and the layout is functional and also aesthetically pleasing. With an entrance vestibule and washroom connecting to it, our accommodation feels more like an apartment than a hotel room. My husband and I have equal space to lay open our suitcases in a wardrobe and ample shelf space to spread out our things for settling into a long stay. The fireplace is a real bonus for us since we're visiting Darjeeling at the end of November. It's chilly at 7000 feet and the fireplace makes the room cosy while we tuck into complementary tea and snacks watching TV.
The exterior spaces are also lovely with plenty of chairs, tables and couches to enjoy the warm afternoon sun with a glass of wine and have some privacy from other quests as well. Appointed with potted flowers everywhere, the warm ceramic patio tiles, white pillars, and wooden railings are a throw back to a gentler era.
So for accommodation and ambiance, I'm enthusiastic about the Mayfair.
However, don't expect much from this hotel by way of tourism support. I expect that the Mayfair typically serves tour groups who already have their agenda together. For independent travelers like us, however, we were surprised at the lack of support.
We approach the concierge. "We would like to order train tickets to take us to Siliguri when we leave." The whole notion of train travel in these parts is as iconic as tea plantations.
"I'm sorry sir, we can't arrange train tickets. We can show you where the ticket office is in town."
One of the things we fast discovered we didn't like to do in Darjeeling was to walk into town. The roadways are narrow, there's no sidewalk, honking jeeps blast through the crowds kicking up dust and scattering stones. The prospect of walking even one hundred metres to the railway office was not appealing.
"However we can you get tickets for you on the sightseeing toy train. It's a two hour excursion around the hills."
We agree and we're told we'll get a call when the arrangements have been made.
As promised, when we're out sightseeing, the driver receives a call on his cell phone indicating we had seats on the 10:40 train the next morning. Great.
Once at the hotel, my husband goes to collect the tickets.
"I'm sorry sir, I don't have the tickets. They are at the station. But you can pay me here"
"Well then give me a receipt so I will be able to show people at the station that they belong to me."
"I can't do that sir."
"Then I will pay at the station. Can you guarantee they will be there?" It's a key question because one needs to order these tickets for the two-hour ride 48 hours in advance during high season. It sells out quickly.
"OK. You can pay at the station. They are 240 rupees each but the agent charges 110 rupee commission for pick up."
"Then the agent can deliver the tickets to this hotel since I am paying nearly fifty percent mark-up. Why wouldn't he deliver them if he's charging to do so"
"I'll call and see what I can do."
In the end, we are promised delivery of the tickets by 9 am the next morning. We're cutting it close but since we haven't paid, if the tickets don't show, then we lose nothing.
It shouldn't have to be this hard to get service at a hotel costing $150 per night, which is high end in this town (with a couple of exceptions for plantation-based hotels).
In fact, it shouldn't be hard to check in either, but it was equally challenging.
We are shown to our room which we've booked a few days in advance. We are expecting a super deluxe that shows well on the internet. The attendants deposit our luggage in a room over the parking lot, beside the diesel generator. It looks nothing like the internet pictures. It's cramped; there's no fireplace. We don't waste a moment to return to reception.
The attendant is serving an Indian couple, apologizing that they have no more room for them. Dan interrupts with: "Tell them they can have our room." The attendant smiles. "No, I'm serious, the room you gave us is totally unacceptable. They can have it."
I've not seen any living creature move fast in these parts of India until this moment. A back room agent appears out of nowhere and takes us aside and instantly comes up with a new room. It's lovely and just like the pictures. Only the bathrobes are missing, which are supplied after another quick call.
The next surprise was finding out that the room did not have WiFi as promoted on the internet site. Another phone call; another attendant is sent to our room. I expect we've been flagged by now as the difficult ones.
"I'm sorry sir but you need to buy an internet card, priced by the hour."
"How is that possible since the website indicates it part of the amenities of the room?"
Since my husband and I had been planning on doing a few days work here, in the comfort of an upscale hotel, lack of internet made for another one of those frustrating moments. And with no internet, I couldn't prove that their website was misleading.
Another trip to the front desk and by now the office knows us. The concierge puts aside papers on her desk instantly, sighs, and offers us a seat.
"We'd like you to pull up your website and I will point out to you that you are advertizing something you are not delivering."
Our request is immediately granted. It's a definite plus for this place that people are so responsive, calm, and agreeable.
I pull up the page and it lists several features of the room: sofa, internet access, television, bathrobes, spa services, fireplace, among other things.
"You see sir, what it means is that you can have these things for a fee. Internet access is available in the room for a fee. For example the list also includes spa services and of course these are for an extra fee, they are not free in the room."
"If that's the case, then I must also assume your are charging us a fee for the fireplace, or for sitting on the sofa in the room, or for watching the television. These things are also on the list. Is that so?"
"Of course not sir."
"Then your website is misleading."
"I will make a note for my manager."
In the end we are offered use of the floor manager's office after 5 pm for internet access.
Should it be this hard?
On balance, I still recommend Mayfair. I've come to expect that things go wrong in West Bengal. Power failures are daily, noisy generators kick in, phone numbers are often wrong, the internet crashes. The Mayfair is operating in this environment and I know that similar annoyances occur at other hotels.
Out of curiosity, we checked out Mayfair's competing hotel, The Elgin, in order to compare the room amenities. While the reservations desk indicated that one of the features of its rooms was in-room internet access, we would only learn upon personal inspection, that there was an additional charge for such access. Lesson learned: don't make any assumptions. Ask precisely what's included "without additional charge".
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- MAYFAIR Darjeeling - located in the lap of Mother Nature, is a star category deluxe heritage hotel that was once the summerhouse of Maharaja of Nazargunj. Located at prime location (opposite Governor's House) in Darjeeling, MAYFAIR Darjeeling is known for world-class facilities, state-of-the-art services, superb amenities, and a home like surrounding that pleases ever tourist. With 43 well-decorated and fully furnished rooms,the leading luxury hotel in Darjeeling provide you accommodation with the motive of "Stay with Us, Stay with Nature". Being over a century old, it still maintains the charm of the old world while having modern amenities and a young and vibrant staff. Warm fires in each room, spectacular sunsets, the stellar Spa, an exclusive Tea boutique and extensive dining options are just some of the reasons guests come back here time and again. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Mayfair Darjeeling Hotel Darjeeling
- Mayfair Hotel Darjeeling