Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Accommodation Review: Shalimar Hotel Ziarat and the PTDC Motel

Transportation Reviews: Karachi-Quetta-Ziarat and back
Shalimar Hotel Ziarat from Inside
Shalimar Hotel is not only the major commercial accommodation in Ziarat but it is also the only place which keeps alive round the year even in the harsh winters – when the whole valley puts on the white blanket. Lonely Planet also lists this hotel; both on its printed as well as online versions, but the contact number given in the printed version is obsolete. (New Number: 0833-560353) 

This budget place enjoys good reputation among frequent travelers, both businessmen and tourists, mainly due to the facilities which cannot be found around the rustic hill station. During our recent trip (November 2012), we spent three nights there and found that livable, however, with much room for improvements.

Since it was the off-season, I did not bother advance booking; however, I did call Zahoor – the hotel manager – before leaving Karachi to make sure if they were open and to enquire about the best commuting options from Karachi. He was responsive, not only on the phone but afterwards also, and guided us well.

PTDC Motel
The other decent accommodation option in Ziarat was PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Company) Motel which we would have preferred due to its cleanliness, tranquil environment, and cozy cottages should there have been heating arrangement.

Both Shalimar Hotel and PTDC are on the main Ziarat road but on the opposite corners of the city with former being on the entrance when coming from Quetta. The bus dropped us right in front of the hotel and it took me 10 minutes to negotiate the deal with Zahoor who allotted Room # 15 and Jamshed to us.  On the way back also, the Quetta bound coaster (pre-booked) picked us up from the hotel. We found the hotel conveniently located; close enough to the hustle-bustle that it does not look haunted in a town which gets dead as the sun sets down but not too close to the level of annoyance.

About the Room
The room was spacious with wall sized glass windows on two sides to get maximum sun exposure. On the flip side, it was located far behind which made it inconvenient especially when the intercom system was not functional. The double bed, blankets, and bed sheets were very clean while the carpet floor was grimy and the toilet was too small and rundown. I had to insist to get a bathroom wiper and the carpet was vacuum cleaned only once and that too when we had already spent a night. In order to keep kids away from the rug, I requested an extra mattress which they provided free of charge and without reluctance.

Electricity and Gas
Initially they provided us a slightly faulty gas heater which was replaced the next day. Gas pressure used to get week around sunset for an hour and they had a policy to close the valve at 11pm. Even if they do not disconnect the supply, it is highly advisable to turn the heater off before sleeping, ignoring which may be life threatening. There was two hours of electric load shedding twice a day (7am and 3pm) in addition to the occasional breakdowns during daytime for indefinite hours. During nights also, power disrupted a couple of times but luckily for a few minutes only. Surprisingly, there was no alternate illumination in the room except for the candles which one can get from the staff on demand and our cell phones.

Other Services
Room service was satisfactory and unfussy; we ordered food and tea quite a few times which always reached us without much waiting.  Food quality was also good enough with realistic prices. They have various well maintained conference style dining areas as well on both floors in addition to 16 bedrooms on the first floor out of which only 3-4 were occupied due to offseason. During our stay, there was a meeting of health department which occupied those dining halls.

Staff was easygoing, soft spoken, and well mannered. Security was also good and the overall ambiance was family friendly. Although the room occupancy was low when we visited but the place gets high in demand during spring and summers so advanced booking would be wise during the season.

Overall we found Shalimar Hotel Ziarat recommendable to those visiting the hill station, either with family or friends, except for ones too demanding.

Gas Heater (included)
Hot Running Water (included)
Washing Machine (self use, free of charge)
Iron (self use, free of charge)
Television (only Geo News)

Short Comings:
Broken Intercom System
Rundown Washroom
Unclean Carpet

Room Charges: Rs. 1,200 for the double room 

Shalimar Hotel Ziarat from the Front
Shalimar Hotel Ziarat from the Backside (Room#15 is on the Right Corner)
A View from Inside the Room - Just OK!
Sipping Hot Qahwa in the Room
Do Turn the Gas Heater Before You Sleep
Main Ziarat Road in Front of Shalimar Hotel
Zahoor - the Responsive Manager of Shalimar Hotel Ziarat
Kaleemullah Kakar (front) and Zahoor are Responsible for the Room Service
Shalimar Hotel Ziarat - Conditions
Restaurant of Shalimar Hotel Ziarat with the Inside Family Room
Stairs for the First Floor
One of the Dining Halls on the First Floor (Noticed the Telephone!?)
A Typical Double Bed in Shalimar Hotel Ziarat
Bathrooms can be Improved