THIS HOTEL HAS SET NEW STANDARDS OF HOSPITALITY IN LEH
Arif Shafi Wani
Nothing is impossible: This maxim holds true for the state-of-the-art The Grand Dragon Ladakh, the first three star hotel in the ‘Cold Desert’, constructed at an altitude of over 10,000 feet. Nestled in the snow-capped towering peaks, The Grand Dragon has emerged as a new landmark of Leh, Ladakh. A confluence of modern and traditional Ladakhi architecture, The Grand Dragon is loaded with all the latest facilities—from elevators, 24-hour power supply to solar powered hot water supply.
But there is more than meets the eye. It was not an easy task to construct the hotel. But as they say nothing is impossible, it finally became a reality. In past over three years of its functioning, the Grand Dragon Ladakh has come a long way. Its long list valued guests include the United States Senator John Mcain and the Country’s vice-president Hamid Ansari.
“It is like a dream come true,” says the proprietor of The Grand Dragon, Ghulam Mustafa. “But the dream came at a hefty cost and infinite challenges.” Ghulam Mustafa has been in the hotel business for past four decades. He and his brother, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din started with a small guest house in Leh. Incidentally, the guest house named Dragon Hotel was among first few accommodations when Ladakh was opened for tourists in 1974.
“Due to good hospitality and facilities, our guest house was thronged by tourists. Some of the tourists complained that Ladakh lacks big hotels. I took it as a challenge and decided to construct a new hotel with all latest facilities,” Ghulam Mustafa said. After brainstorming sessions with his family and friends Ghulam Mustafa finally decided to go ahead with the ambitious plan in 2005. He utilized the services of a reputed architect of the Country to translate his dream into reality. Initially he planned to construct 20 bed hotel, but ended up for 50 bed with latest amenities.
But there were many challenges in store for him. First hurdle was the limited working season of Ladakh which remains cut off due to heavy snowfall during winter for nearly six months. Secondly, the procurement of construction material for the hotel from Delhi proved to be a daunting task. “We had to bear additional burden of paying taxes to the State Government for the material including marble, electronic equipment and other accessories. We imported entire furniture from China. Besides we had to get the workforce including masons and carpenters from outside the State,” he said.
This led to escalation of the project cost and finance emerged as a major problem. “At one point I though the project would never be completed. However, J&K Bank extended all the help to accomplish my dream.”
The Grand Dragon has all the facilities under one roof. Owing to its green architectural standards like double glazed windows, energy efficient bulbs, and solar water heating, the Grand Dragon boasts of being an eco-friendly hotel. “We have used solar panels to heat water for the bathrooms even in winters. Our endeavor has been to provide environment friendly atmosphere which enhances comfort, pleases the sensibilities,” Ghulam Mustafa said.
The Hotel has highly decorated 53 rooms including executive and royal suites to cater different types of customers. The spacious Royal Suites have one master bed, sitting room, two attached bathrooms and an interconnected room, life size LCD TV, internet and Wi-Fi. Most of the rooms offer panoramic view of mesmerizing snow covered Stok Ranges. From the royal suites and north-side deluxe rooms, one can see the magnificent Leh Palace and the world’s highest motorable road-Khardongla Pass.
A spacious soundproof conference-cum-banquet hall having a capacity to accommodate over 200 persons, is laced modern sound and audio visual equipment of international standards. Designed in traditional Ladakhi architecture, the hotel’s multi-cuisine restaurant powered by a team of experienced chefs offers blend of continental, Chinese, and mouthwatering Kashmiri Wazwan. Besides a Coffee Shop is open for 24 hours provides steaming tea, coffee and light food.
The Hotel has a sprawling garden with an open air amphitheater. All the chairs and tables in the garden are made of eco-friendly wicker.
Ghulam Mustafa who is also a painter used his experience to give a traditional touch to Hotel’s design. “I used my extensive painting experience in my hotel’s interior designing giving traditional touch to its façade,” said Ghulam Mustafa who has won two State Awards for his excellent paintings.
An Alumni of Institute of Music and Fine Arts Srinagar, Ghulam Mustafa has done every painting for the hotel. “I have reflected different facets of Ladakh in my paintings. For rooms, I have focused on the people of Ladakh and their traditions. While enjoying a good time in the cozy environment of the rooms, I want the visitors to feel the essence of Ladakh,” said Mustafa who has introduced Rabsal tradition of Ladakhi architecture in the hotel.
“Our hotel has changed the skyline of Ladakh. We have risen to the challenges of a remote land and have emerged as prominent hotel of Ladakh,” he said. “We can also boast a green philosophy as we have 95 solar panels to help heat the water for central heating, and bathrooms. The under-floor heating of the tiled bathrooms is also supplied by hot water. All windows are double-glazed and the hotel including the water supply, are well insulated to conserve energy and to make stay of our guests luxuriously comfortable, even in winter,” he says. 95 percent of the hotel staff in from Nepal, Himachal and Kolkatta. “They were trained in hospitality.”
“Almost all the high-profile visitors to Ladakh prefer to stay in my hotel,” Ghulam Mustafa says with a proud smile. He takes pride in enumerating the list of his valued guests— US Senator John McCain, vice-president Hamid Ansari, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, film stars Aamir Khan, Madhavan and Shabana Azmi besides bureaucrats and other VIPs.
The shooting of some scenes of Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots was also done at the hotel. “It was exciting to host the crew and stars of the film. They appreciated our facilities. It is our privilege to host
Guests, including the high profile ones. Our endeavor is to provide exceptional service and make the stay of our guests memorable,” Mustafa says.
LEGACY GOES ON
Mustafa’s daughter Nasreen is working as General Manager of the Hotel. She has done a diploma in Hotel management from Institute of Hotel Management Delhi. And Mustafa’s son, Anjum after doing his diploma in IHM Delhi, is pursuing advanced studies in Spain. Mustafa’s nephew Danish is also “sharpening his hospitality skills” in Spain. “I want that the next generation of our family should carry on our legacy of hospitality business. Hospitality and fair trade practices are in our blood. My children and nephew are pursuing advanced education in hospitality to bring our business at par with international standards,” Mustafa said. Mustafa believes that there is need of more effort to make his hotel achieve more success. “It is my dream to achieve five star status for my hotel.”
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 30 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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