Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stay at Pelling, Sikkim: Hotel Hill Retreat

We were driven to Pelling, a distance of 110 kms from Gangtok, through a mountainous terrain. It is at a higher altitude than Gangtok and increasing altitudes leads to lowering expectations of the quality of accommodation.
Our tour operators chose some other accommodation for us but we got it changed to Hotel Hill Retreat which is ranked#2 as per Tripadvisor. Below is the picture of the room that we were allotted.

Hotel Hill Retreat, Pelling, Sikkim
Definitely not as big as the one in Gangtok. It is about 3/4th the size. What is comforting is that the room was carpeted wall-to-wall. And warm water is provided for drinking. These two factors are a must, I realize, or else it is difficult to handle the cold temperatures.
Pelling is chosen as a tourist spot because it is closest to Kanchenjunga. And the view from the room is awesome!
The hotel is housed in a lovely building, the size, space and design is something that we in Hyderabad would die for. But it looks like once it was built, people had no idea as to what to do with it. The service or the amenities do not match up. First, they still have the archaic bell system to call the reception and not the telephone. And to top it, the bell wasn't working! So whenever you needed to call the help, you had to walk down two sets of stairs. If you are ranked #2, one expects the best.
Getting hot water through all the taps in bathroom is compulsory in Pelling. Yet, the tap supplying hot water in the wash basin was broken. You had to go downstairs to let them know that you need hot water and only then the geyser switch is turned on at the reception. They switch it off once they feel everyone in your room had had his bath. The bathroom did have the basic amenities but not really well-maintained. Also, the towels provided had some marks on them and were dirty. We could not use them and it is on this last leg of our journey that we had to take out the towels that we carried as a stand-by.
The bed is also a bit small for two members. The curtains instead of being thick were rather flimsy and we couldn't block out sunlight before we were ready to get up in the morning. And remember, sun-rise happens at around 5 am there. So you keep lying in your bed tossing and turning after 5, wishing to block out the rather too bright sunlight.
Breakfast on both mornings we were there happened to be the same: aloo paratha and bread toast. Meals are cooked for you on request but we got a delayed order as there weren't many tourists when we were there. Food and the restaurant are quite decent. The food is slightly expensive though.What they are really good at are their 'phulkas.'  Small round, thin rotis, fresh off the stove...awesome in taste.
Because the hotels in Sikkim cannot compete in amenities with the bigger cities, all they can do is provide superior service.  But, there was nothing in the service that I can say went beyond expectations.
Yet, they don't fail to put the Tripadvisor logo on the front door, proud to be recommended by them. To be ranked# 2, you need to provide much better services and amenities. My rank would be a 2.5/5.