Ladakh is not a destination for me any more. It is an emotion. I am still wondering why I took so long to visit “The Crown Jewel of India”. The teasing views of the Himalayas give you shivering vista of the land that was a remote corner of India until a few decades ago. The shinning glaze of the rising Sun on the mountain peaks, the changing landscapes as I started descending, literary had me hooked on to this place even before I actually arrived there.
I was in Ladakh to attend the biggest Buddhist Festival named the Naropa Festival in Leh for the first few days and later I was on an ultra luxury trip with The Grand Dragon Ladakh, which gave me the most authentic Ladakhi Experience.
Epitome of Luxury
The Grand Dragon Ladakh is beyond the tag of a finest luxury hotel. Reputed to be the first luxury hotel in the region, developed and conceptualized by brothers Ghulam Mustafa and Ghulam Mohiuddin in 2007 , it provides the ultimate lavishness in terms of accommodations, ambiance, and food in a rough terrain like Ladakh. What sets it apart is the exceptional experiences it provides to its guests, which is unparalleled.
Whether it was the warmth in the behavior, the most courteous and genuine staff, the amenities and the carefully crafted décor, the hotel flaunts everything in style in sync with the traditions. I was told about Mr. Ghulam Mustafa, who was the mind behind the artistically designed art and décor of the hotel and is well known for working on preservation and conservation of Ladakhi heritage for more than 20 years. The rich taste of Ladakhi traditional architectural design elements are well reflected in their extended verandahs, the pine wood carvings with colorful traditional paintings in the restaurants, hand painted dragon faces, furniture, and many ancient design motifs on the ceilings and walls.
What drew my attention immediately were the hand-painted portraits, adorning the walls and corridors. The absolutely eye-arresting fine paintings of Ladakhi people were so engrossing that I was lost in them for hours. The Grand Dragon Ladakh is one of the few hotels in the region, which is fully equipped to run during the harsh winter in Ladakh. The centrally heated room and floor makes you feel the warmth inside, even though the outside temperature drops down to minus degrees. The hotel has four categories of rooms like, Deluxe, Premium Heritage Room, Family Suite, and Luxury Suite.
The hotel is home to a large centrally heated conference hall fitted with state-of-the-art equipment. They also have large space for hosting any kind of events like meetings, conventions, conferences, or any other exclusive events.
Room with a View
As I woke up in the morning, my eyes were treated to an untouched natural splendour. The spellbinding views of the sun-kissed mountains, towering Shanti Stupa on the hillock, green vegetation and bird’s eye view of the Leh City, the untainted views from the room through the large picture windows can compel you to be room-arrested for rest of the day.
Each day I used to admire and stare at the changing landscapes for hours and wonder about the nature’s creation of a place like Ladakh on this earth. Even when my trip to Pangong Tso got cancelled due to sudden change in weather and heavy snow fall, instead of feeling bad about it, I was happily spending my day at the hotel with the amazing views of Stok Kangri Mountains and the foggy surroundings.
The tastefully designed room from hand-picked cushion covers to curtains, centrally controlled air conditioning and heating, LED Satellite TV, in-room electronic safe and spacious en-suite bathroom; I was indulging in super luxury in the contemporary deluxe room. The best part of the room was the balcony. The perfect setting and the cold temperature outside make you sip the Kahwa in absolute solitude.
Hospitality & Humbleness
The hospitality of the Grand Dragon Ladakh is sky high. The moment you enter the premises of this finest luxury hotel, you are greeted with smiles and treated with a traditional welcome. The most humble staff of the hotel is well trained and professional to cater to all your needs during your stay. What I found extraordinary was their willingness to go extra miles to make your stay comfortable and memorable at the same time. They are always ready to help and also share information about the places with their guests.
I had the opportunity to meet the director of the hotel Mr. Danish Din and I was completely floored by his simplicity and politeness. As I was talking about my first experience in Ladakh, I also promised him to come back soon to see winter in Ladakh. I also have to mention about Mr. Hafiz, who made sure that I had the best time at the property and during my trip to places like Nubra valley, Turtuk village, Timgmosgang village and other sightseeing places in Leh city. My journey to the land of high passes will not be completed if I don’t mention about Mr. Humayun Khan who drove me around Ladakh for eight complete days. He is one of the most humble people I ever met on a trip, who is also a great photographer himself and has an in-depth knowledge about the place as well.
Soul Satisfying Food
When it comes to food at The Grand Dragon Ladakh, you are surely treated with soul satisfying food each day. Whether it is their lavish breakfast spread with a variety of options, the luncheon or the dinner scene, I relished each meal. More than anything, the live cooking session with the Chef was one of the highlights of my stay at the property. The steamed Momos, Mutton Soup with Vegetables, Timokh and stuffed sausage were scrumptious. The best part of the live cooking session was that I became part of the process personally, seeing them preparing and cooking and then serving right from the stove.
The Heritage Walk in Leh : A Must Have Experience
If you are someone who is fascinated about the history and ancient tales of a place, you must do a specially curated Heritage Walk in the old town of Leh, organised by The Grand Dragon Ladakh. We started the walk by meeting the well known celebrity designer Jigmat at his store named Jigmat Couture Studio.
The high-end luxury clothing brand is famous among his clients from various industries including Bollywood. Later, we were taken to his Textile Museum of Ladakh, located near the Polo ground in Leh. It was great meeting with the man himself who has not just done a commendable work by collecting and preserving Ladakh’s rich textile heritage, but also promoting art, craft and culture of Ladakh through his bespoke luxury clothing brand as well.
Disclaimer: The Museum is not open for all, only on invitation by the designer
Though, it was not the best day to walk on the narrow alleys of the Leh’s older part since it was drizzling and getting colder as the time passed, but I really enjoyed the walk with our guide. This is the best way to get introduced to the rich architectural heritage and history of Ladakh. The walk started from the Leh Palace and soon we were descending towards the older part of the city through the tiny alleyways.
Photo Courtesy: Shadows Galore
The guide showed us the old houses and explained how families used to live here and share the same kitchen due to lack of firewood. She also mentioned that the sharing culture helped the Ladakhi people create the most beautiful bond of togetherness among families in older times.
Photo Courtesy: Shadows Galore
When asked about the reason behind those tiny windows and doors of the old houses, I was told that there were two main reasons. The first one was that, it helped them to keep the place warm during the harsh winter and secondly, it prevented the demons to enter the house as they believed that the demons had a form and they were tall. They (Demons) used to roam around the streets. The short door and windows would prevent them to enter the household as they could not bend. It was also a way to prevent the evil energy from entering their homes. Knowing about the early lifestyle of Ladakhi people by walking through the old lanes was surely an enriching experience itself. I must recommend this walk if you are a heritage lover.
I continued exploring other parts of Ladakh with The Grand Dragon Ladakh for next one week. I am going to write about it on separate posts. Meanwhile, if you wish to follow my #Ladakh journey, you can simply follow hashtags #GrandDragonLadakh and #MyTravelDiary on any of these social platforms like Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and can be a part of my virtual journey.
I always believe that the luxury hotels are not just meant for providing luxury amenities; rather the unique and specially curated experiences make them stand tall in the business. In this regard, The Grand Dragon Ladakh has exceeded my expectations. It has given me an immersive experience and introduced me to the magical land called Ladakh.
Ladakh is a fascinating destination in India and it should be on your bucket list for sure. If you are planning to cover this destination, these Leh Ladakh Packages can help you to design your itinerary.
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I was invited by The Grand Dragon Ladakh on a Press Trip.
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