I was expecting to see another dark smoky tasteless business hotel in a busy market area of Dhaka city. But when I entered the lobby and observed it from my comfy sofa with a soft music in the background, I saw quite a cosy, light and clean lobby designed in a red mahogany and a cream colour scheme. I like this feel about hotels when they have consistency in design and décor. Often you walk into hotels, even 5 stars, and you wonder what design style they follow. Bengal Inn stands out. It tells of itself as a classy boutique hotel, which Bangladeshi hoteliers proudly explain as being beyond any star rating. The managers who welcomed me later explained that they sell standard rooms with a deluxe and personal service. ‘We use same linen and guest amenities as 5 star’s do, but we charge as for 3 star, and some of our rooms are bigger so in some ways we are 5 star!’
The red mahogany tone continues into the rooms and corridors. Everything is tasteful here. But yes, there was a guest puffing his cigarette in the lobby and discussing business with another smoker next to him. The management of Bengal Inn does allow smoking in any part of the property and they do not have a non-smoking room, however they go at big length to thoroughly air all the rooms and public areas. In fact the odour of smoke can only be felt in the lobby. After all, their main clientele are the business travellers. And as a measure to discourage smoking no ashtrays are provided in the restaurant. One thing is guaranteed if you stay in this hotel is that the whole property is neat and clean at all times.
Bengal Inn is owned by the Index Group of Bangladesh and managed by DHMS which is the first Bangladeshi hotel management company. Compared to the high-end properties run by big name international chains in Dhaka, Bengal Inn is truly Bengal in this sense. What a better way to retain the earned hard currency in the local Bengal hands.
When I asked the manager what a guest should bring with him/her to his hotel he asked me in reply what else would the guest need? ‘We have everything you need for your stay’. I thought that was a sweet way of saying you will not feel that you’d need more. That having been said and noted, anyone who travels in Bangladesh is strongly advised to be more proactive by simply making their requests heard in order to make things come their way.
The hotel offers almost all facilities needed for today’s business traveller: a small business centre on the ground floor, a conference room next to the restaurant that can accommodate up to 60 people, a 24h wireless internet access from any corner of the hotel and of course in the rooms, a gym on the roof-floor with a treadmill, cycle, and Ab King. The roof-top garden is particularly pleasing in the evenings or mornings, and for sunbathing in the lazy afternoons. For the AC-friendly ones there’s a clean and cool restaurant to get replenished.
Gulshan is an area where the richest of the country reside and work. The office rental costs are the highest in town, large corporate offices, trendy shopping malls, embassies, foreign missions are all here or nearby. You will realize the centrality of this 5 storied hotel’s location standing on its roof garden or from any of the rooms with a front view: commercial and residential buildings of all heights and widths are clearly visible. If you walk three minutes to the right side from the hotel, across the road is the largest market of the area with hundreds of shops selling anything, you name it, and is needed for life, from live chicken and fish to large furniture items! The location can’t be any better for those who come here just to explore what the country is all about: you will see the richest and the poorest, expensive cars stuck in a traffic jam in peak hours as if on a show room display and the beggars hopelessly begging their closed windows, the ultramodern and the traditional, the posh houses and the slums, the top and the bottom, this is the place to start!
Gulshan is also an area with the best collection of restaurants and bars in the country. Several famous ones are in a walking distance from the hotel and many more if you take a cab or a local rickshaw. All the nice souvenir shops with local handicrafts are easily accessible and the front office staff of the hotel would be happy to advise you on some names. They can also help you arrange a sight seeing tour of Dhaka’s main highlights for your spare time, but be advised to plan it on Fridays as on working days the city is plagued by heavy traffic jams in all directions.