Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Amankora Thimphu

Bhutan

Situated in the aromatic pine-laden hills above Thimphu

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Amankora Thimphu
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Amankora Thimphu

Location

The hills above Thimphu

Travel Information

It takes just over an hour to reach Thimphu from the airport in Paro

Top Tips

Thimphu has by far the greatest selection and widest variety of indigenous handicrafts - shop here, if nowhere else

5-Star X-Factors

The secluded lodge provides luxurious respite from Bhutan's capital Thimphu

Think Thimphu

If you really believe that you should skip Thimphu because it may not be as 'charming' as the more isolated towns and villages of Bhutan, then think again. Would you avoid London, Paris, Rome... Prague? Capital cities are crucial to the understanding of a country and though Thimphu may not always have been the capital, it certainly is now. Besides, if you really do want to meet, face-to-future, with an eminent Rinpoche, or an intuitive astrologer, then it is here, in Thimphu, that you are most likely to do so.

We didn't stay at Amankora in Thimphu (this time) as we had two incredible nights at the new Taj Tashi, which is located in the hub of the growing city. However, we visited Amankora in Thimphu twice, lunched both times, and 'oohed' and 'ahhed' with anticipated appreciation. The lodge is situated in the aromatic pine- laden hills above Thimphu, in a suburb equivalent to the 'best' in most people's city/suburban vernacular. So it should be - it neighbours with the land of the four Queens. What's more, it is secluded. The benefit of this is that Thimphu, even though small and fascinating, is a city, and has noise pollution like any other... and breeds dogs in rather unique numbers. I happen to love dogs, and these dogs, though feral, are totally charming with no aggression. No aggressors!

Amankora is a genuine respite and therapeutic stay above this intriguingly spiritual, though spreading, metropolis. It is also a mere dip from the lodge into the centre of Thimphu.

Situated in the capital, it also feels like the lodge that anchors the pilgrimage (not simply because you want to hole-up in the lodge's boutique and ring your mortgage broker). It has gravitas in its awesome and symbolic dzong-inspired style of architecture and, it's here, that you will come across some of Bhutan's most influential and eminent citizens. It also houses the 'supremo' general manager, John Reed, master of the pilgrimage and of all 'ceremonies' requested.

A brief overview

It takes just over an hour to arrive in Thimphu from Paro because Thimphu 'town' is expanding at an unprecedented rate and that includes its infrastructure. It has a population of under 90, 000, yet was only labelled as the permanent capital in 1952. It has certainly not caught up with any other cities in terms of the 'culture of decay' such as night-life boom or prominent street gangs or even pop music, however it is the place where change and influence are most obvious, and isn't that inevitable? I saw one bar advertising its 180 television channels.

The charm is still very obvious though and the temples are some of the most auspicious, ancient, and exquisite, in Bhutan. The complexities of maintaining what we perceive to be a more 'innocent' way of life, with that of a younger generation tempted by greener pastures, are many-fold. However, it is an important aspect of Bhutanese life today, and tomorrow.

I spoke with a loveable, born and bred, woman of Thimphu, now 24, who said that she did rebel against tradition in her teens but that her spiritual beliefs and moral conduct never altered: she wanted to wear different clothes. She, like her counterparts, is back in her flattering national attire, of a kira, or long streamlined cotton skirt, colour co-ordinated silk shirt and an a-line jacket. They look stunning.

Shopping

Thimphu has by far the greatest selection and widest variety of authentic, indigenous handicrafts and your guide will always steer you in the right direction according to your purchase requirements. They are easily the best priced in the capital, as competition has kept the prices down and a small discount is readily agreed. Do not think you will get something for less in the beautiful pockets beyond, you won't. Also, if you want extraordinary quality at, I have to say, a competitive price, then Amankora in Thimphu will sort you out.

It all happens in Amankora's open-plan dining and reception zone...

This serene space at the lodge seems to be where it 'all happens'. The atmosphere is enhanced by the vast expanse of glass-sided walls that allow the wonderful pine forest to almost enter the room. The organic blend of wood-on-comfort, in neutral tones, sits true within this zone of light and tranquillity. The food is outstanding, and we opted for a more Mediterranean style on these occasions with a hint of the orient: perfectly pan-seared sea bream atop a ravioli of leak and courgette and seasoned with a well-orchestrated marriage of spices. Naturally, a glowing glass of our favourite house-white was chilling at our table. I noticed several excited guests recalling their morning's hiking adventures; one woman was entranced in the company of an eminent astrologer at a round table on the far side; a young couple looked complete and obviously spa-struck; we felt a little wiser than day one, and positively 'connected' to the essence of Bhutan.

Going full circle...

On our final day in Bhutan a magnetic pull for the Amankora in Paro surreptitiously worked its way into our system. We wanted to complete the pilgrimage in true circular style and we were thrilled we did. The two of us, since day one, were now propitiously altered by day ten. We were unquestionably more relaxed, perhaps even a little more evolved, and, we were certainly more loving of humankind. We were also most definitely in better shape - all-round! Thank you Amankora...

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer