Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Taj Tashi

Bhutan

Magnificently dzong-inspired, and mere steps from the heart of a unique kingdom's culture

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Taj Tashi

Location

The capital, Thimphu

Travel Information

1 hour 15 mins from Paro international aiport

Top Tips

Arrange for a tailor to measure and dress you in authentic clothing, so as to look the part

5-Star X-Factors

The food and service are formidable

Treasures from the Taj Tashi - Thimphu

By the time we dropped our cases in Thimphu, for two glorious days and nights, we were far more familiar with Bhutan and its unique formula for the authentic 'good life'. We realised that the richness this brings goes way beyond the material and we felt sure that our spiritual-come-pampering cup had overflowed. We were wrong, there was more to sup, and the Taj Tashi provided a glittering venue along with a menu of extras that exceeded all our expectations.

Thimphu city, or 'town' to the likes of us, is steeped in cultural, spiritual and historical provenance. To avoid Thimphu, bursting with national character, would be to leave a gap in your newfound understanding of this extraordinary country, even though it sets quite a contrast with Bhutan's more sylvan and pastoral villages.

There are dogs galore, shopping malls, industrial areas, temples, a gilt-tipped and chalk-white Memorial Chorten, construction sites, bars (Om Bar), nightclubs even (Space 34), restaurants, curio shops, markets - both food and curios... all condensed within a tiny area by other city measures. This is where you shop, witness local industry unfolding, participate (or be an onlooker) in a game of mah jong, and all on foot. It also houses the legendary, weirdly configured national animal, the takin, in a nearby reserve, the highly revered Royal family, the Tashichho Dzong, known as 'The Fortress of the Glorious Religion' plus it is the seat of the government along with all the Kingdom's religious affairs. It's also here, most likely, that you could uncover an interpretation of your destiny as well as an insight into your previous life or even lives. We did.

Not only is Thimphu's city-life intriguing by the very fact that it is constantly evolving but also nearby are some of the most auspicious sites tucked within and atop that gloriously unscathed landscape. A short drive out and a waterfall splashes onto a glistening rock-mural of the Guru Rinpoche while fluttering prayer flags line up their white and multi-coloured promises amidst a flurry of verdant forests. We hiked up, together with a Taj Tashi guide, to a most remarkable monastery, Tango, dating, quite obviously, from the 13th Century and it is here that the teachings of the Drukpa Kagyupa were founded. It was glowing from sunshine, 1000's of butter lamps and the golden rooftop of the outstanding 19th century Shabdrung Jigme Choegyal (an enormous chorten sitting beneath the entrance to the monastery). The views from here are sensational... all the way to the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas.

Taj Tashi Treasures

The strikingly coloured saffron and charcoal facade is dramatically dzong in appearance, adhering to stringent local law regarding building aesthetics, and sits smack in the heart of Thimphu. With 66 gloriously designed, finely appointed, mountain facing suites and rooms plus a sensational spa, the hotel is set to become one of Bhutan's, if not South East Asia's, most sought after luxury landmarks.

Outside, the urban-bustle is intense; inside, the soothing calm is a tranquil balm. This airy aura is enhanced by three visual themes or motifs that flow artistically throughout the hotel: the dhungs (long brass pipes with a sound that goose-bumps the hardest of skin follicles); the clouds (the kingdom above the clouds); the double-dorjes (indestructibility and destruction of negative forces). The sky soaring five stars at the Taj Tashi have been polished with outstanding Bhutanese/Indian style blending the finest of pampering together with indigenous kingdom-magic: an intoxicating blend, indeed.

We arrived, after seven soul-surging days around the western region of Bhutan, to a welcoming staff with beaming smiles and open arms. Our suite on the fourth floor, familiarised by our personal butler, was a paragon of boudoir-bliss. The use of local, lacquered blue pine on the floors, windows and shutters, frames the rooms and views with theatrical appeal. The sweeping expanse of my plump white bed, clouded from above and behind, was honed to the heavenly, while the freestanding, vista-facing, ball and claw bathtub, surrounded by walls of Spanish sourced honey-blonde marble, sat with beckoning allure on its heated travertine. The Bhutanese rugs and burnt-orange shot Thai silks dressed the floor and furnishings with Eastern exotica, while every mod con known to lux-trotter-kind was on hand and nickel-finished tap. We never turned on our flat screen(s): no need.

Feeling like princesses (you do here) we scoured our travelling wardrobe for our first night's feast; this was sure to be a glittering occasion. As though by sixth sense, our butler, the beautiful and serene Sonam, arrived with a well known Thimphu-based tailor, together with tape measure (yikes), large scissors and bolts of bright and pastel coloured fabric. The end result, after a quick readjustment (as I breathed in the first time), was most pleasing. Aside from our blondeness we looked the part: stripy kira (skirt), silk shirt (wanju) and a-line embossed silk jacket (tego).

Evening Exoticism

On the first night of Taj Tashi-hosted delights our senses were treated and indulged to a mesmerising whirl of song and dance followed by a cornucopian Bhutanese banquet that remains one of the most exceptional meals of my life. Who would have thought it? Best food goes to Bhutan! (I left England believing I would return slighter and yak-ed out). With stars, butter lamps, and a roaring sunken fire as our light, we sat on silk cushions on the terrace facing the mountain and the exquisitely hand etched brass prayer wheel that houses more than a billion mantras, quite captivated by our early evening revelry.

What followed was a meal for which, for no other reason, one should visit Thimphu. Chig ja gye, Taj Tashi's serious dining room, is a rich decorative blend of Chinese red, gold-lines and black shine; an elegant host to its fine gastronomy. Our exotic selection of local delights went something like this - chargrilled beefy flavoured wild mushrooms with tender wisps of chilli-infused chicken, on a bed of local wintergreens that Gordon Ramsay would fly out for. Buckwheat dumplings, lightly poached, shredded butter-soft beef, gently flavoured river weed soup (pristine rivers here); our favourite minced, naughtily buttered, garlic and spring onion chicken... it goes on, and on. Though you could choose to consume less, we had a hike behind us.

The Last Supper - dining with Mynak Tulku

It seems that the tuned-in staff behind the Taj Tashi can organise almost anything. On the ultimate night two of our most desired wishes for this stay in Bhutan transpired: an astrological reading and time with a renowned Rinpoche. Rocking backward and forward, in the darkest corner of the very green and contemporary bar, the astrologer, armed with our full names, birth dates, places and times, told us what we had in store for this life and the next. He also told us about our past lives, and well, with a little prompting, a lot more. With fascinating futures in store, we headed off with Mynak Tulku for a meal in Chig ja gye that will forever be etched and treasured in my memory.

It is one thing absorbing the spirituality and uncommon kindness of the peoples of Bhutan along your winding travels; it is quite another when you have the honour of spending quality time with one so deeply intuitive, enlightened and well informed. Mynak Tulku is a Rinpoche, a high-priest incarnate lama of Rikhud Monastery in Mynak, Eastern Tibet. Rinpoches have, it is believed, already completed their karmic cycle and therefore reached Nirvana. However, they return selflessly in order to assist the pandemic suffering inherent in humankind. When you meet Mynak Tulku you believe this to be true for he not only bears the suffering of humankind, he also passes on his love, kindness and seemingly limitless knowledge on Buddhism (he was the director of the National Museum in Paro and of the National Library and Archives in Thimphu) without a glimmer of hesitation.

The following morning, enriched more than we could ever have imagined, the idiosyncratic 'notes' of Bhutan flowed throughout the hotel as a minstrel styled musician, sitting cross-legged on silk cushions, plucked the seven strings of his hand painted lute (dramneyn) in the tranquil folds of the airy foyer. The melancholic tunes pulled on our heartstrings as we bid our farewell to our supremely hospitable Thimpu hosts though we knew we would return, as this is where you really do count your blessings. Thank you 'Taj Tashi' for making all this possible.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer