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  • Konrad Tillman

Review: Amankora Thimphu, Bhutan

Intro


Following a terrific flight onboard Drukair from Delhi to Paro (https://www.jettoajet.com/post/review-drukair-a319-economy-from-new-delhi-paro), we entered the Kingdom of Bhutan. Visiting Bhutan tends to be a little bit complicated, as you must be part of a group. The Aman arranged everything needed for our 4-night stay from Visas, to guides to every detail.


Amankora is set across 5 lodges throughout the Kingdom of Bhutan. For our trip, we would visit 2 of the five, Thimphu and Paro. Each lodge is different and this review will cover the outstanding Thimphu lodge. From the second we landed, everything was perfect, I might go as far as to say this is the best/most unique Aman in the world.


How We Booked


We booked this 4-night stay over New Year directly through Amankora for a total of 10,788 USD. While this is expensive, it covers everything from food to guides, to a private car, to visas to alcohol, etc for two people. The only activity that was extra was the festivities for New Year's Eve which came out to 250 USD, but this was noted in the invoice.


Expensive but keep reading to see if it is worth it

Arrival


Once we touched down in Paro and exited the terminal, our fabulous guides were waiting for us at the exit to the terminal. Our bags were whisked on their way and we made our way to our private car for the next 4 days.


Already special

Arriving at the car we found different snacks. These snacks vary from lodge to lodge based on the activities. For example, in Paro, you hike Tiger's Nest, which means your sugary popcorn will give you a sugary spike to continue hiking.


So good 😂

The guides introduced themselves and told us it would take about an hour and a half to reach the lodge in Thimphu. Warning to those who are going, the roads are windy. While I don't get carsick, my mum does and she wasn't feeling great. Thankfully, Amankora provided us with amenity kits that featured ginger.


Pretttty

Since Bhutan is chilly in the winter, blankets were provided in the car.


The small details going a long way

After a beautiful drive between the two major towns, we arrived at Amankora Thimphu! We were greeted by two of the team members, one being the manager of this particular lodge. Silk scarves were placed upon our necks.


Does match the outfit

We were informed that there was a performance going on at the moment, and we were just in time to catch the last part.


Entrance to the lodge

We proceeded to enter the Amankora grounds.


There are bikes and other items in there

We arrived to a traditional Bhutanese dance!


So cool

We took a seat and were presented with a blanket, as well as a choice of beverage. Blankets were laid on top of us!


Extremely comfortable

The Honey, Lemon, and Ginger tea was brought out a few minutes later.

Well at least it started with just those ingredients😂, they came around offering the same concoction but this time having Whiskey. Delicious!


So much for my vow of not drinking

Once the performance was finished, a member of staff proceeded with the small check-in details in the common room. After a few minutes, the staff grabbed our bags and directed us to the room. Talk about service, they don't wheel the bags as the sounds might be disruptive, so they carry large suitcases above their head!



The Room


Most Aman resorts around the world only offer a king-size bed option in a standard room. Since all rooms are created equally across all five lodges there is no option for a "suite" or "larger room". Luckily, the Aman was able to arrange two twin beds.


Simply gorgeous

Rooms are decorated with an umbrella next to the door, as it can rain.



And a gorgeous wood-burning fireplace, in which they place wood and pinecones during turndown service.


Extremely cozy

Extra wood in case the fire goes out.



There is an area to relax by the window, which consists of some chairs and a comfy sofa! I may or may not have taken a food coma nap there 😩.




Beside the bed, there were a couple of amenities featuring a welcome to the Aman card and a candle with a matchbox. The book contained the menu for the spa as well as activities you could partake in.



On the left-hand side from where you walk in lay a closet for storage and changing. Even my jacket was hung up which I left in the car, such service.



The bathroom was a little further to the left. Since they knew we were mother and son, there was a partition separating the shower/bath from the bedroom.



Double sinks were offered, if you know me, you know I love double sinks.



While there were no toothbrush kits or shaving kits, the front desk was happy to provide them.



The toilet is located to the left of the sinks. Be careful as it gets freezing in there at night!



With a cute little rubbish bin in the corner.



There is a bathtub that commands the room located behind the partition. While there were towels hung up up the showers, more were neatly folded next to the bathtub.



Goodness me, how relaxed I felt in this bath I cannot put it into words.


Heaven

The book "what makes you not a Buddhist", was provided as one of the nightly gifts (more on that later)


And a Chamomille tea🥰

To the left of the bathtub, lies the shower. Everything is exactly what you would expect from a 5 star resort, no issues with the temperature or water pressure.


The rustic design is beautiful

Plenty of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash for the 2-night stay. It's a nice touch that they are Aman-branded.


Made me smell good too!

Much like other Aman properties, every night a gift was left upon our beds. These also consisted of handwritten cards!



Sealed like it was the 1800s. Goodness me, I love this place!



Can we talk about how cool this room key is?



The rooms at Amankora in Thimphu aren't the biggest in the world. However, each detail is meticulous from the fresh firewood placed in the room to the rustic wooden design. It makes you feel like you are in a cabin in the mountains, which I guess you sort of are.


Dining

Dining was superb throughout our whole stay at Amankora. The first meal consisted of dinner the night we arrived. The restaurant/common room are intertwined as one, and feels extremely open.



Very relaxing though.



Let's take a look at the menu for the night.



As mentioned in the introduction, everything is included in the rate. Here is a look at the Bhutanese set menu.



Service started with a drink of choice, and we both chose a mocktail. Sparkling water was also brought around.



However, there was also alcohol on offer. A full bar was set up near the entrance. Most of the items were included, minus the Patron and a few others.



To start with, I had a chicken breast, which was divine! The Yellow Mole sauce made for a flavorful dish.


MHMMM

My mum chose not to opt for an appetizer and instead chose the lamb Raviolo for her main dish. Her remarks were, "It was okay". Apparently, the red rice was fantastic!



However, for my main, I opted for steak. Yeah, I love steak and this steak was fabulous as well.


I am a simple man

That night, we chose not to indulge in dessert, however tempting it sounded.


Breakfast


On the morning of the 29th, we were awake early and wanted to have some breakfast at 7 am. If you are planning a trip to Bhutan, everything is done at a leisurely pace, Breakfast begins with an extremely large pot of coffee being sent to the room, together with a box of pastries. Following that, we headed to the dining room.



There are plenty of options for breakfast. However, this morning I chose the pancakes with Ox Sausages and bacon. Delicious!



The last meal I will write about is lunch. After our hike around Thimphu, we headed over to the outdoor section to have lunch.



Here is what the menu read for lunch. Firstly the tea menu.



For those who like the higher end of wines, there is an option to pay extra for them. However, there are two house wines that are complementary.



A beverage menu as well.



The meal service began with warm bread.



An iced coffee was brought out to me along with sparkling water, and a Mojito.


On my photography game for this review 😅

For my main, I decided I needed some protein. I opted first for a Pork Katsu which was delectable, and unbelievably good.


So salty, I love it

Followed by a plain beef steak to fuel me up for the afternoon. Much like the night before, the steak was done exactly the same.



My mother chose the salmon, which she said was incredible. It certainly looked that way😊.


One of the best food shots I've ever taken 😢

We did not indulge in dessert at this lodge. However, we did when it came to Paro, more on that in the next review.


Overall, the food was incredible and available anytime. Even though Amankora is located in a place not exactly known for its food, they surprised me with how good their cooking was.


Hotel Grounds


Amankora Thimphu is laid out in a little bit of a confusing setup. Upon entering, it looked just like a building.



But the views of the valley give it a special energy.


Beautiful

Once you enter the dining/ relaxing room is on the right, the outdoor terrace is straight ahead but to the left is the hallway that leads to the bathrooms.


The hallway basically goes past a few rooms and then loops around. While you can walk

straight across the grass, it is freezing cold!


AND WET sometimes

While there is no gym, the outdoors is your gym. The only lodge from Amankora to offer a swimming pool is the one in Punakha which we didn't get to visit this time.


At every lodge, there is an archery course set up. At Thimphu, this was located near the entrance.



While I didn't have any time for archery here, I did end up firing a few arrows at the Paro Lodge.


This is tough

Activities


Thimphu lodge is designed almost as a "stopover" lodge from what I gathered. We engaged in a couple of activities, the first being a 7km hike to a monastery, where we saw multiple flags along the way. On the short drive over to the hike, we got stuck in a traffic jam, behind cows....


If you think drivers in LA are bad, come prepared

We passed by the zoo, which we ended up visiting later.



Seeing these flags all intertwined was one of the highlights of Bhutan.



Especially with a backdrop like this...


Top 5 favorite countries in the world


We eventually arrived at the monastery, where Pema and Chozang (our guides), had prepared us snacks and honey, lemon, and ginger tea. Pema and Chozang arranged for us to go inside and pray with the monks.


The attention to detail is nothing short of incredible in Bhutan

Once we hiked back to the car it was mid-afternoon. We drove past a football field (soccer) and since I loved playing, asked if I could. Our guide Chozang was able to set up a game with his family and friends (including a Dalai Llama) later that day.



Playing football at 7000 feet of elevation is a struggle, but was so much fun!


Once we departed the next day, we made a few stops along the way to check out the paper factory and to buy a Gho.


First up the paper factory. In the USA and most of the first world countries, all of the paper is machine printed. In Bhutan, the paper is meticulously crafted for weeks-months making for the finest paper you will come across.



I ended up buying a few bits and bobs such as cards and a notebook. All well priced, the notebook came out to 15 USD.


Remember how I played football with the Dalai Lama the day before? Because of that, he invited us to his temple to pray with the monks. Thank you Chozang for arranging this!👍



Lastly, on the way to Paro we went Gho shopping. It started at a tourist trap, where they wanted 1000$ for a Gho!!!!🤭



Then I decided, since this isn't an everyday wear in the US, it's okay to get a cheap one. We went to the local shop and bought a machine-made one for 35$ 😂.



All in all, it was a very productive 48 hours that combined plenty of activities, with lots of relaxation.


Overall Service


Where do I even begin? The service here is flawless. One of my favorite aspects of the Aman is that they leave gifts on your bed every night. While we had bells given to us one night, the other night they left us a book that was an incredible read.


What makes you not a Bhuddist, good question and better read

On top of that, personalized notes were left on our beds as well.



Here are a few other aspects that shined, in terms of service.


  1. When I mentioned playing football, Chozang immediately set up a game to be played later that day.

  2. I had to head out to buy something at 10 pm, and within 15 minutes the other guide, Pema, was ready to go.

  3. The staff didn't roll the suitcases but carried them over their heads!

  4. Chozang was able to let us take a photo with all of the monks from one of the monasteries, usually, this would never be allowed.

  5. The manager greeting us upon arrival was a terrific entrance


Everything was perfect during this 2-night stay in Thimphu. However, the service would get even better as we embarked upon our next adventure to Paro.


Departure


After two incredible nights, it was time to head on the 1.5-hour drive to the Paro Lodge.



While we didn't go directly, we headed to a couple of the activities I mentioned above. While we departed the Thimphu lodge at 11:30 am, we didn't arrive at the Paro lodge until 3 pm. Make sure to bring motion sickness pills if you get carsick.


Arrival at Paro Lodge

Final Thoughts


Amankora is a one-of-a-kind place. The lodge in Thimphu offers fantastic food, superb hospitality, and a cozy vibe to decompress. From the second we landed everything was taken care of, and there was 0 added stress, which I love about the Aman properties. This is one of the best Aman properties in the world and I cannot recommend it enough. Stay tuned for the review of the Paro lodge, since that was even better in some ways.




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