My stay at Amankora’s Paro Lodge, Bhutan
Venetia Stanley recounts her experience of this wonderful Bhutanese bolthole.
Life in Bhutan is simple and Amankora follows that tradition. The settings of the five lodges are spectacular, with views of the valleys (in the case of Punakha and Gangtey), the surrounding forests and mountains (in that of Paro and Thimphu) and the Wangdicholing Palace (in Bumthang). Each of these exquisite places can only be accessed on foot, as Amankora does not allow cars near the main areas to ensure total peace and quiet.
Guests’ arrival at each of the properties is enchanting, as I soon discovered. Punakha, for example, can only be reached by a private suspension bridge over the river, before you climb into a golf buggy and snake up through the forest and rice paddies to the lodge. Paro, too, is very special. As we approached, there was a clearing in the forest. I was accompanied by my host along a magical, snow-covered path, before reaching the entrance, which was perfectly framed by distant Jhomolhari (otherwise known as ‘the bride of Kangchenjunga’) and the 17th-century Drukgyel Dzong, perched on a mountain just behind the lodge.
The first thing I noticed was that the buildings all blended with the environment so beautifully, inspired by traditional Bhutanese architecture, with whitewashed, irregular facades and carved wooden roofs. The interiors are chic and very understated – everything you would expect from Aman. My room was spacious and completely silent. It felt like being in a secret hideaway. Every small detail, from the bukhari stove to the giant bathtubs and the sweeping panoramic vistas from each window, has been so carefully thought through to welcome guests in after a long day’s hiking or exploring the kingdom’s endless dzongs.
I was welcomed with some organic apple cider – typical of this fertile valley with its plentiful orchards – before dressing in a kira for dinner. My host, Pema, explained the process of wearing a kira and helped me put it on correctly. I then joined the communal table and chatted to other guests who had all been exploring various corners of the picturesque Paro valley that day. I was then served a huge variety of local food to try, all cooked with simple ingredients but each one bursting with flavour. The typical dish of cheese and chilli, the green beans and okra, and the curries, were all excellent!
Returning to my suite after a delicious supper, I was welcomed by a hot-water bottle and a book wrapped in coloured ribbon called The Bhutanese Guide to Happiness by Gyonpo Tshering. When the time came to leave Paro Lodge, I was blessed by a monk who came to meet me and performed a traditional sungkey ceremony to grant me safety and happiness on my onward journey.
Staying at Amankora’s wonderful retreats as you travel through this bewitching mountain kingdom is, without a doubt, an incredibly special way to experience Bhutan and everything the country has to offer our discerning clients.