“It is a very happy day today, which has brought us all together. We are here to give a warm welcome to our honoured guests. We welcome you.” The harmonised voices filled the gorgeous Gangtey Goenpa Lodge Bhutan while my partner and I stood at the entrance as the staff welcomed us with this lovely song.
Yes, indeed it was a happy day and it’s been a long time since I felt a sense of happiness that is so peaceful and pure. Was it the air at Gangtey or was it the people? Maybe it’s both.
Gangtey Goenpa Lodge is located at the Phobjikha Valley, also commonly known as Gangtey, which is about 3,000metres above sea level. When I first arrived at the lodge, I was caught off guard by its unassuming exterior. It looks similar to any of the farmhouses in Bhutan. But when you stepped into the lodge, it’s a totally different world.
There is no lobby or reception area at the lodge. When you entered the main building, it’s like entering someone’s home. There are two huge living areas, each with its own fireplace. These living areas are furnished with leather armchairs and plush sofas. They are great places to relax over a cup of Gangtey Goenpa Lodge’s signature drink, a warm apple with cinnamon cider.
Just outside the living areas is the veranda, which is a perfect place to rest your feet and admire the breath-taking scenery. From the veranda, you can also see the beautiful monastery. Every year around late October, the black-necked cranes would fly from Tibet to Gangtey for the winter. It is said that the cranes would circle the monastery three times before they land in the valley. These magnificent birds would do the same before they leave Gangtey for Tibet in the following March. It is a pity that I didn’t manage to see these amazing birds as they had arrived a few weeks late this year.
The two huge living areas
Relaxing besides the fireplace over apple cinnamon cider
searching for the Black-necked cranes
The 12 guestrooms are all located over two floors in the east wing of the lodge. The interior of the lodge is designed to reflect the local architecture but with an added touch of modernism. The exposed thick wooden beams and myriad of splendidly painted local motifs on the walls are similar to what you can find in the local houses. The luxurious guestrooms are decorated simply but with a touch of sophistication. A spectacular view of the Phobjikha Valley greets you when you opened the door to the guestroom. And a seductive bathtub was placed just below the window for you to enjoy the view as you take a warm bath.
Don't you just love the spectacular view of the valley
The walk-in wardrobe is immediately on your left when you enter the guestroom and the toilet and shower room are on the right. In the guestroom, there is a very comfortable king size bed, and a lounge area with a fireplace. Every evening during the turndown service, the hotel staff would come in and start the fire in the fireplace. For the city dwellers, you may want to know that there is no television in the room. As far as I’m aware, none of the hotels in Gangtey has TV in their rooms. Frankly, there is more to do rather than to waste those precious moments watching telly.
The luxurious guest room at Gangtey Goenpa Lodge
I arrived at Gangtey on my second day in Bhutan. The first two days were tough because of the food mainly because I haven’t got used to the local Bhutanese cuisine. Seriously, I’m not a big fan of chilli cheese. So you can imagine how happy I was when I finally had a hearty meal at the lodge. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Soh Chia Hwa, a Malaysia-borned chef who has worked in various hotels around the world. Every day without fail, Chef Soh and her team prepared a good variety of local and international cuisines. I was so thankful for all the wonderful meals that I had there. But that also means, my diet plan was thrown out of the lodge and got tramped by the numerous cows in the valley.
The succulent chicken
When you are at the lodge, you must sign up for one of its exclusive activities – the Pray, Dine and Blessing Experience at the Gangtey Monastery. Although this would set you back by USD115 per person, this is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that you shouldn’t miss. The morning starts with a “Tshewang” prayer ceremony, a prayer for personal empowerment, wish fulfilment and healthy life, with the monks and lamas.
me in the Gangtey Monastery
My partner and I were brought to a small prayer room located in the temple within the monastery. The walls in the prayer room are painted with vivid Buddhism teachings. The statues of Buddha and other deities rest comfortably on one side of the room while the monks and lamas sat facing them. But the surreal experience began when the prayer ceremony began with the monks playing the dung chen, the Tibetan horn. Even though I couldn’t understand a single word of the prayer, the chanting, the deep baritone tone from the dung chen and aroma from the incense transported me straight into a space of serenity and inner peace. During the ceremony, I was asked to light up a butter lamp and got to receive a personal blessing from the “Tulku”, a reincarnated master at the monastery.
After the prayer, we were ushered to a corner within the monastery compound where the lodge butlers served us food prepared from the lodge. While this was sufficient to send the both of us to cloud nine, it was an unexpected ‘visit’ by a 7-year-old Tulku who sat down and dined with us, that made us ecstatic and this whole experience totally unforgettable.
The adorable 7-year-old Tulku playing the harmonica
Having Breakfast with the Tulku
There are many more activities such as the Gangtey Valley hikes, hosting of Prayer flags and offering of robes to the monks. The activities are catered to guests with different needs, be it spiritual or physical.
Hosting of the prayer flags
The Gangtey Goenpa Lodge is probably the only accommodation that offers complimentary laundry service. Knowing that you have clean clothes to wear every day is a simple luxury when you’re on the roads.
But this wouldn’t have been possible without the remarkable work from the staff at the lodge. Mr Ateeb Shrestha, GM of the lodge, was always there to ensure our needs and wants are met. Ms Romina Torres, the F&B manager, who made sure that we were well fed and happy with the food. Khung Dang, the Spa manager, who was there to offer the much-needed pampering to our body after a hike. And of course, the hardworking Namgay Rinchen and Sonam Tenzin for serving and helping us throughout our stay at the lodge.
Mr Ateeb Shrestha, GM of the lodge, in the center.
The Welcome Song continues, “Bhutan, our Buddhist country, is like heaven. Gangtey Goenpa Lodge, the beautiful from both inside and outside, located in the Gangtey Valley. Welcome, welcome!” It is truly indeed that the Gangtey Goenpa Lodge staff welcome us like friends to their home. It will be a memory that time can never erase.
The beautiful Phobjikha Valley
Thank you, guys. I really hope to see you soon.
Gangtey Goenpa Lodge
Just below the monastery
The Kingdom of Bhutan
Tel: +975 (02) 34 0943