Having just re-read a number of the rose tinted reviews relating to this hotel I’m really struggling to reconcile a number of the comments and the overall rating with my experience, this hotel advertises and purports to be a 4.5 star property and it's on that basis it should be judged.
Let me start by setting the record straight as I see it, by international standards this is a three star hotel that represents reasonable value for money located in a decent but secondary location, it has good but not yet excellent staff who are very friendly and well intentioned. Aspects of the hotel are creditworthy and it may well be in time that the property and staff reach the 4.5 star goal they currently promise. From what I saw this is probably near the top of the tree with regard to the second tier but would not come close to the Hyatt/Shangri-La; between the website and tripadvisor my expectations were unreasonably elevated and as a result I had an ok rather than superlative experience.
Check in was very friendly and I was presented with discount coupons for the spa (which if it isn’t the best in town won’t be far off it) and the carpet shop, breakfast coupons (more of that later) and Wi-Fi password (which worked well, but required multiple sign in’s). Given that it was quiet season they also upgraded me to a junior suite – a kindly touch.
The room was huge, however the furniture while tasteful was plain, low grade and poorly integrated and finished. The two photos on the wall were dour and inadequate in a room of that size, the bed was comfortable with mid range linens, the room generally had a sparse empty feel to it. Tibetan flavor was added in the form of a decorative frieze, beautiful hand carved wood cornicing and painted lamps/carpets that were so gorgeous I wish they had a price tag on them!!
There was two a/c units one of which needed recharged (wasn't blowing cold) and one TV in the lounge area which could not be watched from the bed. A poorly stocked but fairly priced mini bar and safe completed the amenities.
Unfortunately the location of my room directly below the breakfast area and facing the street would not be conducive to a light sleeper who wanted a lie in as the noise insulation is inadequate – fortunately the area outside completely shuts down around ten and doesn’t get going again until around 5.30 so noise isn’t a huge issue per se but I do take issue with claims of total calm and perfect insulation – relatively speaking the comment may be fair but in the absolute it’s inaccurate.
In my mind with a bit more investment, better/more art, 2nd TV (this is a suite we're talking about), better furniture & an info pack (amenities, services, tourist info, emergency procedures, contact numbers etc.) the room could be four stars.
Unfortunately the bathroom can never attain that level, quite apart from the appalling finishing and questionable design (black) in order to sit on the toilet you have to close the door – it is tiny and not particularly well lit and really doesn't feel clean (though it was) and inviting. The bath does not drain properly even with the plug completely out and as a result I slipped but fortunately regained balance catching my fall, I’ll also note that the twist for the plug has a sharp edge to it. The much lauded toiletries consisted of one small bottle shampoo (ineffectual), one small lotion, one tiny bar of soap (horrible reconstituted gunk) and some tissues which fell way way short of the quality I would have expected at an international hotel, fortunately I had brought my own…to be clear though no sewing kit, cotton buds, conditioner etc. just the items mentioned. The toilet paper was serviceable, towels were clean and good quality with two sets of three, the largest of which wrapped around my 46” frame!! Please note that hot water was not available when I got up at 3.30 for a sightseeing trip but it was at all other times, given that it wasn't freezing cold I was easily able to tuff it out.
There were two power outages that I experienced during my two night visit and if the hotel does have it’s own generator it should have gone the extra mile for a proper UPS/auto switchover circuit. Pitch black and unable to find a torch (because there wasn’t one) was not a good feeling and suddenly reminded me that this is a high earthquake zone…
I found the breakfast to be pretty good albeit with a limited choice which one would expect from a boutique style hotel. The ambience created by the rooftop location with a view of the stupa and the Hyatt (here’s what you could have won) was totally relaxing and the staff were extremely friendly and attentive. I had an interesting experience, as I was finishing my breakfast; I was told that the coupon I had been given for breakfast was intended for informational purposes only and that as my rate didn’t include breakfast I needed to pay for it. On another day I may have been infuriated but given that I hadn’t expected my breakfast to be included in the first place and that the lady delivering the bad news did it so politely and with such a nice smile I just smiled back and paid, though I have to say at 1,200 rupees it was on the steep side. As a tip I'd eat at a guesthouse directly overlooking the Stupa and trouser the difference (as an indication I ate well for 350), the food won't be as good but the location....
I did not eat in the restaurant, it seemed soulless and pricey but I got the feeling the food would have been good. The bar and terrace looked interesting and would have been very appealing had the hotel been busier.
Check out was a little infuriating as they wouldn’t accept Amex even though I had booked on the hotels own website using Amex. As can be typical the exchange rate used was at a disadvantage to that being offered elsewhere though not egregiously so.
I tried to book an airport transfer at short notice for the return (was quoted 1,200) but the hotel was unable to accommodate. The taxi set me back three hundred plus tip but because of the horrendous traffic took me the best part of an hour. Even on a good day there is no way this is a ten minute journey during daylight hours, though it’s close enough that you could probably walk it in 40 minutes.
Location wise the hotel is close to the most desirable tourist site but away from the center and separated by unpaved and busy roads. Taxis in the off-season were plentiful, cheap, but hugely uncomfortable and generally in shocking condition. Meters don’t work so it’s all done by bargaining, all but one were honorable though even he was tame.
Returning to Kathmandu I’d choose to stay in this (less fashionable) area again but would probably pay up for the Hyatt, that said if it was booked up it’d be happy to return here.
Hope you find this helpful.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hotel Tibet International is a boutique hotel offering Nepali hospitality with a touch of Tibetan warmth, strategically located close to the Boudha Stupa which is a world heritage UNESCO site. We offer 68 rooms, lavishly furnished with fine beddings and linens for a good night's sleep. Our Shangrila Kitchen offers fine Tibetan / Chinese and continental cuisine, Norbulinka Stupa View Terrace offers breakfast in stunning view of the famed Stupa and our Shambala Spa offers the best remedy to de-stress and recover from treks, or a pampering before heading home. ... more less
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