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“Follow that Lama!”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of Amankora Punakha

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Amankora Punakha
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
88 reviews
31 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 76 helpful votes
“Follow that Lama!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 4, 2012 via mobile

It was the day the large body of state backed monks left the Punakha Dsong after over wintering for their cooler summer quarters in the capital Thimpu. Our knowledgeable and fascinating guide Dorgji checked with one of the brothers at what time the spectacle of leaving would start and we were told 8.30. We arrived the following morning in plenty of time to discover the plan had changed and led by the chief monk, of Je Khenpo, they we off.

There followed one of the more bizarre episodes of our lives as we set off in hot pursuit of a monkly procession taking short cuts and overtaking in places where one would not normally as we tried to get past the only traffic jam in Bhutan and catch them up.

Eventually we did - and it was worth it. What a spectacle with hundreds lining the road waiting to be blessed, incense bellowing out from roadside burners, a bus loads of monks slowly progressing to their summer residence.

Just another inspiring sight on our 12 day Amankora journey across Bhutan taking in the culture, religion and people of this mesmerising country.

Amankora's five lodges, we stayed in them all, are a strange mixture of familiarity with identical room layouts and facilities, yet different buildings each sitting happily in their different environments. This was the queen's former summer residence, indeed H.M. Still gets the rent.
Stunning walks, wonderful temples, and a welcome home on each return. Here the locals came round for a dance and a song as we sipped a G & T....a meeting of cultures to the benefit of both parties - we get a flavour of their deeply spiritual way if life - they get some of our cash.

Stayed May 2012, traveled as a couple
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2 Thank Boatman100754
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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84 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
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Mexico
Level Contributor
307 reviews
125 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 168 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 2, 2012

you are here in the countryside like a vip star . Very good food . nice staff .
nice activities around .
very nice place .
true hapiness here !
the AMAN touch in the counrtyside .
very profesional young manager on the ground.
they know how to make you special and give you the best .
The stay here is very pleasant , quiet and so peacefull , I Enjoyed it a lot .

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank fabriciodd
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York, New York, United States
Level Contributor
22 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 15, 2012

The hotel just makes the experience that more special. The staff is knowledgable and become like family. The yoga class we did was excellent and the food was even better than most of our meals in NYC

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Abby B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Palo Alto, California
Level Contributor
13 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 53 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 21, 2011

My husband and I went to Bhutan in May for our honeymoon for 8 days after spending 4 days in Istanbul. In hindsight we should have spent our entire 2 weeks in Bhutan at the Amankora resorts. We are very active people and limited our stay to a week because we were concerned that there would not be enough for us to do and see. All I have to say is we were dead wrong. Bhutan is a fascinating place to visit and there is so much to see, do and learn. We are also not big museum or sightseeing travelers, but all of the monasteries and temples were incredibly beautiful and unique, and we couldn’t get enough of them. As for the accommodations, we had never even heard of the Aman chain prior to booking this trip and after our experience at 4 of their resorts in Bhutan we are hooked. I’ve posted reviews for the resorts in Thimphu, Gangtey, Punakha and Paro. (They all start with this opening so feel free to skip down to the last paragraph).

The rooms at each resort look the same, and each one is immaculate. They are minimalist and sparse but have every amenity you could want. The lotion and soap at each one smelled amazing, we were obsessed with it. The only warning I would give is the only door to the bathroom is for the toilet, so make sure you are sharing a room with someone you are comfortable with.

As a caveat, if you do not like to be on roads that are winding and bumpy this is not the place for you to go. Each resort was at least a 3 hour drive through spectacular valleys, and our driver (Karma) did an excellent job at navigating. However, most of the roads are rough and only wide enough for 1.5 cars so the driving is slow with a lot of stop and go and passing. They are in the process of fixing them but for now, just a warning. If you want to pre-request an excellent guide, ask for Nema. He was above and beyond what we expected.

Some tips: 1) don’t drink the “holy” water when the monks offer it to you, fake it…it’s not purified, I got sick; 2) internet connection was spotty at some of the resorts; 3) if you can, try to plan your trip around a festival. We just missed one in Bumthang; 4) don’t expect Druk Air to be on time. Although our experience may have been an exception because they ordered more planes and expanded the schedule and when we flew they hadn’t received the planes yet. Also, the landing isn’t as scary as people make it out to be. I hate flying and I was fine; 5) if you want to hike, bring hiking boots and waterproof clothing. We went in May, it rained; 6) book spa appointments in advance, 7) laundry is included so no need to bring a lot of clothes, they will wash your clothes daily, and your shoes if you leave them outside. Everyone is very casual, you could probably wear sweatpants to dinner every night if you want; 8) We used Jetset World Travel to book our entire vacation, they are amazing. It’s rare to find a travel agency that has actually been to all of the places they recommend. We used Julia and she was beyond amazing.


Amankora Punakha
This was our second favorite place. It is at a lower elevation than Gangtey so it was a lot warmer, and we ate most of our meals outside in the courtyard and at night the staff would build a bonfire. On our way here from Gangtey we got out early and hiked in the back way which was pretty cool, we walked past some of the king’s properties. The views from this resort were spectacular and the staff was once again exceptional. We did a private dinner in the farmhouse one night which was great. My husband was able to run here, there were not a lot of dogs around the property/town. One really interesting thing we did here was volunteer to teach English to young monks with one of the staff members. They were super shy and we tried to explain to them where we are from (imagine telling someone who has never seen a building over 5 stories that we live on the 43rd floor of a building in NYC).

  • Stayed May 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
7 Thank rubiacktraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Level Contributor
84 reviews
53 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 84 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 3, 2011

My family and I are Aman junkies. You pay a lot for the Aman experience but they generally deliver, and you will find yourself comparing all other hotels to the Amans and finding the others lacking. Having said this, not all Amans are created equal, and of course they vary by country and region, how could they not? They are not about precise replication of themselves, but about celebrating and showcasing what their amazing locales have to offer. There are a few things about the Amans, true for the Amankora Punakha, which many guests find a little bit odd or challenging. They rarely have a minibar or a television in the rooms. Many times there is no wifi in the rooms either, and while all or nearly all Amans have a spa, you never seem to get a gym, and sometimes not even a pool. In light of the prices being charged, the lack of these modern amenities seems to many people a bit objectionable. Most of the time we don't miss these things, but must admit this trip, I wanted wifi, and my husband wanted the gym.

The Amankora Punakha is one of five Amankoras in Bhutan, and is a marvellous, luxurious way to introduce yourself to the Himalayan kingdom. We travelled with our children and were very well taken care of by the staff and manager of this Aman. Sangay, the manager with the cut glass English accent, is a very welcoming host and is a great choice for this position. He is everywhere at once, on top of all the details, yet always relaxed and ready to chat amiably with the guests. Ben, the American chef from Boston, was fantastic with our kids, who have food allergies, whipping up gluten and dairy free treats for picnics, or adjusting menu items to be safe for them. The food generally was fantastic. Not only was the Bhutanese menu really spicy and exciting, but Ben and his kitchens managed to produce both the best sandwich and the best potato salad I have ever had. That's going some. High marks for him. And Go Sox! Previous reviews have described well the physical set up at Amankora Punakha: it is a charming old farmhouse of about three storeys, in a courtyard, with an outbuilding which houses the spa, and three modern lodge-like buildings which house about twelve units for guests. The whole complex is reached by crossing a footbridge over a lovely river, then being transported by golf buggies the rest of the way. The rooms are similar to those at all the other Amankoras in Bhutan, which is to say quite modern, with lots of wood, and an open plan bath visible from the bed. Not for the shy. My children stayed in their own unit, identical except for twin beds, and the staff thoughtfully put up a folding screen shielding the bathtub from the sight of the bedroom area. The staff here is quietly friendly and really quite excellent - they go and tidy your room every time you leave it, so you have this oddly pleasant feeling of enchanted self tidying accommodation. The place is small enough that they know where every guest is.

When you arrive they greet you in the courtyard with cold towels and juice. Meals are also served in the courtyard, or in the ground floor dining room, which is long and low, with two communal tables and the feeling of a plain and timeless gathering area. We found it very charming. It was chilly in the courtyard in the evening, so they light a large brazier fire and bring you blankets and wraps with your aperitif, a very kind touch. In the morning it is really the perfect place to have your breakfast, as the morning sunlight hits the fascia of the farmhouse beautifully and you get to see birds and butterflies and such.

The library is on the middle floor of the farmhouse, and this is the place to go for a bit of wifi, although it was very spotty when I was there. Sangay gave me the tip that after five pm, when the office workers in Punakha depart their jobs, the connectivity is much better, and we found this to be true. Upload your photos after dinner!

We had a good driver and guide through the Aman, and were able to tailor our few days to the needs of our family. Amans excel at creating an unforgettable itinerary of activities and events. There are loads of thing to do, but we do recommend the fertility temple and the tales of the Divine Madman. We were blessed by the holy phallus here, a rather unexpected event! One evening they randomly had a lot of local people stop by to perform some traditional dances around the courtyard brazier, which was lovely. These were not a professional dance troupe, and were all the better for it.

Tipping is always such a fraught issue, so I will just set forth what we did, although you must bear in mind your own country's tipping standards, the level of service the resort supplies, and the local standards. Nobody will give you a straight answer when you ask what the standard is. In Cambodia, for example, it is common to give your driver 5 American dollars a day and your guide 10, plus a little bonus at the end of several days. However, at a place like the Aman, with its higher levels of service, you may wish to give a little more. They also may expect a little more as they know you are not short of a few bob if you're staying here. At the end of four days of driving and guiding, including drop off at the airport, we gave our driver forty American dollars and our guide 100. Some will find this outrageously little and think we are mean. The Amans, after all, run about 1200 a night per suite. Others will think we are big suckers and are ruining it for everyone else. Everyone is different and at the end of the day you have to make your own call. They both seemed happy with the tip, although if they hadn't been they would probably be too discreet to let it show. You are already charged a ten percent service charge, which I regarded as sufficient for the rest of the staff. Again, there is lots of room for disagreement on this.

Overall I highly recommend this Aman, with the caveat that certain modern amenities which you may have come to expect as standard at this price range are missing here. The caring service is just the thing to make you feel at home whilst you are having your Bhutanese adventures.

  • Stayed October 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
4 Thank beauchamptraveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
88 reviews
43 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 125 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 31, 2011

I will try to limit my use of superlatives in writing this review, but it's going be difficult. I have visited Aman Resorts before, but with 4 children have been a tad reticent about booking into one. To be honest, I have also wondered what the fuss is about. I mean, how much better can they be than a Six Senses, Four Seasons or Banyan Tree? I must admit, that after Amankora Punhaka, I 'get it'. Sadly, we have been bitten by the Aman bug, because this serenity comes at a price, especially when you travel as a party of six.

The approach to the hotel is fabulous; your driver drops you at a long suspension bridge covered in prayer flags, over a beautiful river. We were particularly fortunate to have arrived while a group of local residents was playing a fascinating Bhutanese version of darts. Once you set foot on the bridge, you are in the hands of the Aman team. We were met by the manager Sanjay and chef Ben, then whisked up the hill to the main house, a beautiful farmhouse that is leased from the Royal Family and given an Aman touch while retaining its Bhutanese character. This is where you come to read, use the computer etc. Outside is a lovely courtyard in which all meals are served al fresco, weather permitting. The fire by night only added to the atmosphere. Blankets are provided in case you are feeling a chill.

The rooms and spa are housed in much more modern bunker-like buildings that somehow seem to work. The rooms, while not huge are beautifully appointed. Magically, they seem to be refreshed very time that you walk outside the door.

The food was absolutely delicious. The Bhutanese breakfast option were fantastic. Sanjay is a fabulous manager and makes you feel as if you are his personal guest rather than someone who is signing a rather large credit card bill. The spa was excellent and the staff were all incredible.

The hotel is involved in a number of service activities in the local area. Our two older children and I joined them in helping to teach an English class to a class of young monks in a local monastery one afternoon. It was a great experience for all of us and caused great amusement for the young monks when my six year old had to climb up on a table to be able to write at the top of the blackboard. The Lama invited us for tea afterwards, which was wonderful, despite the language barrier. It was one of those afternoons that really stood out from other holidays and will hopefully remain with us for decades to come.

The entire area is surrounded by stunning rice paddies with countless shades of green. Punhaka was our favourite place in Bhutan, from the walks through the rice paddies to the stupa and the most stunning Dzong (freshly adorned for the Royal Wedding). Amankora added even more to the overall experience. We look forward to many other Aman trips in the future.

  • Stayed October 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Trunkix4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
186 reviews
73 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 201 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 4, 2011

Small and poorly lighted room, cramped dining room with small windows and lots of flies. Same menu every day (and not a very varied one either). Not much in terms of facilities or entertainment. There were much better places around at better prices.

Internet did not work

  • Stayed April 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
4 Thank JamesXXI
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Amankora Punakha

Property: Amankora Punakha
Address: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Bhutan
Location: Bhutan > Punakha District > Punakha
Amenities:
Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Specialty Lodging in Punakha
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Combining aman, the Sanskrit-derived word for 'peace', and kora or 'circular pilgrimage' in Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, Amankora, is a series of lodges in the Kingdom of Bhutan's central and western valleys. The sole surviving Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom, Bhutan is one of the most remote and pristine environments on earth. To best experience all that Bhutan has to offer, Amankora can tailor journeys that include a combination of its lodges located in the valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Amankora Punakha Hotel Punakha

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