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The bottoms of my feet were scalding, but I kept them in the water as long as I could.
That was the point, after all, of this traditional Bhutanese hot-stone bath. I was sitting in a wooden tub that was filled with water that had been heated by river stones gathered from a local stream and heated for hours ahead of time.
And although I felt like I was part of a human stew — with Artimisia herbs and flowers floating around my naked body — it was still an equally chic, albeit unusual, experience.
In fact, “chic yet unusual” is exactly how I would describe my stay at Gangtey Lodge Bhutan, which I booked as part of a multiday journey through TravelLocal.com, a specialty travel agency that curates local experiences for clients. When I arrived on-property, the lodge’s staff lined up to greet me with a song and welcome drinks — an almost emotional experience given the backdrop of the Himalayan Gangtey Valley behind them.
Designed as a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse, Gangtey Lodge features 12 equally sized suites that welcome travelers seeking luxurious accommodations with an authentic regional touch. The main building boasts a Swiss-lodge appearance, complete with crackling fireplaces and tall stone walls that form the centerpiece to the two adjacent buildings. Valley views are exceptional and were made even better by the soaking tub’s position near the windows. (But, if guests prefer to stay dry, they can wrap up in the blankets and heated neck pillows that are refreshed by the doting staff regularly.)
Clients staying here will likely meet the friendly Spanish general manager, who was getting used to a transition from the South Pacific to this remote mountainous landscape during my visit. He personally welcomes all arrivals, and he is a fountain of knowledge about international travel.
Wi-Fi access at the lodge was among the speediest I experienced in Bhutan, and the property’s a la carte breakfast got me off to a great start each day. So did the delivery of coffee, which appeared at my door less than two minutes after my wake-up call. I also opted for a spicy egg and rice dish, which I enjoyed on my terrace. If guests are early risers, they can spend pre-dawn hours praying with monks at the nearby monastery if they like.
The hotel was advised of my preference for vegetarian cuisine ahead of time, and meals were prepared with precision. I never lacked for choices, and I loved the particularly spicy (and traditional Bhutanese) accouterments I could add to many of my dishes on the regional menu prepared by Adrian Broadhead, the talented Australian chef.
My suite had a spacious living area, which remained uncluttered thanks to the enormous walk-in closets near the vanity areas. In fact, the entire lodge feels private — even when all suites are occupied — as there is plenty of space for guests to wander in peace.
Each evening, when I returned to my suite, I found Bhutanese folklore stories on the bed and a hot water bottle tucked beneath the sheets to keep them warm before my jet-lagged slumber.
It’s safe to say that this luxury lodge surprised me from every angle — beginning from the soles of my feet.
The DetailsGangtey Lodge Bhutanwww.gangteylodge.com