It’s all about heritage and that unique hospitality experience. About building a bright future based on a rich past, Nepali skills and cultural wealth. During our one week stay in Nepal we’ve also sampled, on a teaser-visit, the flavors of Dwarika’s Hotel Kathmandu.
As soon as we entered the inner courtyard, the hustle and bustle from Kathmandu’s crowded streets surrounding the hotel magically faded away. Just like that, in an instant. It was as if we stepped into another world, serene, an invitation to unwind and taste life’s little pleasures. Traditional music and a local lady dancer enriched the ambiance, much to the guests’ delight, guests who couldn’t stop taking photos (we couldn’t, either). Just like the people of Nepal we’ve encountered during our trip, the hotel’s staff was all smiles, welcoming and hospitable. We met with Sheba, the Sales & Marketing Manager, who kindly took us on a tour of discovery around this wonderful property.
“We want to make a difference to each person we touch”, said Sheba as she was unlocking one of the rooms. “We treat each guest as a member of our family and many feel this approach during their stay. That’s why they keep returning!” The history of Dwarika’s Kathmandu is linked with the life of its founder, Dwarika Das Shrestha. His first business was the establishment of the first hotel in Nepal – Paras – in 1952, at a time when this beautiful country was yet to establish itself as a tourist destination. Moreover, in 1969 Dwarika Das Shrestha went on to establish Kathmandu Travels and Tours – one of the first travel agencies in Nepal. In the late 1950s, he bought the land upon which The Dwarika’s Hotel is now located and built on it a small family home, incorporating into the design some of the ancient windows he had collected. The first window that he used can be seen even today in the Fusion Bar.
This was a revolution in building style and many people discouraged him from using the old window frames, seeing it as a reflection of poverty rather than an appreciation of cultural wealth. But Dwarika Das stood firmly. By then, he had already started his collection of woodwork and was beginning to understand the true value of Nepal’s rich cultural heritage. Whenever an old building was brought down, he would buy as much of the carved windows, doors and pillars as he could afford. Dwarika’s Hotel was registered in 1977 with the idea of reviving the architectural splendor of Kathmandu valley. All the terracotta work was made in the valley, using local clay and skills. Continuing his vision and utilizing the sketches through which he had conceived the hotel, Dwarika’s wife and daughter completed the front building – where the reception is now housed – in 1998. Today, the hotel is still managed by the Shrestha family – Ambica, Sangita and Rene Vijay Shrestha Einhaus (Dwarika Das’ grandson) – and now makes up one of the largest private woodwork collections in the world.
Coming back to our tour, at Dwarika’s Kathmandu you won’t find electronic key cards to unlock the rooms. Only regular keys and locks, adding to the character of the property. Guests can choose from Heritage Deluxe rooms – many of which face the courtyard, Heritage Junior suites, Heritage Executive suites and – the height of luxury – the Royal Suite. When designing the rooms and suites, Dwarika Das Shrestha and his wife also incorporated elements of Nepal’s diverse cultural heritage, including those from beyond the valley. The furniture was crafted by families of traditional carpenters, while the linen, textiles and embroideries were hand woven using Nepali patterns. In his approach, Dwarika Das Shrestha took some of the finest elements of Nepali crafts and presented them in a way that had not been done before. Explaining his vision, he once stated: “My project is to recreate a 15th-17th century environment where tourist and Nepali alike would have a sensation of the original.”
Each of the 40 luxurious Junior Suites is individually designed with local materials including pottery, slate and brass, as well as genuine antiques and artifacts. In the spirit of a Nepali home, each suite has a divan (day bed) for lounging and relaxation. Covering a wider area and boasting a luxurious open plan bathroom, the Executive Suites combine traditional style with modern convenience. With special amenities including a personal computer, Dwarika’s Executive Suites also offer spectacular views of the courtyard. The 250 sqm Royal Suite takes its architectural inspiration from the private abodes of the Malla kings and is set over three floors. With an open-air breakfast terrace attached to the bedroom, the Royal Suite has a separate living area and an entrance foyer. A wooden-floored deck overlooks a sumptuous lounge, while the 50 sqm bathroom is decorated with traditional architectural features. On the private terrace guests can indulge in a splendid view of the hotel’s courtyard, as well as the towering peaks of the Himalayas.
Three restaurants and a bar await guests at Dwarika’s Kathmandu with focus on fresh, organic and local food. We found out that many of the ingredients used in these restaurants are grown at the hotel’s two organic farms. To taste authentic Nepali cuisine head over to Krishnarpan, where you can enjoy a slow dining experience reminiscent of the ritual feasts of Kathmandu Valley’s Newari community. Meals range from 6 to 22 courses – yes, you read that right – and are prepared using the freshest vegetables from Dwarika’s own farms. Offered on traditional brass and earthenware, the courses are served by hostesses representing Nepal’s diverse ethnic communities.
Mako’s Japanese restaurant takes its name from its host, Mako-san. A keen interest in Buddhism first brought her to Nepal over three decades ago and she couldn’t leave this amazing country. Mako’s offers traditional Japanese food served in a warm and stylish setting, with a minimalistic and Zen-like décor. Toran, Dwarika’s multi-cuisine all-day restaurant, offers a combination of Nepali flavors along with popular world cuisines which can be enjoyed in the restaurant or in the hotel’s courtyard. During our visit we had some drinks while enjoying a nice chat with Sheba and one of her colleagues in the Fusion Bar. Overlooking a swimming pool that replicates 12th century royal baths, the bar invites guests to an elegant environment in which to sip exotic fruit cocktails and aperitifs. The Fusion celebrates Friday evenings with a live band and a special Nepali barbeque.
We’ve saved the best for last. Included in Conde Nast Traveller’s Spa Guide 2014, Dwarika’s Pancha Kosha Himalayan Spa is another reason to check-in at this luxury Kathmandu hotel. Drawing on Ayurveda, Buddhist medicine and traditional rituals & treatments, the Spa has its name derived from the wisdom of the Vedas. They claim that our Atman (or self) is made up of five layers of being: the physical, the intellectual, emotional and the essence of the absolute. We didn’t have time to try the Spa’s services and unwind, but we’re sure they live up to the expectations. We fell in love with Nepal, so we will be back next year for a longer visit, when we also hope to get a first-hand look of Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel, Dwarika’s Kathmandu sister property. If you travel to Nepal and arrive at either of these two locations, you should definitely check-in.