Why not choose a hotel? Because home is where the heart & Shambhala Palace is.
I love the color red and that’s the overriding theme of most rooms at this very Tibetan, art directed dwelling. But the beauty of this stayover starts at the door or rather the traditional doorway, then the courtyard, the prayer flags, the charming wall pieces & finally the very pretty room.
SHAMBHALA PALACE WAS THE HOME OF A LAMA ONCE
When I first heard that I felt a mix of excitement & sadness. The feeling that many Tibetan monks had to leave their birthplace to protect their culture, practices and even their lives got me contemplative. But lets give a shout out to American lawyer and social entrepreneur Laurence Brahm, who decided to restore the cultural imprints, while partnering many Tibetan people. His initiative has helped preserve the essence through the revival of a few residences that are an ethnic stay for guests visiting Tibet. Keeping authenticity at the core, Shambhala Palace is in reality a celebration of Tibetan heritage
As the ancestral home of a high-ranking Tibetan Lama one can only imagine the vibrancy that the art, colors and murals would’ve brought. Not to mention the soothing chants and view of the Potala Palace. And the décor just doesn’t let you down.
But lets start with getting there. Shambhala Palace is a hidden jewel in a narrow street called Wengdui Xingka Road. Cut away from the noise yet close enough to the very alive shopping heavy Barkhor Street & auspicious Jokhang Temple. The only thing that could be a mild bother is if one is carrying heavy luggage. There is a walk from the main road to this boutique hotel for just about 5-10 mins.
BATHED IN RED
Once you cross the wafer thin doorway…just covered with a Tibetan embroidered fabric (only during the day) you see to the right a beautiful sky courtyard. Around it are rooms & walls with beautiful carvings that tell the story of the mythical Shambhala Kingdom and its 25 kings. I read somewhere that a team of Tibetan artisans using bricks and stones from ancient buildings that were destroyed to allow progress, undertook the restoration.
I bought the mythology of Shambhala when I thought of this place. It is said to feature in ancient Buddhist & pre-Buddhist texts as a paradise land located somewhere in Middle Earth. There is a belief that love & wisdom prevails there. What color would bring alive this world when you hear this? Well to break all stereotypes, its fiery Red apparently. That’s what the Shambhala Palace in Lhasa had as its dominant expression. I have to tell you that while red looks so much a part of the colors & patterns that many monasteries also have, in the night it seems intense. The lighting adds to its depth.
It’s totally traditional in its design inside the room too, with comfortably large areas for a casual chat up/tea session. It’s slightly darkish in the bathrooms but after a while you get used to it. I chose the room on the top floor with windows that face the Potala Palace. Sunrise & a lit up Potala Palace in the night is a gorgeous sight. I made it a point to carry a 18-200mm lens as it’s a gorgeous photo opportunity for the records. And in my headiness that came from being in Lhasa, I did feel a part of that mythical kingdom I’d come to believe in.
FOR THE HUNGRY SOULS
No lifts at all. So some exercise for those willing to climb up a few floors to reach the small restaurant right on top. It serves some delicious Vegetarian food on demand too. You can smell the herbs as the kitchen is very close to where you sit for a filling. But what I liked most was how amenable they were to putting a meal together with no traces of any kind of meat & even outside of their menu, just because I am a veggie (I have had to go ouch! at times when tiny meat pieces/fish oil has been the flavor on a few SE Asia travels)
And yes! Don’t miss their rich Yak Butter tea. For many of my Indian friends it tastes like salted Amul butter liquefied…yummy. And yes, you can drink clean water straight from the tap especially in Lhasa.
I am in love with the place. Yes I am. And if you are an experiential traveller it’ll happen to you too. You always have a choice to stay in the classic premium hotels but some lands invite you with their ‘one with earth’ aura. I could go on, but I urge you to discover it yourself.
To know more about all the Shambhala residences marked as examples of geo-tourism by National Geographic, do check this http://www.shambhalaserai.com/