Friday, March 20, 2020

Winter wonderland at Fairmont Banff

Banff is absolutely beautiful during winter time and if you have to choose between Fairmont Banff and Fairmont Lake Louis, I would definitely go with Fairmont Banff.  The reason being Lake Louis is basically a big frozen ice cube with not much scenery to speak of.  So unless you like to figure skate, imo, Fairmont Banff Springs is the way to go as the old castle in the snow look is prettier in my opinion.

There is no doubt that Fairmont Banff rooms need some definite RnR.  Quite a few of the rooms are not updated and they are tired for sure.  However, there is some charm to the old timey furniture in the room that are reminiscent of visit to grandma's home.  With that said, thankfully bathrooms are updated.  I had the pleasure to stay at room 611 which is the Rungius Suite.  The suite was named after Carl Rungius,  a German American painter, who spent his time painting western United States and Canada in the first half of 20th century.  In fact, Rungius had a studio in Banff that he kept until 1959, the year he died.  I can see why the suite was named after him as my room has a glorious view of Bow River and Mount Girouard.        

The service is somewhat uneven.  Staying at a suite gives me access to their private concierge desk which is quite nice as they can basically make things happen even down to calling to get my rental car ready.  They really do try hard.  However, there were a few times balls were dropped.  With that said, I would highly recommend staying at their Gold Level rooms as that gives you access to the private concierge desk.

Their spa was under renovation during my stay.  I had a manicure in basically one of the hotel rooms that were transformed into a spa room.  It was a bit disappointing as this hotel was known for the spa and I didn't really get to enjoy the facility.  I guess it's one of those I will have to return to see the newly renovated spa for myself!  On top of that, somehow my scheduled appointment, which I changed a few times through private concierge desk, got mixed up and I ended up arriving an hour early for my reservation.  Not end of the world but again, would have been nice if the mistake didn't happen.

I didn't have dinner at the hotel as the restaurants that I was interested in were not open during the time I was there.  However, there were few restaurants dotted around Banff that seem to have great reviews such as Eden and Three Ravens Restaurant.  I went to both restaurants and I would recommend them.  Eden is more traditional French while Ravens is modern eclectic.  Both times the private hotel concierge sent hotel car to drop me off and pick me up.  It was much appreciated since I prefer not to drive at night in snowy condition in a foreign country.    

Since I was there before Christmas, they had an event center building (across from the main hotel) where they had a play called A Christmas Carol.  Apparently it's done every year around Christmas time.  I highly recommend it as it puts everyone in a cheery Christmas mood.  It wasn't an elaborate production but it was quite lovely.

The hotel also has a history section above the general public check in area.  It's nice to have a mini museum inside the hotel as it allows guests to appreciate the architecture more.  The ground floor also has tons of shops to buy souvenirs from.  I bought a few well made wands (in the spirit of Harry Potter) from an art gallery inside the hotel.  There are definitely quite a few fun shops to keep me occupied and scratch the shopping itch.

Overall it was a lovely stay and if I return to Banff in the winter, I would definitely stay at this Fairmont again.  Hopefully all the rooms/suites and spa would be renovated by then.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Lost in the Reverie in Saigon

The Reverie Saigon, no doubt, is the most luxurious hotel right now in this southern Vietnamese city. With Mandarin Oriental opening next door in 2020, should the Reverie Saigon be worried?  I don't think so as I'm sure the interior decor at Mandarin will be vastly different from The Reverie Saigon.

To say the Reverie Saigon is luxurious is perhaps an understatement.  Right when you walk in, it's full on Italian marble from floor to ceiling.  At the Reverie Saigon, 24 karat gold, is splashed everywhere!  My first thought was only if Liberace can dream up a hotel, this place would be it.  The owner wanted Italian opulence that perhaps no place in Asia have ever seen before and since.  You can tell no expense was spared.  I am doubtful Mandarin Oriental has half of the interior decor budget that the Reverie Saigon had.  I suspect the hotels will split tourist groups into two kinds: the ones who loves bling will go for the Reverie Saigon; the ones who likes something more elegant and subtle will go for Mandarin Oriental.  Given the construction boom Saigon is having, I'm sure both hotel will have no problem filling up their beds.

The suite I stayed is called the Designer Suites by Giorgetti.  Clearly everything in the room is imported from Italy.  I chose this room because it's the most clean cut modern/ not so over the top suite offering in the hotel.  Naturally the living room has what looks like a Sicis glass mosaic panel that practically covers whole length of the wall.  This huge expensive/expansive mosaic panel feels much more appropriate in a hotel lobby than in a living room of a suite.  The oddest thing of the suite is there is no bathroom fan which doesn't seem to make any sense.  I believe the architect of the building dropped the ball.  The lack of ventilation means they have to think of ways to rectify this situation.  One of the way is turn down the temperature of the shower.  Thus if you enjoy lukewarm shower (i.e. not so much steam), you are at the right hotel.  If you want scalding hot shower, better move along.  The worst part of the suite is the noise across the street; there is a nightclub (moved in couple years ago) that plays loud thumping music nightly!  I was told all the highest category suites of the hotel all happen to face this night club!  Luckily Designer Suite by Giorgetti is more off to the side thus avoid the direct blast of the night club and music is somewhat muddled compared to say the Designer Suite by Provasi which gets the full blast treatment!

I had dinner at the Cardinal which serves contemporary French cuisine in the evening.  Since Vietnam used to be a French colony, I had expected the French food here to be as good as the ones in Paris.  Furthermore, this is the most expensive hotel in Saigon thus I had expected minimally one Michelin star level French food at their main restaurant.  Sad to say, it was not.  It's not that food was terrible; I just had really high expectations and it was not met.  I would say food at this restaurant is thoroughly competent but don't expect Michelin star level food.  In another words, think Four Seasons good enough food.

By staying at the Designer Suite, I had access to the Reverie Lounge on 38th floor.  This essentially is Reverie Saigon's club lounge.  You can come here to have free snacks or afternoon tea.  The view here is very nice and I would highly recommend guests to utilize this lounge if they have access to it.  I enjoyed the afternoon tea and snacks very much.

All the staff here are quite nice.  The service standard is good.  Staff always smile and tried to be helpful.  While not everyone's English is fluent, majority of the staff can converse with me with no problem which is helpful when I need help.

I think next time when I come to Saigon I will try Mandarin Oriental as the decor style at The Reverie Saigon really just isn't my cup of tea.  With that said, if MO doesn't open next year and I come back to Saigon, I would not have any problem staying at RS again.  The location of the hotel is good and if you like this over the top style, you will really enjoy staying here.  

Monday, March 9, 2020

Does Sofitel Legend Metropole lives up to its lofty reputation?

Currently the best hotel in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi is Sofitel Legend Metropole until Four Seasons opens its door in the coming year or two.  With that said, there are lots of things to be like with Sofitel Legend Metropole; the history, the Indochine charm, and the service.

Sofitel Legend Metropole has been around since 1901.  This French colonial style hotel has hosted the who's who of the world: George Bush, Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Jane Fonda, Charlie Chaplin to name a few.  Of course recently it was the venue that hosted the infamous meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.  Famous writers are known to whip up a novel at the hotel as well; Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Parlour at the hotel; Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American during his stay at the hotel in 1951.

The hotel actually has two entrances.  One is the original one and the other is located at the new wing.  Like all hotels, this hotel hosts conferences.  While I was there, every night there were lots of conferences/parties going on.  I understand that's part of the hotel function but it certainly doesn't make the hotel feels exclusive or luxurious.

The new wing is where the renovated rooms are.  They are renovated to a nice quality but unfortunately the room that was allocated to me was facing directly to an elevator bank.  While normally it would be ok.  But given large conference crowds I'm seeing in the lobby area, I start to think I will have very late nights with lots of noises coming from drunk conference attendees waddling out of elevators.  In addition, the windows in my room were facing some kind of department store which looks like it was going under some kind of renovation.  I ended up requesting to move to a different room due to these reasons.  Management was very reluctant to move me which again, I guess is indicative of brands at this level.  Once again, I'm reminded I'm not staying at a Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental but a Sofitel.  Eventually the management moved me to Somerset Maugham Suite which was very lovely.

The suite is essentially a one bedroom suite with a large interior courtyard balcony.  This is lovely as one can take in tea or breakfast facing interior courtyard which is a lot quieter than facing outwards.  The bathroom is on the dated side but certainly serviceable.  The room is quiet which is important for any travelers as that allows one to rest without waking up by traffic noise either from elevators or traffic.

Restaurants at the hotel are very lovely especially Le Beaulieu.  This was my first foray to Sofitel brand.  The hotel, while nice, doesn't seem particularly high end thus I had my doubts about their restaurants.  I was very happy to be proven wrong.  The wait staff couldn't be any more attentive not to mention food, while traditional, is delectable and on point.  In fact, I liked it so much I came back the second time!  I guess it shouldn't be a surprise as Vietnam is a former French colony.  The Spices Garden, which is their Vietnamese food restaurant, is also delicious with great attentive staff!  I wouldn't hesitate to eat at either hotel upon my return visit.

The hotel is within a stone's throw distance from a local high end mall called Trang Tien Shopping Mall.  Thus if you are in need to shop at international brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, or Cartier, you are in luck.  If music is your thing, then Hanoi Opera House is also within a short walking distance.  In addition,the hotel is close to a lake called Hoan Siem Lake which is a perfect for a morning run if you are into that.  For a closer shopping experience, hotel has couple gift shops on the ground floor which have a wide variety of local made goods that looks expensive but easy on the wallet.

Overall I had a nice stay at the hotel.  I thought the service level was quite high and food was delicious.  I'm pleasantly surprised by Sofitel brand.  Next time when I come back to Hanoi, I will probably stay at Four Seasons Hanoi to see how it stacks up to Sofitel Metropole.  I'm sure the finishes at the new Four Seasons Hanoi will surpass Sofitel Metropole but the real test will be the level of service.  With that said, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend my friends and family to stay at Sofitel Metropole especially if they like to stay at historical hotels.    

Friday, August 30, 2019

The best beach resort in Vietnam

Amanoi is viewed as the best resort in Vietnam by the locals.  But is this 6 year old resort really that good or perhaps it's just better than other hotels in Vietnam?  Having just came from two other Amans in Southeast Asia, I can assure you Amanoi is as good as other Amans around.

In order to get to this Aman, you have to fly to Cam Ranh airport.  Once you are there, the ride is about hour and a half through mostly trafficless road.  The roads around the airport are newly paved and you can tell Vietnamese government is eager to promote Cam Ranh Bay as the next resort destination.

The arrival ritual at Amans is always perfect; someone from the management along with my butler come to greet me with warm/ cold towels and drinks.  Then they proceed to take me upstairs to the grand lobby where one takes in lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner.  I thought the architect did a great job at breaking up the stairs into two section so you don't feel like you are climbing forever before reaching the top.  Once you get there, the reveal is a magnificent view of the Vinh Hy Bay.  If you don't feel like to walk up the stairs, you can easily take a golf cart up to the lobby level as well.

The room I booked into was Amanoi Ocean Pool Villa which is the highest category suite.  The description online said Grand private wooden deck with infinity pool and breathtaking ocean views.  The view, as description promised, was truly breathtaking.  Basically this room has the ocean and mountain view all rolled into one with a very private pool; the kind that you can wear your birthday suit with no chance of anyone seeing you while you swim in the pool.  The bathroom shower is set up in such a way that you can access it from the swimming pool deck which is perfect.  This suite is set back from the golf cart path that there is no way you will hear people talking or sound of a golf cart passing by.  It really is a suite that one can spend all day and never leave.

If shopping is in your blood, then Amanoi has the shop for you.  While the shop isn't the biggest Aman gift shop I have ever seen, it does have a lot of interesting and good quality things that I would not mind having.  Obviously all can be charged to your account and yes, you don't need to tell them which room you are at.  You literally can just grab and go.

As I alluded earlier, on top of the hill is where the grand dinning room is at.  The dinning room is actually set up into several different sections; bar, enclosed dining area, open air dinning area, and outdoor dining area.  My understanding is sometimes it can get quite windy at Amanoi thus sitting outside or in the open air area while eating may not always be pleasant.  I did not encounter strong wind during my stay.  I had food at the dining room as well as at the beach club.  Both places served good high quality food that is tasty.  Everything was cooked perfectly; nothing was overdone or dried out.

Amanoi spa is absolutely beautiful!  The spa is in a separate area from the villas thus in order to get there, you just have to call up a golf cart. With that said, there is one spa villa that's available for rent.  This spa villa is exactly the same as other villas with exception that in it's lower floor facing the lake, there is a dedicated plunge pool, steam room, treatment room, etc.  My understanding is guests can also rent out the lower part of the villa for half a day if it's not occupied.  The treatment room is quite nice and comes with a large bathroom with soaking tubs.  I had an enjoyable massage while I was there.

For the suite I was in, I was afforded a personal butler who basically take cares of my stay.  I'm unsure if that's true for lower category suites.  I thought my butler was great.  She took care of everything and all my requests were met.  I have no cause for complaint!

In order to access the beach, you can have a golf cart come to pick you up as most of the villas are right up in the hills.  The wait is never long for these carts.  While all beaches are public, there really is no way to access Amanoi's beach unless you are staying there.  The water right off the beach has some decent snorkeling.  I was a bit surprised at how much fish there are!  While it's no Hanauma Bay in Oahu or the Maldives, there is decent amount of fish to see....much more than off the beach at Belmont La Samanna in St Martin in the Caribbean.

Overall this new(ish) Aman does not disappoint; the rooms are gorgeous; the food is delicious; the service is Aman good; and the beach is beautiful.  This place reminds me a bit of Amankila in Bali although the facility here is definitely newer/ better.  With that said, Amankila has better gift shop and better waves for bodyboard surfing.  In either case, you can't go wrong with either Aman.  This is definitely one of the Aman I will return to again.                    

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A little paradise in Luang Prabang

No doubt the best hotel to stay at in Luang Prabang is Amantaka.  This ten year old French colonial resort was originally built in 1923 for Prince Born Khong.  In 2009, it was transformed by Aman into 24 suites luxury resort.

The placement of the building on the hotel formed an U shape.  Every single suite faces interior courtyard.  The center courtyard closest to the public area has a large swimming pool as well as lounge chairs dotted along the edge.  Along the edge of the pool, you can also find spa rooms as well as a gym.  Where the pool ends is where the suites starts.  The suite closest to the pool is Amantaka suite which is the largest suite available.

I stayed in the Amantaka suite and it was quite lovely.  I'll let the video do the talking.  The room is pretty quiet.  In no time was I ever woken up by noise outside of the resort.  If you look at surrounding of Amantaka, it is actually in a residential neighborhood thus there could be potential traffic/ people noise.  The pool in the backyard is great if you want some private swimming time.  The huge shower room is fantastic; the tile floor is heated.  As with any Aman, you can customize your bed to super hard or super soft or anything in between.

The food is delectable.  The chef hails from Montenegro although you wouldn't know it as he's very adapt at cooking local cuisine.  However, I asked him to whip up something I had at Aman Sveti Stefan and he was happy to oblige!  As with many Amans, Amantaka had someone playing traditional Laotian instruments nightly while I take in delicious dinner.  For the less adventurous eaters, chef's pasta is on point and al dente.

The spa at Amantaka is gorgeous.  Each spa room is as big as any of the suites!  I had several very good massages and would definitely recommend spa addicts to book a treatment or two.

Aman has a large and well stocked gift shop.  There are lots of selections from clothes to local antiques as well as lots of well made crafts by local artisan.  Shopping addicts will have a field day!  For those looking for night market type of experience, it's within walking distance from the hotel too.  

Aman excels at their exclusive activity menu.  Essentially instead of hiring a guide, Amantaka puts together activities you can do in Luang Prabang. All you have to do is tell anyone at the hotel when and what activity you want to do and everything will be planned out for you.  No fuss no muss.  There are two activities that I highly recommend.  One is take the private Amantaka boat out on Mekong River for few hours.  You will have a great time.  Scenery along the river is beautiful and you can go into a cave call Pak Ou Caves to explore.  The other activity is go to Kuang Si Falls.  The color of the water is unreal!  It's neon blue/green... kinda similar to what you see in Maldives/ Bora Bora except it's more green than blue.  Bring your bathing suit as you can swim in parts of the river.  

The only regretful thing I did at Amantaka is not staying longer.  While the temperature is slightly hotter and more humid than I typically liked, but temperature in February is quite tolerable.  I look forward to coming back to Luang Prabang again... specifically Amantaka.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Aman divided by five in Bhutan

Amankora is an interesting concept.  Typically one associate Aman with one single resort but in Bhutan, Amankora actually spans five different lodges in five different locations.  You have a choice to go to all five or just stay in one depending on the length of your trip.

Regrettably I only had time for four nights five days trip.  This means two lodges; one at Thimphu and the other one at Paro.  On Aman's website, there are options of 3,4,7,8,9,11,12 night journey.  Everything is planned out to the T although I'm sure you can stay for 5,6,10 days easily if you want to.  From my personal experience, I would say four nights is really the minimum you should do if you decide to go to Amankora.

The international airport is at Paro so your guide for your whole stay will come to pick you up.  My first night was at Thimphu lodge.  It's about an hour and a half away from Paro airport.  I would say the lodge feels minimalist as most Amans do.  The lodge was built to look like a Dzong which is fortress like architecture that's prevalent in this part of the world.  As luck would have it, I had a choice of first or second floor room.  I decided first floor was better as I didn't want to bother with stairs daily.  The rooms are adequately good sized.  In lieu of a couch, a built in window banquet is there for gazing out the window.  There is a large double vanity area where they pump heat throughout the day which makes washing hands nice and toasty every time.  One thing to note is that the bathroom is wide open to rest of the room thus if you are shy, you can request folding screens to gain privacy.  There is one large tub for soaking as well as in room fireplace to fragrant the room when you burn wood at night for warmth.  With that said, there is central air to warm the room thus fireplace is really more for atmosphere.

There is a central courtyard at this lodge.  This is the place where you can watch traditional Bhutanese dance.  I have to say the dance numbers are absolutely mesmerizing.  Again, Aman excels at bringing cultural experience to your front door.  It was nice to enjoy the dance with staff serving you hot drinks and cookies.  Another bonus is I had the front row seat as the dance viewing was only available to staying guests and I think there were maybe 6 people total watching a whole troupe of dancers.                

The food at this Aman lodge was very good.  I would say the pastry was definitely the highlight.  There is only one central restaurant for this lodge and it's actually quite grand.  The ceiling is double height which means the space feels very large.  Amankora had someone playing a Bhutanese traditional instrument while I ate (similar to the time when Amanbagh had someone playing flute when I was eating).  The instrument he played was called Chiwang which is a type of fiddle.  As you can see, Aman is excellent at creating mood and giving you a sense of place through sight, sound, taste, and smell.

The gift shop here is quite nice.  There is a large selection of high quality items you can buy for remembrance of your trip.  The decision at these Aman shops always come down to what can I fit in my luggage!  Of course Aman is also happy to send anything that don't fit in your luggage.

The spa is probably the weakest point in this lodge.  It is in the basement of the lodge and feels a bit like an after thought in terms of space and decor.

After spending two nights at Thimphu, I moved to Paro lodge.  Paro lodge is most likely the largest lodge compare to other ones as this is the place that typically where Aman guests end their Bhutan trip.  This is because typically you have adjusted to the altitude in Bhutan in order to climb the iconic Tiger's Nest which also happen to located at Paro.

The room set up is different in Paro.  The bathroom while still open to rest of the room, once you put a screen in front of the bathtub, it feels quite enclosed.  Again, there is no stand alone sofa but there is a large window banquet for gazing out the window.  My room had a lovely view of a 17th century Dzong in a distance.  

The dining area is much smaller compare to the one at Thimphu.  It almost feel like you are in a student cafeteria as there is no individual tables but several large long tables with chairs.  I have to say this eating space feels like a left over space where architect have to squeeze in a place for people to dine.  Sure you can eat outside with individual table and chairs but that's only doable depending on the weather.  The food is on par with what was provided at Thimphu but pastry was not as good.

The gift shop here is tiny.  Again, it feels like they figure they need to put a gift shop in so they squeeze it into this tiny space.  Given how much open space is available at this property, surely they can build a separate gift shop?  But then again, maybe they can't due to zoning law.

The spa is where this lodge shine.  Unlike the Thimphu lodge, Paro lodge has a separate large spa building.  There are two floors in this building.  The upper floor is locker rooms and reception.  The lower floors are treatment rooms.  If you come here don't forget to sign up for a hot-stone bath.  Your feet will thank you especially if you just went on the Tiger's Nest hike!

While I don't regret that I only signed up for four night stay at Amankora as I have another Aman to go to, this short five days had given me a good taste of this beautiful country.  My suggestion is come to Amankora but spend more than four nights if your wallet and time allow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Where to stay in Kathmandu

Since there are no Amans and Four Seasons, or even St Regis and Park Hyatts, where does one stay in Kathmandu?  Frankly speaking there aren't many choices to be had.  With some trepidation, I ended up staying at Dwarika's hotel.  It was recommend to me by a friend of mine who had stayed there before.

There are actually two Dwarika's hotels.  One is inside Kathmandu and the other about an hour outside of Kathmandu.  I stayed at both but this review will concentrate on the one inside Kathmandu.

Because there is barely any paved road in Kathmandu with one street light that doesn't work, getting around Kathmandu is very chaotic not to mention dusty.  Thus location of your hotel is important as it would mean getting to the attraction quickly or sit in a dusty traffic hours on end.  While I don't know the traffic pattern of Kathmandu, it seems to me Dwarika, more or less, sits right at the juncture of major tourist sites.  I find each time we go out, we would usually get stuck in traffic initially but then quickly reach our destination after passing the main thoroughfare.  When we hit few destinations in one day, we would ended up passing by the hotel multiple times.  This tells me Dwarika is actually centrally located to all these tourist sites from my multi-day experience.

The first impression of the hotel is it's quite lovely.  Apparently the original owner, Dwarika Das Shrestha, picked up a bunch of architectural carvings in 1950s as people were sawing them off for firewood.  He decided to collect these ancient carvings and constructed a hotel around these architectural elements as people discard them.  Thus the hotel architecturally is a mixture of various styles which can look a bit messy but charming at the same time.

Every night around sunset, the hotel has a dancer who would do traditional dance in central courtyard.  I really enjoyed seeing that as it not only reenforced the local culture upon its guests, but also this is a nice way to calm its guests from the hectic Kathmandu right outside the entrance.

I stayed in the Heritage Executive Suite which faces the beautiful interior courtyard.  The room obviously can't be compared to Amans or Four Seasons.  It's very rustic.  But everything in the room feels very authentic and not put on.  Everything you need is there; the bed was comfortable; the room is large; the bathroom is almost the same size as the bedroom.  The only complaint I have is I wish bathroom is brighter.  It felt a bit dark especially in the shower area.  I typically like to hang up everything when I check into a hotel room.  Unfortunately the existing clothes rod couldn't take on the weight and fell.  It was quite funny actually.  I ended up requesting clothing racks as I'm sure those will hold weight of several heavy jackets and pants.

There are several restaurants available within the Dwarika hotel/ compound.  The Krishnarpan restaurant is a must for someone who's curious about Nepalese food.  From my understanding is that Krishnarpan is one of the best Nepalese restaurant in the city.  In addition, there is a Japanese restaurant called Mako's.  It felt like a neighborhood Japanese restaurant here in the SF Bay Area.  I would say the food is fine. Furthermore, there is a restaurant called Toran.  It basically has some Nepalese food plus other western cuisines.  Among these three restaurants, my favorite is Mako's as it reminded me of typical Japanese food I have at home.  I didn't get a chance to try the Fusion Bar or Kaiser Cafe.

I didn't use the pool as it was end of January in Kathmandu.  While I didn't test the water, I assume it's not heated.  I also didn't try the spa.  Although if the spa here is similar to the one at Dwarika's Resort, I would  recommend it.  There is a conglomerate of shops towards the back of the compound.  I think it's probably rented out by the hotel to individual shop owners.  I would say lots of interesting stuff and most look like they have been curated and not junky stuff you find around tourist attraction sites.    

One thing I was not happy about was I had asked the concierge for a taxi to take me to a monastery outside of Kathmandu. The name of the monastery is quite long and I had assumed there is only one monastery with such name.  Unbeknown to me, there is two monastery with same name.  The concierge failed to tell me and luck would have it I was sent to east side of the town instead of west side.  Because I had an appointment with a monk, I ended up being two plus hours late.  Later on I found out the concierge knew there were more than one monastery with the same name.  I'm not sure why he didn't notify me before I hop into the taxi the hotel found for me.  Later the owner (Dwarika Das Shrestha's daughter) came to apologize to me and paid for my dinner at Mako's.  I obviously would much rather be at the monastery at the appointed time than a free meal but I appreciate the owner took responsibility for her staff's failing.

Even with the concierge mixed up, I would still recommend this hotel.  Don't expect this place to be luxurious (as in Aman or Four Seasons' way) because it is not.  However, the service standard is as high as any Amans I've been to and I would gladly return to this hotel next time I come back to Kathmandu.