Travel Guide

Shangri La Hotel opens in Lhasa

02-07-2014

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Hotel opens in Lhasa, with a name that echoes paradise.

The opening of the Shangri-La Hotel in Lhasa makes it the first luxury property of the hotel group in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau.

Its opening also marks a sort of homecoming for the hotel group because the legendary Shangri-La, the mythical paradise on earth set in the Himalayas, was the inspiration for the Hong Kong-based luxury hotel brand.Designed to provide guests with an authentic window onto Tibetan culture and hospitality, the 289-room hotel is steeped in local elements.

Before being escorted to their rooms, guests are greeted with the offering of a hada, a traditional ceremonial white silk scarf, and the throwing of barley on the chema, a wooden container used by Tibetans to pray for a bumper harvest.They are served traditional yak butter tea in Tibetan pots and presented with a good luck token, a nine-eye bracelet made of yak fur.

When they leave they are sent off to the sound of the hotel staff singing traditional Tibetan songs and playing Tibetan string instruments.

"It is extremely important wherever we operate hotels that we embrace the local community and culture," says Ester Marcaida, general manager of Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa. "Our hotels reflect this authentically."

Travelers to Lhasa will find a home base for taking in the scenery or exploring Lhasa's culturally significant Buddhist sites, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites Potala Palace and Norbulingka Palace, both in walking distance of the hotel, which is among the 12 most-anticipated openings of the year as rated by CNN.

Near numerous scenic spots, historical attractions and monasteries, the hotel is located next to traditional Tibetan housing that provides guests with authentic surroundings and an insight into local life.

Guests will catch one of many enchanting views of the Potala Palace upon arrival at the hotel. But first, after passing through the hotel's Tibetan gate, they will discover a traditional linka garden planted with indigenous plants and flowers that is flanked by two hand-crafted pavilions illuminated by yak butter lamps in the evening.

Inside the hotel, the lobby's design pays homage to elements found in traditional Tibetan culture.The visual anchor of the lobby lounge is a 6.5-metre bell-like chandelier made from 61,000 pieces of crystal and draped in flowing red fabric.

The chandelier, reminiscent of a prayer wheel, is complemented by the lounge's warm tones and earthy colors drawn from Tibetan paintings.

Next to the lounge is reception, where a floating cloud installation creates a dreamlike space. Signifying unity and strength, the ancient Tibetan symbols of swirling clouds are made into a contemporary work of art using hammered oxidized bronze.

Warmly lit corridors and colorful carpets embedded with the cloud motif lead the way to the hotel's 262 guestrooms and 17 suites.

Each room category highlights colors and delicate details found in Tibetan culture, dress and art.The hotel's Horizon Club Rooms and Horizon Club Lounge will open in July.

Shambala, the hotel's signature restaurant and bar, will also open in July. It will specialize in Tibetan and Yunnan cuisine.Its interior is dimly lit by lights reminiscent of oil lanterns carried by monks, and the walls are draped in handcrafted Tibetan carpets.Other Tibetan influences include decorative metal fixtures across low ceiling beams and the repetitive use of the auspicious endless knot.

Shangri-La's Chinese restaurant Shang Palace serves Sichuan and authentic Cantonese cuisine.The corridor leading to the restaurant is lined with six illuminated Tibetan drums measuring 150 centimeters in diameter gracefully hung against the wall.

Just beyond the entrance, the main dining area is decorated with floor-to-ceiling screens.Visitors to Lhasa, Tibet's administrative center set on a plateau soaring 3,650 meters above sea level and encircled by mountains, glaciers and desert-like landscapes, are advised to acclimatize to the altitude.

The new hotel offers facilities to help facilitate acclimatization, including an oxygen lounge. Inside the glass-walled lounge the oxygen level is the same as at sea level.The new hotel's design is a conscious blend of Tibetan heritage and modern Shangri-La luxury, its management says.