For several years I’ve pondered how one achieves an elusive state of dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing. Especially as an adult when the list of things to do grows incessantly each passing day. It seems unreal and rather unsettling to be sitting idly doing absolutely nothing. Little did I know the key to feeling connected was to simply disconnect. One such partially disconnected yet magical trip to the Kingdom of Bhutan changed it all for me. It wasn’t only about how picturesque the place was but also how deeply divine and peaceful it felt. As I made the descent into the lush majestic kingdom, a sense of serenity welcomed me in Paro, the sacred valley. After numerous deep breaths of the invigorating mountain air and a complete absence of hustle, I was gracefully driven to the Six Senses property.
Palace In The Sky
A blissful and winding drive of over 2000 metres above sea level took me to the heart of the Himalayan kingdom. True to its theme, the Six Senses lodge in Thimphu draws inspiration from Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage, the glorious clouds, and symbolises harmony above all. The scenic drive ended with a rejuvenating mix of lemongrass and cinnamon tea that I sipped, gazing at the Sangay Menlha or Medicinal Buddha fresco on the ceiling. The Thimphu lodge is nestled in the mountains, away from the main town yet close enough to its many attractions, my favourite being the Traditional Art School of Bhutan’s thirteen arts and the Jungshi handmade paper factory. The palace doors opened to sweet murmurs of Kuzu Zang-Po La (Hello, how are you) and a stunning postcard shot of a celestial real-life painting. A clear infinity pond wrapped around the front of the palace, reflecting the mighty blue skies against the grand mountain range.
I proceeded to unwind in my villa, surrounded by scenic views of the valley, thrilled to meet the snug bed I would spend the next few days napping in. Documents of beautiful stories and stunning visuals of local life by Delhi-based photographer Serena Chopra kept me company before a holistic massage appointment to further relax, if that was even possible. Let me tell you, it was. Rejuvenated post 60 minutes of meticulous care on a heated bed with calming sound therapy, my appetite was revived. A traditional meal featuring chicken pa with red rice and charred salad made from organic produce awaited my arrival, served with the dukh deity to ward off evil. The sustainable practices are not limited to the kitchen; Six Senses also promotes holistic minimal waste living by curating resources with minimal to no waste. Much thoughtful in their approach to guests, General Manager, Andrew Whiffen explained, “Right from producing our own water with the use of an in-house Water Treatment Plant to growing our own food, each design detail and the way of living at all Six Senses lodges are inextricably linked to sustainability.”
Multiple pit stops later through the Dochula Pass, amidst the gratifying breeze, we made our way to the enchanting Punakha valley, aka the Phallus Town. The liveliest of valleys with suitable conditions to grow produce all year. Couple that with vibrant art dating back to the memoirs of Drukpa Kenley and the kingdom’s bountiful ethereal offerings, and you’ve got yourself an adventure of a lifetime. Much like the town, designed to reflect a traditional farmhouse soaring above rice fields, Six Senses, Punakha features an ancient cantilever bridge technique to create a seemingly floating living room. A literal flying farmhouse above the infinity pool and rice fields below. Brimming with childlike curiosity, a walk around the lodge acquainted me with the generous offerings at the property. A state-of-the-art luxury boutique housing intricate hand-woven silk, remarkably detailed paintings, and a peculiar collection of handicrafts and souvenirs were just the tip of the iceberg. At the lodge, celebration is key, whether that’s through spirited evenings, live painting sessions, complimentary wellness activities or more.
But you cannot live life to the fullest on an empty stomach. One of the key highlights during my stay was the long lunch at Ari, the rustic-themed restaurant with convention-al bamboo sewn baskets suspended from the ceiling and French windows overlooking the stone terrace. Seasonal dishes served with a twist of local Bhutanese spices and condiments had me savouring each morsel. “A large part of the Six Senses philosophy is the food. It equips you to slow down and register with yourself and the food you are eating,” explained Isa Raku, the country executive chef who loves oscillating between the numerous lodges spread across the kingdom. He added, “Our guests know where every ingredient on their plate comes from. Right from the patty and buns of a burger, to the sauces you relish. It’s the simplicity and authenticity of organic produce that appeals to me the most”. At dusk, the skies danced in saffron and rose-coloured hues while I enjoyed a warm cup of eucalyptus tea by a pinecone fireplace in the comfort of my stone villa. Ready for another day of hikes and treks.
At sunset, we arrived back in Paro for one last dip in the pool of tranquillity inspired by the history of the 15th-century Chubjekha Dzong, an ancient dzong or Bhutanese fortress-monastery which currently lies in beautiful stone ruins. Six Senses, Paro is designed as an ode to this fortress. Strolling through fragrant apple orchards leading to the grand stone entrance, I was greeted by a breathtaking panoramic vista of the Paro Valley. Concealed beneath the grassy courtyard lies the sunken spa with an entrance staircase that is only discovered by foot. A haven for city girls like me who could use some time gazing at fluttering butterflies in the blue pine forests whilst relaxing in the heated indoor pool.
That evening held an enchantment all its own. After enjoying a couple of delightful welcome drinks and savouring the home-grown kale crisps, I received a gracious invitation to a regal dinner at the fortress ruins from the lovely Roy Todemann, lodge manager and country sustainability manager. Dress code: A Kira – the national dress for women consisting of an ankle-length skirt and a wrap-around waistcoat. The men wear a Gho. At dinner, I had the privilege of witnessing a cultural program featuring dances from different parts of Bhutan and traditional choirs. I strolled towards the villa, intent on absorbing every detail of the surroundings. Just as I reached the staircase leading to the entrance, I chanced upon the magnificent view of the night sky dotted with twinkling stars adorned with a glittering full moon.
What I take back from my trip to the mystical Six Senses in the Kingdom of Bhutan is to live a little. It’s the little things that make the most impact. A gently warmed bottle of water thoughtfully placed. In the living area, homemade snacks accompanied by a heartfelt note. And on my side of the bed, a snug and inviting hot water bag, promising cosy warmth as I settle in for the night. A key phrase communicated to all guests by the team is “Take your time, no rush”, which is a marvellous thing to hear in today’s fast-paced world.