When you think of Kathmandu, you don’t think “great hotels.” This is with good reason. As Kathmandu is hardly a hub of international finance, the major luxury chains haven’t exactly been falling all over themselves to setup outposts. While there may not be a “great” hotel option in Kathmandu, let’s call Dwarika’s “good enough.”
Arrival in KTM was utterly chaotic. I landed on the last day of a festival for Lord Shiva. On this day, it’s legal to smoke pot, so all of Kathmandu was drunk and baked out of their minds. In additional to hordes of faded people clogging the streets, lots of the major thoroughfares were closed. This made for a long an aggravating journey from KTM to the hotel.
Upon check-in, I was shown to a horrible ground floor room that I flatly refused. I paid the small difference to upgrade to a suite, and while the hotel leaves a lot to be desired, no one can take issue with the size of their suites.
Dwarika’s comes out of nowhere. You are on the street, you see a brick facade and a sign and then once you go through the main doors it’s like you’ve traveled to another dimension. The grounds of the hotel are large and it is as if a miniature Nepalese forbidden city is hidden behind the brick front.
The lobby is to the left, various bars and restaurants are strewn about the grounds and there is even an outdoor pool (it was too cold to swim) and Das Gym which has a shrine to Mr. Dwarika the hotel’s founder who apparently was quite a fitness nut.
While I had a positive experience at the hotel and in Kathmandu in general, it was all over the place. The internet was barely functional. The staff were inattentive and often downright bad at their jobs. For example, I made a reservation at the front desk for the Nepalese restaurant IN the hotel. Then when I got to the restaurant they told me there was no record of my booking. They tried to refuse to seat me (even though the restaurant was less than half full), because apparently they HAVE to make a personalized menu with your name on it before you can have dinner. They wouldn’t consider NOT making the menu, so they had to make sure they could print up a new menu before confirming that I could indeed have dinner. Another night at the bar, the forms to pay for a beer had to be filled out in like 14 copies by 12 different people. It took them so long to process that I had another drink and ordered a third while waiting for them to get the paperwork together in order to tell me how much I owed them.
The gym had adequate if outdated equipment, but the spa is a farce. The massage I got was so bad, that I told the poor woman to stop about 3/4 of the way through and got up and left.
The Nepalese restaurant on site is one of the best in the city and was an interesting experience, but room service gave me food poisoning.
My favorite comment i’ve ever read regarding Kathmandu is that for westerners, the water there is “borderline lethal,” keep this in mind when selecting your foods in Nepal.
Aside from the gripes listed above, the room itself was very large. It felt a little worn and I wouldn’t class this as a “luxury” property, but it was a decent enough place to hang my hat.
Kathmandu turned out to be an absolutely amazing place, and I don’t know what the morons who said it was awful were talking about. For some reason there are no streetlights almost anywhere in Kathmandu outside of the tourist area of Thamel and driving recklessly over potholed roads between the hotel and the bars of Thamel in pitch darkness with nothing but road side fires and headlights lighting the way was interesting and much more amusing post-bars.
I strongly urge everyone to go to Nepal, and if you’re going to be in Kathmandu, you could do worse than Dwarika’s.
Pros: It’s the best you’re going to do in Kathmandu, pool if it’s warm enough, gym, several onsite restaurants, big suites.
Cons: Awful spa, room service gave me food poisoning, closer to the airport than central Kathmandu.
Verdict: Until a better hotel opens up this is it. There is a Hyatt located on the outskirts of town, but it’s far from everything and it’s a goddamn Hyatt, you get no local feel. You’re right in the mix at Dwarika’s a bit far from Thamel and some of the other centers, but near the main Temple to Shiva and in the life of the city.