Review: Le Meridien Thimphu

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

Le Meridien has two properties in Bhutan, which is pretty cool. Bhutan is a country that has a lot of independent hotels, and then also a lot of super high end luxury hotels (like Amans), which run $1,000+ per night. So it’s great to have a mid-range option where you can redeem points. There aren’t really any other mid-range chain hotels in the country where you can redeem points, which is why I was excited to review these hotels.

With five nights in Bhutan, we split our time between the two Le Meridien properties — we spent the first three nights at Le Meridien Thimphu, and then the next two nights at Le Meridien Paro. The order and number of nights we stayed was entirely dictated by availability. The Paro property was sold out for the first three nights, which is why we did the first three nights in Thimphu.

At the time I booked, both of these hotels were Category 5 SPG properties, and both had Cash & Points available, so the cost was $110 plus 6,000 Starpoints per night. Both hotels had cash rates of $400+ including tax and service charge, so I considered that to be a good deal.

Both of these hotels were recently lowered to Category 4, so they can now be booked for 5,000 Starpoints plus $75 per night, which is an incredible deal. Being able to redeem points in Bhutan — especially at such a reasonable cost — is awesome, given how expensive the country is otherwise.

In the next two installments I’ll talk about the two hotels, and then I’ll separately discuss what we did in Thimphu, Paro, and the rest of the country.

When we arrived in Paro our guide and driver picked us up, and after making a few stops we drove to Thimphu, which is about an hour from Paro.

Most of the buildings in Bhutan have a similar design, which I love, and even the Le Meridien had that design, which I thought was cool.

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Le Meridien Thimphu exterior

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Le Meridien Thimphu driveway

The Le Meridien has a beautiful lobby, with plenty of seating, including couches, communal tables, etc.

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Le Meridien Thimphu lobby

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Le Meridien Thimphu lobby

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Le Meridien Thimphu lobby

Reception was located inside the lobby and straight ahead.

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Le Meridien Thimphu reception

The check-in process was efficient. I was informed that as an SPG Platinum member I had been upgraded to a junior suite. Furthermore, this hotel offers free breakfast and happy hour for Platinum members, without even having to choose breakfast as the Platinum welcome amenity.

We were escorted up to the fourth (top) floor of the hotel, where our room was located. Once out of the elevators we turned right, and our room was the first one on the right.

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Le Meridien Thimphu hallway

Even though we were “just” in a junior suite, it was actually a named suite. Still, for Platinum upgrade purposes, this is considered a “standard” suite.

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Le Meridien Thimphu room exterior

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Le Meridien Thimphu room floorplan

When I hear “junior suite” I generally think of a single room with a small living area. However, the junior suites at this hotel are in fact full suites, as they feature a separate living room and bedroom.

The room had a large living room with a dining table for four, a high-top table with some stools, a couch facing a TV, and a desk.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite living room

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite living room

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite dining table

The couch was comfy, as was the lime green chair next to it.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite living room

The desk in the living room was comfortable, and had a proper office chair. There were conveniently placed outlets, and the TV was right next to the desk.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite desk & TV

The minibar area was back near the entrance, by the high-top table.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite sitting area

There was a coffee machine, kettle, lots of bottled water, and a full minibar.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite coffee machine & minibar

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite minibar

Right by the entrance was a small half bathroom.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite guest bathroom

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite guest bathroom

There was a door separating the living room from the bedroom. The bedroom had a comfortable king size bed, as well as a chair with ottoman.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite bedroom

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite bedroom sitting area

There was a TV on a console on the opposite side of the room, along with a bench.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite bedroom

The master bathroom was off the bedroom, and featured double sinks, a tub, a walk-in shower, and a toilet.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite master bathroom

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite bathtub

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite toilet

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite double sinks

It was a well designed bathroom, with Le Meridien brand standard toiletries.

Both rooms faced the city of Thimphu, as well as the mountains in the background.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite view

There was a fruit plate as a welcome amenity.

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Le Meridien Thimphu fruit plate

They also loved using towel art at this hotel, which was all over the room, and then they added more at turndown service every night. I almost felt like I was on a cruise ship (for better or worse).

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Le Meridien Thimphu towel art

Wifi in the room was fast, and we were grateful to have a suite, given the odd hours I work.

My one minor complaint was the room’s design. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the room was beautiful and brand standard for Le Meridien, but I wish they had incorporated more local elements into the room. Bhutan is such a stunning country with a unique design, while this could have been a room in any city in the world.

Just down the hall from our room was a club lounge. However, the hotel doesn’t seem to actually use it. They built it, but don’t do anything with it. I got the sense that they don’t get a lot of SPG members here, but rather get a lot of guests who book tour packages. Furthermore, Bhutan isn’t exactly a business market. I wonder if they’ll ever do anything with this space.

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Le Meridien Thimphu club lounge

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Le Meridien Thimphu club lounge

As Platinum members we received complimentary breakfast in Latest Recipe every morning. The restaurant serves breakfast daily until 10:30AM.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe

The breakfast selection was excellent — I’ll let the pictures mostly speak for themselves.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe breakfast buffet

In addition to the buffet you could order eggs, pancakes, etc. One morning I had an omelet, which was tasty.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe omelet

Another morning I had the buckwheat pancakes, which were also good.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe pancakes

The restaurant also had great freshly squeezed juices.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latest Recipe freshly squeezed juice

Service in the restaurant was phenomenal. Everyone working there was friendly, and they remembered our drink order after the first morning, which I always appreciate. In fairness, breakfast was never anywhere close to full (we were among the only ones there).

This hotel is generous in that they have a complimentary happy hour for Platinum members, nightly from 6PM until 8PM. It’s available in Latitude 27, the hotel’s bar and coffeeshop.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latitude 27

As a Platinum member you could order off the following menu:

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This includes being able to order cocktails, and also food.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latitude 27 happy hour

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Le Meridien Thimphu Latitude 27 happy hour

In terms of food, the highlight of the hotel was Sese Shamu, the hotel’s Southeast Asian restaurant. It was so good that we had lunch there two days.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Sese Shamu restaurant

Part of their menu read as follows:

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I had their traditional Bhutanese tasting menu twice, which was so good. Seriously, this was the best food I had the whole trip.

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Le Meridien Thimphu Sese Shamu lunch

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Le Meridien Thimphu Sese Shamu lunch

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Le Meridien Thimphu Sese Shamu lunch

In terms of other features, the hotel also has a pool, spa, and gym. The indoor pool is pretty nice and just off the lobby, though we didn’t use it.

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Le Meridien Thimphu pool

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Le Meridien Thimphu pool

The gym was one level above the pool, and featured a nice variety of equipment.

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Le Meridien Thimphu gym

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Le Meridien Thimphu gym

Initially we intended to spend very little time in the hotel, though the night we arrived there was a huge snowstorm. This was the first snow that Bhutan had received all year, and the first day of snow is apparently a holiday in the country. It snowed like crazy for nearly two days.

This greatly limited what we could do, since many places were closed, road conditions were bad, I didn’t bring shoes for hiking in snow, etc. So we ended up spending a bit more time in the hotel that we were expecting to.

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Le Meridien Thimphu junior suite view

Thimphu is the biggest city in Bhutan, and it’s a great jumping off point for visiting temples, hiking, etc. It’s also a pretty nifty town, much cooler than Paro, in my opinion.

Le Meridien Thimphu bottom line

The Le Meridien Thimphu is a fantastic option for any points enthusiast visiting Bhutan. I’ll be writing more about our actual time in Bhutan in a future installment, but Paro and Thimphu are two of the best bases from which to explore.

The Le Meridien was a beautiful hotel with top notch staff — everyone we interacted with was friendly (come and think of it, that was true for the country as a whole). The Platinum recognition at this hotel is great as well, between the suite upgrade, breakfast, and free happy hour.

However, I do wish the hotel did a better job of integrating local design. This feels like a generic Le Meridien property. While I don’t love that part of it, this is still an awesome option to have. As I said above, Bhutan has either super high end 5-star properties, or local properties that are mostly 3-stars or so (at least that’s my understanding). There’s not that much in the middle, so having a great points option is useful.

  1. I’m glad you mentioned the lack of local design elements, because it was something I noticed almost immediately. It’s weird that its not a super generic design in a typical Hilton/Marriott/Sheraton kind of way, its almost aggressively modern (although, I guess that is Le Meridien’s brand to the extent that they have one), which seems very out of place for Bhutan. Also, based on the website, it looks like the LM Paro did make an effort to incorporate more Bhutanese design elements into the interior of the hotel, which is strange since I have to imagine both hotels are owned by the same operator.

  2. isn’t that genericness generally the price of staying in a western chain though?

    I still think the more interesting part of Bhutan is Phobjikha and points east. But Thimphu and Paro are a good basic intro to the country.

  3. @ raksiam — Yes, you certainly give up some level of local “flair” when staying at a chain, but I think there are varying degrees to which that’s done, as you’ll see in the next review of the Le Meridien Thimphu, which incorporates more local elements.

    Or for example take a look at the Le Meridien Tampa, which still has the basic brand standard items, but still manages to have a unique design:

  4. So you make a big deal about going to a ridiculously expensive country that discourages tourism to maintain their traditional way of life – then stay in a Western chain hotel? No matter how much “local flair” they may add in Paro (that fact alone that you’ve erroneously said your next review is of Thimphu when you seem to mean Paro should display just how much of a local experience these hotels have given you!), it’s still a chain hotel.

    I understand this site has an audience of people obsessed with redeeming points all the time, but you say you’re excited to stay in these properties as opposed to “doing it for work”, so I think it’s a fair comment!

  5. @ callum — I’m not sure I follow your logic. So would you have preferred I review an Aman or Belmond (which costs $1,000+ per night), or that I stayed at a “local” hotel, which wasn’t as nice?

    Part of what I was “excited” about with reviewing these properties is actually getting to see what the points options in a country like this are. After all, that’s what I write about, and I find that stuff interesting.

  6. @Lucky, “among the only ones” doesn’t make sense grammatically. “Among very few” or “only ones”. Which is it?

  7. I think lucky is going to these exotic places more for his blog than that he really is curious to see other cultures.

    To make a very uncharitable analogy, its like the people that are super generous and super friendly when the cameras are rolling and shut in when no one is watching aka republicans.

  8. What a bunch of sour grapes. If you don’t like his style of writing or the focus of his blog why read it? Go do something creative or interesting of your own. I’m sure it will be fascinating stuff.

  9. I don’t overly care which specific hotels you review as it’s unlikely I’ll ever stay in any of them (we have very different tastes!).

    If you’re going to make a big deal about going to this special country to experience their special culture however then yes, I would expect you to stay in a local hotel/B&B that “isn’t as nice” (that seems a tiny bit insulting to the local people though!). Perhaps you’ve never done it, but if you do then you’d realise you see a completely different aspect of local life than you would in a fancy Western hotel. Not that there’s anything wrong if you just wanted to fly in, stay in your nice hotel and take a couple of short excursions – it’s just that’s hardly the cultural trip I imagined you’d be going on from your previews of this.

    If spending points is interesting to you then fair enough, it just seems like a waste of time to do so on such a short trip to a country like Bhutan. Perhaps that’s why the hotel was so empty?

  10. Is there a glass partition separating on the wall between the shower and the tub? I can’t tell from the picture. I can see the glass door in the front, but can’t tell if there’s one on the side?

  11. @callum oh shut up seriously, I am not a blind support of lucky, I call him out all the time… BUT this not one of those times… I ONLY exclusively stay at chain hotels. For many many obvious reasons, if there is a problem it gets fixed, if not corporate would undoubtedly fix it. I do not get those protections at a local hotel. I can expect a more consistent experience at a chain hotel. And yes most chains are generic but some places they have lots of local flair i.e hotels in Thailand or Hotels in Indonesia… Cambodia… Myanmar etc Do I need to go on…. at these sort of “exotic” locations hotels often incorporate local elements…

  12. In all fairness, Lucky states he is a TRAVEL consultant, not a CULTURAL consultant, I’ve started reading his blog recently and never anywhere does he express any interest in other cultures, rather, he writes about how you can maximize your travel, using points and miles. And he does it very well, I’m learning useful ideas. And so what if he or other readers only stay at international chain hotels? They are western, safe, and comfortable, I would expect the vast majority of western travelers to stay there.
    My personal preference is to stay at locally owned hotels and chains precisely because I like immersing myself in the local culture, I crave to get out of my comfort zone, I am a cross-cultural buff, and I like adventure. If something doesn’t go wrong or I don’t get injured on my vacation then it’s not an adventure lol. And since I’ve started reading his blog, I will be able to maximize my flight experience and travel more often.
    As for experiences staying at local hotels, it varies. I’ve had really crappy service, and I’ve had world class service. In my experience, locally owned hotels seemed much more anxious to resolve issues especially when there were global name brand hotels in the area, probably because they are competing against hotels with deep pockets. But I’ve had the same range of experience with global chain hotels; some hotels the staff bent over backwards to help me, in others they blew my issue off totally.

  13. People, this is the comment section, not kiss lucky’s ass section.

    We can disagree with his choices, but it doesn’t mean we don’t think lucky can or should do whatever he feels like doing, without regard to what we think.

    Now go and wash your faces.

  14. Great review and you are choosing to write about the hotels I’m interested in. I’ve been to India twice and while I live the culture, I can only handle the “real” India a few hours/day. That doesn’t make me less of a person.

    I prefer western style hotels. The local hotels in that part of the world tend to have rock hard beds.

    I even find Le Meridien beds too hard in general. What did Ford think if the bed (I think his criteria for mattress comfort match mine a little better than yours do)

  15. Lucky I am curious. Having been to Bhutan my understanding is the fee you paid beyond the room rate includes all meals. I know our stay at the uma hotels included all meals anywhere we ate in the country. Not just at the hotel.

    So as a platinum member did you get a better breakfast or was that just marketing (and for Indian plats that aren’t required to buy the all inclusive visa)?

    Or perhaps things have changed since I was there.

  16. Jay – You’re pathetic, I’m not even going to bother reading beyond the first line of your post.

    Emirates4ever – I completely agree, hence why I specifically stated several times that there’s nothing wrong with travelling like that. I also agree he generally shows little interest in other cultures which is why I’ve made no comment on this matter on the dozens of other trip reports I’ve read. For this trip however he’s mentioned many, many times across many articles how amazing the culture looks and that he can’t wait to experience it. Tied in with the fact that the culture is one of the few reasons to visit this country, I thought it was a fair comment to make. Possibly not it seems, but I’m still not convinced.

    And yet again, it was an observation – not an angry demand for change. Why that upsets people who don’t even know Ben, or in fact anyone – Ben included (it didn’t seem to but if so, it genuinely wasn’t intended!), I have no idea.

  17. @ Mark — It’s my understanding that you get free meals if you stay at one of the hotels that’s included as part of the package. However, if you book your own hotels, I believe you’re stuck paying for meals on your own. At least that was my impression. If that’s not the case, I really got screwed.

  18. At end of the day, people travel for various reasons. Some just travel to check things off they want to see before they die. While others want to take the Rick Steves approach to travel and become less of tourists and more of temporary residents to said places they are visiting. Both are valid and each have their pros anf cons. What matters is what will be comfortable for you.

  19. Le Meridien Paro & Le Meridien Thimphu remain in same category as today, looks like they were never downgraded!

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