The St. Regis Lhasa Resort opened in 2010, Top end Hotel in Tibet
Opened in 2010, the St Regis Lhasa Resort is a luxurious garden style hotel in Lhasa, adjacent to Tibet University and famous scenic such as Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street and the Potala Palace. It is 3km away from the city center, 15km away from the Lhasa Railway Station and 75km away from the Lhasa Airport.
Blends in Tibetan decoration style, the St Regis Lhasa Resort offers a total of 162 guest rooms of various types, including deluxe room, deluxe garden view room and villa deluxe room, etc. All rooms are provided with wireless broadband internet connection, LCD TV and safe box and other service amenities. As for dining service, the restaurants in the hotel provide guests with Tibetan dishes, Chinese cuisines and snacks and drinks. Bar and tea house are also available. For recreation and relaxation, there are Yoga or pilates gymnasium, swimming pool and spa center in the hotel. Other facilities the hotel provides include business center, meeting room and store, etc. Apart from these, the St Regis Lhasa Resort also provides service such as laundry service, luggage service valet parking, secretarial service, fax and photocopy service and so on.
“Great - but maybe not St. Regis "perfect"” Reviewed January 9, 2012
As a frequent Starwood customer primarily in North America, I remember first hearing about the Four Points Lhasa a couple years ago. It seemed like more of a punch line than an actual place – a Four Points, Starwood’s least interesting chain at the “roof of the world”? Now, as a frequent traveler to China, I found myself on the way to Tibet, lured to the St. Regis by it’s “golden pool” and clean service at the end of a longer trip in the region that included unheated homestays on a journey to Western Tibet to Everest and towards the Nepal border.
Before heading out on that trek from Lhasa, we stayed at a local hotel but decided on the last night to treat ourselves to drinks at the Decanter Wine Bar at the St. Regis (I loved a blog description I saw of the place, saying it boasted “Lhasa’s most extensive Wine List” but “any collection larger than 10 bottles might meet this standard.”). We walked in around 6 pm and were attentively greeted by an expat lobby staff member (many thanks to him for his attention throughout our stay), who guided us down to the bar and also took a look at our reservation for the following week. The bar is somewhat awkwardly located in the basement of the main building, away from the primary action (though as we later found out drinks can also be ordered upstairs in the sitting room of the main lobby) as the only guests. We ordered a glass of wine and a cocktail…..and waited. Close to 30 minutes later, our drinks arrived. The staff member working the bar clearly was trying his hardest, but seemed to take a while both with the request cocktail and finding the right wine to offer the by-the-glass pour. He did however provide snacks and water immediately to tide over the gap, but it was still a bit comical (Even in Lhasa, there are plenty of other bars/restaurants where Western cocktails are available quite a bit quicker). Also somewhat concerning for our later stay was my girlfriend’s difficulty in accessing a bathroom. She stepped out of the bar and asked another attendant in English where the “toilet” or “bathroom” is, receiving only blank stares until having asked for the “WC”. At this time, she was guided to the locked lavatories down the hall – whereby the staff member then opened up an occupied guest room and let her use that (service, I guess, but somewhat unexpected).
So with that pre-stay experience we were cautious but excited regardless – a last minute change of plans had us returning to Lhasa early for New Year’s instead of spending more time in Shigatse, Gyantse, or elsewhere. The hotel handled the change in plans without a problem, with the same expat attendant helping ensure a seamless check-in for us as well as giving us an upgrade to a top-floor Photala Palace view room in the main building. The room itself was beautiful – and ready to go with humidifiers and an ample selection of fresh fruit (as had been offered to us when we stopped by for the bar a few days earlier). It may not have had the technological pizzazz of other St. Regis’s I’ve stayed in including Beijing, San Francisco, or Atlanta, but you really can’t argue with a bed that looks out on the Potala Palace. The rainforest shower was absolutely heavenly, though probably big enough for 5 people if I had to guess. We also arrived just in time for a sort of Tibetan ritual they conduct every Saturday (?) night in the lobby/courtyard, which included complementary sparkling wine/Champaign and hours’douvers.
During our 2 night actual stay as well as a bit more time the following night after a flight cancellation out of Lhasa, we sampled many of the amenities beyond the room. Our first night, we headed upstairs to the Tibetan restaurant Si Zi Kang. Finding it empty except for one pair that seemed to be more lounging than actively ordering, we ended up having to go downstairs to the Social western restaurant to get service. The food for the most part was fine if unremarkable – really only the Indian bread stood out with the Tibetan dishes being nothing that much more remarkable than could be found for cheaper at other restaurants in town. We ordered a bottle of wine to celebrate (my girlfriend was a bit exhausted of well my choices following the aforementioned homestay night near Everest –however beautiful and memorable the experience was) and were served a different varietal of the same vineyard without acknowledgement (but being In Lhasa and exhausted were fine with it – just watch out). The staff also seemed a bit overwhelmed here as well – trying their absolute best, but nervous about pouring wine or say ensuring we had the right tableware.
We then spent a bit of time in the heavily promoted “golden pool”. Yes, that’s what it was – a sizeable probably 1.5 m lounging pool coated in gold. The building and the scene overall was beautiful – the high ceiling and large windows created a truly unique memory. The pool itself was fine (and quite empty throughout our stay), but it was a little concerning to find a bit of dirt build-up around all of the edges in a way I wouldn’t expect to find at a hotel of this sort of brand. On a different note, it would have been fantastic as well especially in winter if a hot tub were built in to the structure – pool was probably a normal indoor pool temperature, but in Tibet in winter when you have to go outside to go from the main building to get to the pool it could have been a bit warmer.
Later on in our time in Lhasa, we tried out Social as well as had additional evening drinks. Social itself was as unremarkable as you’d expect a Western hotel restaurant to be in such a location – food was at most ok and relatively pricey ala-carte for what you got (though it is hard to establish what the competition in town is prior to some of the other international-flagged properties opening). We avoided cocktails going forward, but wine services was fine and always pretty attentive. We did not eat at the Cantonese restaurant in one of the peripheral buildings, but at least in the off season a quick stop by there to look at the menu made it look like traffic was slow.
Beyond the service experiences, I do wonder as well about the actual building. Seeing banged up walls, dirty floors, uneven painting, poor caulking, etc and even non-immaculate pools is one thing in say an elderly Sheraton or Westin property, but seeing such things in a one year old St. Regis makes you wonder even if they don’t detract directly from the stay. I spent many weeks in the St. Regis Atlanta for work during 2012, and was never stuck by a hair out of place or a dent on the wall. The Lhasa location though looked in places more like typical Chinese construction – in a hurry to move on to the next project and without a GC/other supervisor to really enforce the details. Combined with the less than stellar pool cleaning, like many other places in China, you have to wonder what the situation for this place will be once the sheen wears off.
With this arguable lack of attention to detail in the physical plant when combined with the eager yet imperfect service, I have to wonder if Starwood (or the local authorities) overreached a bit in calling this a St. Regis instead of say a Le Meriden or Luxury Collection. The “local” staff seems heavily though not entirely Han Chinese, so you have to wonder if it would have been possible to attract more experienced hotel professionals from the larger Chinese cities (I’ll avoid the discussion as to whether or not this is desirable in Tibet). I won’t say we didn’t enjoy our stay, and it probably is hard to argue that this is a wonderful hotel in a wonderful location (probably the best for now), and maybe standards need to be moderated somewhat at 3700+M in a still relatively isolated place, but the St. Regis name makes it harder than it would be otherwise for me to accept anything less than perfection.
Stayed January 2012, traveled as a couple
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