When the Shangri-la Ulaanbaatar opened its doors in 2015, it was the first of its kind in Mongolia. It not only marked the very first international luxury hotel in the country but it was also the first integrated community concept with offices, a shopping mall and condominium units right by the hotel’s doorstep.
The 290-room luxury hotel is today a symbol of Mongolia’s growing affluence, brought about by the mining boom and the steady trickling in of foreign tourists. Finally, visitors can indulge themselves amidst well-appointed surroundings in Ulaanbaatar after roughing it for a few days in a ger in the Mongolian wilderness.
The city center of Ulaanbaatar is not particularly large but the hotel is situated right smack in the middle of it. Landmarks such as the Chinggis Square (formerly the Sukhbaatar Square) and the Chojin Lama Museum are just steps away from the property.
I arrived at the Shangri-la Ulaanbaatar and was greeted by that familiar sandalwood scent called “Essence of Shangri-la” which graces Shangri-la properties around the world. It served as a poignant reminder of the extent of the brand – that I could find myself in such familiar surroundings even in a frontier destination such as Mongolia.
The interiors likewise had all the trappings of the luxury hotel brand. You have your iconic lobby lounge replete with high ceilings and grand chandeliers. The decor evoked soaring mountains and endless skies – not too dissimilar from the novel “Lost Horizon” from which the term Shangri-la originated from.
I stayed in one of the Deluxe Rooms – a room which is one of the biggest entry-level options in Ulaanbaatar. At 42 square meters, the room came with a noticeable beige hue accentuated by similarly colored throw pillows and a patterned bed stopper.
As this is Ulaanbaatar, views were excellent. My room window looked out to the National Amusement Park. At the distance were the snow-covered mountains of the Bogd Khan Uul, an inviting sight that belied the fact that it was -15 degrees celsius in the Mongolian capital at the time of my stay.
There was plenty of seating available in my room, from the chair accompanying the work desk to the sofa that looked out to the magnificent view. I also spotted a small ottoman curiously placed in one corner – perhaps because space renders it impracticable to be placed in front of the bed.
As is the standard in Shangri-la, cleaning is done twice a day. First during the morning and the second in the evening for turndown service. I happened to be in the room when housekeeping wanted to do the latter and they politely asked me if they could clean my room. Anyway, it dawned on me how the staff here had a greater tendency to smile when greeting or speaking to guests than in any of my other people-to-people encounters in Mongolia – a wonderful gesture of course but it must have been a difficult behavior to instill as based from my observation, it doesn’t seem to be a natural part of Mongolian culture. But don’t get me wrong – people in Mongolia are very friendly, just that it’s not out rightly expressed through smiles usually.
The bathroom was equally spacious. It had a separate bath and shower and I could see that there was originally a provision to install glass windows by the tub. Why this never materialized, I am not sure but it could be due to cultural reasons. Toiletries were from the in-house brand.
The wellness facilities of the Shangri-la Ulaanbaatar are shared with the condominimum/office complex next door and to access it, you need to go through a walk way. The set up is quite reminiscent of the Shangri-la at the Fort Manila so instead of getting your usual hotel gym, you get this gigantic workout space that spans 3 floors.
An indoor swimming pool is located upstairs. It is especially atmospheric in the late afternoon when the floor-to-ceiling windows spanning two sides offer a majestic view of the snowcapped mountains in the distance.
The hotel has a couple of F&B outlets and the all-day dining restaurant downstairs, Cafe Park seems to be very popular with locals. They have probably one of the most extensive lunch and dinner buffets in town. At around MNT 48,000 (less than US$20) per person, it is also priced quite reasonably. Upstairs, you have Naadam, a bar cum grill, and Hutong, a restaurant specializing in North Chinese cuisine.
Breakfast is served at Cafe Park. As I was in Mongolia in winter and occupancy was lower, the breakfast buffet was on skeletal mode. I understand this is commonplace in Mongolia so I had no qualms about it whatsoever. Even then, the spread was actually quite decent in terms of variety. You do get your standard sections such as salads, pastries, fruits and cereals as well as hot items, just that it’s not as extensive as what you would expect from Shangri-la during the normal season.
There is also an eggs station where you can order omelette, fried eggs, poached eggs or some good old boiled eggs – depending on your choice of course. I opted to have an off-menu item – eggs benedict – which the chef gladly prepared.
As the first and only true luxury hotel in Mongolia, the Shangri-la Ulaanbaatar was a refreshing place to come home to after every walk out in the bitterly cold streets of the Mongolian capital. Its location right smack in the CBD and near the major tourist attractions makes it ideal for both business and pleasure. You immediately feel the Shangri-la difference the moment you enter this property – from the well-appointed public spaces, functional rooms and service standards – that easily sets it apart.
19 Olympic Street
Sukhbaatar District 1
Phone: +976 7702 9999
You can read more of my hotel reviews here.