Tucked away between Tibet and India and with a comparatively small population of 28 million, Nepal is famous around the world for the towering peaks of its Himalayan mountain range.
But more than just an adventurer’s paradise, the tiny land-locked nation is also now home to South Asia’s first integrated casino resort – a US$52 million spectacle located just eight kilometers from the Indian border in Nepal’s southern plains.
Tiger Palace Resort Bhairahawa opened its doors to the public last September, launched casino operations in late December and held its official grand opening in April, providing an intriguing and surprisingly impressive new option for those looking to explore the country while enjoying some rest and relaxation along the way. Needless to say, it is unlike anything else you’ll find anywhere in Nepal.
The only Nepalese casino not located in the capital city of Kathmandu, Tiger Palace is by far the largest of them all with 44 gaming tables and 216 electronic gaming machines, of which 61 are electronic roulette terminals.
Being the most popular table game among Indian players, roulette not surprisingly takes center stage with four shiny new tables dominating the middle of the Tiger Palace gaming floor. Baccarat, as the clear second favorite of Indian guests, is also well represented so you won’t have any trouble finding an opportunity to squeeze the cards.
Not unlike the second level gaming floor at Grand Lisboa, albeit on a smaller scale, a long bar runs along the rear wall of the casino with a stage directly behind upon which Bollywood dancers perform regular routines every night of the week.
Step outside the casino itself and Tiger Palace Resort is all about luxury. From the grand marble lobby where hotel guests are welcomed with a cocktail to the growing selection of food and beverage offerings, the décor is both refined and high quality while the hotel’s 100 five starrated hotel rooms are all easily accessible from any of the resort’s facilities. Phase 2, to be initiated later this year, will add another 100 to 300 hotel rooms right next door once final plans are confirmed.
Also waiting just meters from the hotel itself is Cabana Avenue bar and grill, which sits alongside the huge, bright blue resort-style pool that is undoubtedly one of Tiger Palace’s key features. With temperatures in this region averaging around 25 degrees Celsius year-round and soaring into the 30s through summer, it’s a far cry from the images of snow-capped mountains that are so often associated with Nepal.
First and foremost, Tiger Palace has been built to appeal to guests from India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, which sits just across the closest border and offers little that can compare in terms of entertainment and quality. But there is also plenty of appeal here for visitors from further abroad, most notably China. For tourists wanting to take in the splendor of the Himalayas, Bhairahawa is just a short 25-minute flight from Kathmandu where most mountain and trekking adventures start. You can even expect some spectacular views of the mountain range while flying between the two airports!
Tiger Palace also happens to be located close to a number of Nepal’s other major attractions, including the famed Buddhist pilgrimage site of Lumbini which is said to be the “birthplace of Buddha.” Chitwan National Park, covering 930 square kilometers and less than three hours away by car, is one of the few remaining habitats in the world where Bengal tigers still roam wild alongside other endangered species such as the one-horned rhinoceros and gharial crocodile.
It is with this in mind that nearby Gautam Buddha Airport is set to become Nepal’s second international airport once upgrade work is complete in 2019, with a new six lane highway due to open later this year running directly past Tiger Palace Resort itself.
Tiger Palace might not be what you would expect to find in Nepal’s deep south, but as hotel General Manager Brett Model points out, quality is an experience sought by people all around the world.
“There is nothing like this in the entire country,” Model says.
“The Indian customer is similar to the Chinese customer in Macau. They want the best, they want to be treated well and at Tiger Palace we’re able to offer that in terms of top notch service and facilities.”
And perhaps a little adventure thrown in for good measure.