As my car ascends the hillock called Phou Vao, or “Kite Hill”, I arrive at the most charming hotel in Luang Prabang, or perhaps even Laos. Checking in at this sanctuary of peace and comfortable luxury feels akin to arriving at home.
Stepping out, I notice at once that service standards here are considerably high. I have barely taken a step before bellmen are whisking my luggage away and I’m escorted to the hand sanitizing station, automated temperature check, and then ushered to the open-air bar while being checked in. Sitting on a comfortable rattan sofa upholstered in soft local cotton, my attention is evenly torn between the fully-stocked bar, worthy of Ernest Hemingway, and the inviting infinity pool with views of the golden stupa atop Phousi Mountain in the center of Luang Prabang. Choices, choices.
The hotel has 34 beautiful rooms full of Lao textiles, beautiful rosewood floors, modern amenities, and a peaceful veranda complete with a day bedto while away the hours gazing over the UNESCO-protected city. Acting on good advice, I booked the Mountain Pool View Junior Suite which offered me the incredible juxtaposition of both pool and stupa. I ultimately ventured into the cool waters of the peacock-colored infinity pool, as the attendant dashed to bring me a towel and a cool drink. A hotel this scenic, well-planned, and luxurious, without being pretentious, is incredibly unique.
Striking blooms of flowers and trees lining the walkways nearly obscure other buildings, so that I nearly forgot anyone else was staying here. The gardens near the bar are also a gathering spot near an evening campfire, perfect for cool winter nights, and to swap stories with other fortunate travelers who have found their way to this hidden gem.
In another area of the garden, several waiters were setting up for the hotel’s famed 500 Candle Dinner for a pair of newlyweds traveling through Laos on their honeymoon. Enjoying a gourmet meal under the stars with the glow of that many candles really creates a romantic one-of-a-kind experience.
At the recommendation of the hotel staff, I downloaded the Belmond app onto my phone. It is a treasure trove of information and functionality. From the app, I can schedule a relaxing spa treatment, chat to the reception desk, book tour services, or even order room service. This app is definitely the vanguard of hotel services in Laos.
Luang Prabang is one of the world’s best places to relax and do nothing. But when the urge to action compels you, the hotel has an array of perfect experiences to try. You might enjoy exploring the secrets of Lao cuisine and learn to cook it under the guidance of an expert chef. Or, if you travel at my pace, a relaxing sunset cruise allows you to appreciate the quiet pleasures of the Mekong River. And as the sky changes from brilliant blue to the flaming red of dusk, I wonder if I can just stay here forever?
Belmond proves it is the timeless grand dame of Luang Prabang
For bookings and more information, visit belmond.com
Lao Airlines has regular flights to Luang Prabang from Vientiane
Text BY Jason Rolan
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Belmond La Residence Phou Vao