THE CHARM of French colonial elegance and the slow life are turning Luang Prabang into the hottest destination in Southeast Asia not just for tourists but also for luxury hotel chains, with the brand-new Rosewood the latest resort to open in the ancient royal capital of Laos.
Offering six-star hospitality and great cuisine, the Bt600-million project owned by Thailand-based Elysian Development, has been five years in the making, transforming the lush valley on the edge of Luang Prabang into an upmarket holiday retreat reminiscent of the late colonial era.
“My family operates two boutique hotels in Luang Prabang and I decided to build this new project to provide travellers with more of a luxury experience. The location is perfect for tented-style villas and we are fortunate to hold a 50-year lease on the land,” Rena Udomkunnatum, Elysian Development’s managing director, explains.
“In line with Unesco’s restrictions, our designs stay true to Luang Prabang’s traditions. The roofs are the basic shades used by local residents used, all the buildings are low-rise and the architecture is a blend of classic Laotian and French colonial style. This matches Rosewood’s philosophy of giving ITS properties an authentic ambience.”
Just a 10-minute drive from the heart of the old town into the countryside, the resort occupies 16 rai and boasts 23 one-of-a-kind guestrooms, villas and tents, designed by acclaimed architect Bill Bensley.
The options include Riverside Rooms, Suites and Villas, Waterfall Pool Villas and Hilltop Tents, ranging in floor area from 48 to 90 square metres. During the low season, the room rates start from US$670 (Bt22,100) and go up to $1,200.
Designed on the theme of a Laotian Hill Station, each unit has a private swimming pool, oversized balcony and outdoor wooden bathtub that allow guests full privacy, extra comfort and a chance to indulge in the beauty of nature.
“It’s the one-of-a-kind place, embraced by a mountain range and waterfall. Today, we all live in fast-paced city and this is the good place to resource ourselves by enjoying the slow life. It’s a small property from a group with experience in luxury accommodation,” says Sonia Cheng, Rosewood Hotel Group’s chief executive.
“The design celebrates local culture and history, blending arts, cuisine and a holistic approach that links with our DNA philosophy – ‘A Sense of Place’,” she continues.
Inspired by the notion of a gracious French host – perhaps a diplomat or retired expatriate – the Bill Bensley team sourced and collected furnishings and artefacts for thoughtful placement in specific rooms to reflect the personalities and interests of travellers who might have stayed here over a century ago.
Guests might discover newspaper clippings and illustrations from the early 1900s, vintage Kodak cameras, the cutting-edge technology of the time, even croquet mallets from 1900 in homage to French obsession with the sport when a female team from that country competed in that year’s Olympic games.
A bathroom in a Riverside Villa
“It’s a beautiful valley. I created a sprawling walkway along a waterway and the rooms are designed one by one to give different details of the different stories,” Bensley tells The Nation.
“We have taken great care in looking for original artefacts, paintings and illustrations for each individual room, combing through Parisian flea markets, antique stores and vintage-ware collections. It was important to capture how the travellers of the time were hosted and made to feel at home.”
Hemmed in by a lush tropical forest, the opulent lobby is graced with a fireplace and elephant-inspired furnishings, reminding guests that this land was once a path taken by elephants as they made their way to the creek.
Overlooking to the landscaped garden, the Great House restaurant serves a selection of farm-to-table-dining and Lao specialities influenced by the cuisine of historic royal courts.
The Gruest House restaurant
The adjacent Elephant Bridge Bar presents a stunning view of the river, perfect for a relaxing evening drink or whiling the afternoon away. Guests can enjoy light snacks, simple and healthy fare, and refreshing hand-crafted cocktails and beverages that use local herbs and spices for a tropical twist.
For complete relaxation, the Rosewood Spa soothes body and soul with the traditional holistic wellbeing programmes that combine Laotian healing remedies and Western techniques.
All therapies draw from nature to support life and healthy living, while experts help guests select native herbs, plants and fruits from the organic garden in the resort to create the tailored treatments.
Find out more at www.RosewoodHotel.com.