29 May, 2012

Colonial class at Satri House, Luang Prubang in Laos

29 May, 2012

Heading to the outskirts of Luang Prubang and to the unassuming entrance of Satri House, I start to wonder if I’m in the right place; there is no hint from the unpretentious street front of the secluded Relais & Chateau boutique hotel within. A reflective pond with water lilies next to an open-air pavilion with inviting terracotta colours, leather sofas and a fireplace spanning one wall greets me. I am warmly welcomed by the manager with a refreshing drink and a cold towel… just a few steps have taken me from the more modern, albeit sleepy buzz of Luang Prubang back to the bygone days when Laos was still a French Colony.

Satri House was built at the turn of the last century as the residence of Prince Soupha-nouvong and refurbished and turned it into a hotel still retaining its regal grandeur in 2002. The addition of six replica colonial buildings in 2008 brings the hotel to its current 15 Deluxe rooms, 7 Junior Suites and 3 Satri House suites. The whole resort is very detail-oriented and immediately sets you in relaxation mode. There are subtle touches like sunhats on all the loungers and silk robes in the wardrobes and I quickly find myself shuffling around the resort primarily clad in my divine gown!

With a traditional four-poster bed, gloriously raised ceilings and a giant closet, it is the sort of room that instantly puts you at ease. Small touches continue to reinforce the colonial charm such as fabulous glass containers used for bathroom toiletries. I explore my private patio overlooking the pond and revel in the fact that I have a small piece of this sanctuary to myself. What’s more, my well-timed low-season visit ensures peace and quiet.

I decide to take a quick dip into one of the hotel’s pools before dressing for dinner. The abundance of flowers and the beautiful setting of the hotel does have its downsides as I have to swim through some foliage with mosquitos buzzing around my ears but the plunge pool has the intended effect of refreshing my soul and washing away my travel fatigue. The genuine friendly staff are always on hand to help out and I implicitly trust them with my dinner reservation in town that evening.

I awake to a magnificent breakfast on the balcony, with scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit salad, and a basket of delicious croissants, pains au chocolat and baguettes, all comfortingly warm from the oven. I don’t think I have ever been more thankful for Laos’ French heritage as the pastries are simply divine. Full to the extent that I can barely walk, I decide to burn off the indulgent meal whilst taking in some of the sights, the many temples that are Luang Prubang’s trademark. I hop onto one of the hotel’s complimentary bicycles and head back into town.

I had worried that since my previous visit to Luang Prubang five years ago, it would have become overrun with tourists, but it has perfectly retained its small town charm. If anything, as more of the beautiful old colonial buildings have been tastefully restored and a growing number of restaurants, hotels and spas have opened up, the town seems to have shed its backpacker associations and taken on a more sophisticated air. It now feels more on par with other UNESCO World Heritage cities like Hoi An but with its own unique appeal – the inimitable architecture and the morning offerings to the monks to name but a few. I only hope that the arrival of the Kunming-Vientiane railroad in 2014 won’t change that.

I spend a few hours biking around and reacquainting myself with the sights and then enjoy lunch in the shade of the tamarind trees along the Mekong River before returning to the hotel. The spa that occupies the entire bottom floor of the restaurant awaits my saddle-sore body. It has a small menu of nail treatments and oil and foot massages, not forgetting the signature Lao massage. The single and double treatment rooms are subtly separated by thin curtains and all hotel guests are encouraged to make use of the complimentary herbal steam bath and plunge pools.

Luang Prubang is a must-visit destination. Its French colonial past, incredibly restored architecture, mesmerising location on the Mekong and wealth of waterfalls, temples, caves and local villages for day trips make it an unparalleled pit stop for any worldly traveller. However, it is still new to the tourism scene and whilst prices are competitive with more established Asian tourists hotspots, some hotels are still ironing out issues with infrastructure – Satri House, whilst the perfect place to get away from it all, is affected by occasional power cuts and limited Wi-Fi coverage.

The pure relaxation, tranquil environment and authentic feel are still a welcome respite from the more bustling main town and this wearied traveller was fully appreciative of its more secluded location and luxury charm that harked by to the city’s heyday. My advice? Take advantage of our special offer and book to visit before the inevitable occurs and Luang Prubang develops from well-preserved secret to overrun through town.

SASSY DEAL: All Sassy girls receive a complimentary room upgrade where available PLUS if you make your booking through Mr & Mrs Smith, you also get a complimentary Silversmith membership. Simply call the Mr & Mrs Smith team to book after the 2 June, then send Satri House an email about the booking to redeem the upgrade!

Satri House, Luang Prubang, +856 71 253 491


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