Needing two flights to reach a destination for a short holiday is never a comfortable experience, yet Sofitel Luang Prabang was worth much more than that effort.
Luxuriating in the stillness and holiness of Laos’ ancient capital, the Accor-managed hotel quietly nestles in a part of the city a leisurely 15-minute cycle ride from its centre.
Set in a former French Governor’s residence in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hotel is aware of its burden to preserve and continue the creative development of not only the surroundings but also Laotian culture and the local ambience.
An Over Indulgence
A collection of 25 suites, a botanical garden, an amethyst-tiled pool and the Governor’s Grill — the only steakhouse in Luang Prabang — are all packed into a compact area. Depending on the style and size of the room booked, along with a private garden, each room will have either a pool or a gazebo with an over-sized bathtub.
At the intersection between the reception and the residence, Sofitel has also placed two giant century-old stilt houses — one side holds Le Spa and a fitness room; the other side consists of a prayer house upstairs and the kitchen underneath.
While Le Spa offers treatments and therapies combining ancient Lao and modern healing techniques, the kitchen was where I learnt how to make traditional Lao dishes including name dip (fresh spring rolls), mhok het (steamed mushrooms in banana leaf), phanaeng kai (chicken curry) and oua si khai (stuffed lemongrass with chicken).
Cultural and Spiritual Values
A getaway is more perfect when it can address not just physical and mental requirements, but also cultural and spiritual values. And I found those at Sofitel.
I learnt that, as a guest, you should light incense and pray at Lao traditional spirit houses that are usually placed at a corner of the front of the house when you first come.
“You can place your hands together or bow if you want. This will give you peace and health,” a staff member told me.
I also participated in a Lao traditional ritual, which predates even Buddhism, known as baci. According to Pablo Barruti — the general manager of the Sofitel Luang Prabang — village elders gather at the ceremony to pray and tie white strings around the attendees’ wrists to preserve good luck and health. Baci is used to celebrate important events and occasions, like weddings, births, beginning a new year and welcoming guests.
Giving alms to monks, another Lao tradition, is also one of the beauties of this UNESCO-protected city, and one which I was lucky enough to take part in. The hotel will prepare cooked rice that you give away to the monks who walk around the town every morning. All you have to do is get up at 5am.
A trip to Sofitel Luang Prabang is a treat for both body and soul.
For more info, please visit facebook.com/SofitelLuangPrabang