There are some destinations which have a subtle way of getting under your skin... in a good way! Laos is what I would consider the last bastion of what Southeast Asia truly is without the brashness of capitalism, the neon of big city living and the over-consumption its neighbours are falling prey to.
To understand this inimitable country, one must look at its recent history. From 1893 to 1945, Laos was a French protectorate under the Indochina banner that included Vietnam and Cambodia. It was briefly occupied by the Japanese during WWII and returned to French governance until gaining full independence in 1950 as a constitutional monarchy. Civil war ensued, with royalists going against the communist group whose name would soon spread fear across the country – the Pathet Lao.
As the Vietnam War escalated, Laos was subjected to what is considered the heaviest air bombardment in history as the Americans attempted to destroy supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. To put things into perspective, it’s estimated that 288 million cluster munitions and 75 million unexploded bombs were left across the country.
There are direct flights to Luang Prabang from Kuala Lumpur now, so there’s no need to take the propeller plane service from Vientiane. A UNESCO World Heritage site by virtue of ‘the exceptional fusion of Lao traditional architecture and 19th and 20th century European colonial style buildings’, Luang Prabang exudes old world charm and there’s no better place to enjoy its sights than at the Azerai.
The hotel is centrally located and a mere stroll to most places of interest including Asia’s most chilled out night market, Mount Phousi, The Royal Palace and the various Buddhist temples the town is famed for. The space itself is a delight and unpretentious in its design. The initial buildings were quarters for French officers and were opened in 1914 on Bastille Day. The Laotian government took over and in the early 60s, the building became the Phousi Hotel, which closed in 2014 when work began to transform it into the Azerai.
Rooms are designed for comfort and you can be sure of getting an excellent night’s sleep here. The pool is a welcome respite after a day of temple hopping and filling up on larb (must-try Laotian salad) and sticky rice, and really the nicest place to be on a hot day. A pleasant surprise was the hotel restaurant, Azerai Bistro, which serves fantastic local and fusion dishes including a good selection of vegetarian options. While most travellers prefer trying local eateries, we strongly recommend eating in a couple of times plus prices are reasonable considering the quality, service and ambience.
The Azerai is a new brand launched by Aman Resorts founder Adrian Zecha, and is the perfect escape for a long weekend – the kind of hotel you know you’ll eventually return to.
Azerai Luang Prabang
Ban Hua Xieng, Sethathirath
Road DIstrict, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 262 333