Rosewood Luang Prabang opened this week as an ultra-luxury escape within a hilltop forest in north-central Laos, where guests are able to immerse themselves in the rich cultural history, spiritual heritage and diverse tropical landscape of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The exclusive resort provides a unique vantage point to appreciate this rich destination through the lens of the first tented villa concept and the second Southeast Asia resort for Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.
The enclave features 23 guestrooms, villas, suites and tented accommodations surrounding the site’s natural waterfall, only a 10-minute drive from Luang Prabang, the 14th-century capital of ancient Laos. Located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is known for its well-preserved French colonial architecture and Indochinese villas, monk communities and gilded temples, rich historical significance, French and Laotian cuisines, and serene pace of life.
Bill Bensley and BENSLEY design studio modelled the property on the concept of a Laotian hill station from the turn of the 20th century, in which a grand and gracious home of a French host would be opened to intrepid adventurers and curious travellers from diverse walks of life who managed to make their way to this magical corner of the world.
One-of-a-kind suites, villas and tented villas
The 23 accommodations are situated adjacent to a river or waterfall or float above the ground among the treetop foliage. They variously include their own private swimming pools, oversized balconies, outdoor wooden bathtubs and other features special to each, yet all provide the experience of immersion in a dense tropical forest. They range from Riverside Rooms, and Riverside Suites that are more than 90 square metres in size, to secluded Riverside Villas, Waterfall Pool Villas and Hilltop Tents.
Each accommodation’s design and décor is unique. The rooms, suites and villas subtly recreate the French-Indochine ambience, grace and hospitality of bygone Luang Prabang with artefacts, antiques and objets d’art reflecting the personalities and interests of travellers who might have stayed here over a century ago. Inspired by the notion of a gracious French host, the Bill Bensley team painstakingly sourced and collected items for thoughtful placement in specific rooms. Guests may 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.
The resort’s luxury tented villas, a first for Rosewood, are situated on a secluded hillside and were sensitively built to preserve the site’s unique flora and fauna, meld with the environment and bring guests closer to nature. Oversized balconies display mountain and river vistas. Each of the six 75-square-metre tents is dedicated to a specific Laotian hill tribe which still inhabits the surrounding mountains, with its ethnic pattern adorning individual tent canopies and its colours, motifs and textiles in the interior lending a closer understanding of indigenous folkways.
Dining in a Laotian forest
Dining at Rosewood Luang Prabang delves deep into the rich Laotian food culture and chefs place utmost importance on locally sourced and seasonal foods.
The Great House offers indoor seating and an open-air terrace with large daybeds and sofas overlooking lush gardens and waterfall. Here guests can experience Laotian farm-to-table dining, authentic local specialties and dishes influenced by the cuisine of historic royal courts. Fresh ingredients reign supreme: the culinary offerings are guided by the season’s harvest, whereby chefs visit farmers and fishermen within the vicinity each morning to determine the day’s menu, which also enables the restaurant to prepare dishes according to each guest’s personal preference.
The Elephant Bridge Bar overlooks a picturesque river and is perfect for a relaxing evening drink or whiling the afternoon away. It offers light snacks, simple and healthy fare and hand-crafted cocktails and beverages. The bar specialises in cocktail classics with a tropical twist, using local herbs and spices that echo Laos’ rich and diverse harvests to reflect a true sense of place.
Guests have the option of poolside dining, from sunbeds, cosy cabanas or tables that dot the terrace, choosing from an array of comfort food, haute Laotian classics, as well as fresh cocktails, wines and refreshments, all served amid the verdant forest surroundings.
Resort chefs welcome the opportunity to create bespoke dining experiences for guests within the gardens and at scenic spots throughout the property. They design special French and Laotian menus tied to the resort’s frequent celebrations of the festivals and cultural touchstones of each heritage.
Tented Spa Villas with wellbeing programs
Treatments at Rosewood’s signature Sense, A Rosewood Spa combine time-honoured Laotian healing remedies and Western techniques, performed in three individual tented villas overlooking the river. All therapies draw from nature to support life and healthy living and experts help guests select native herbs, plants and fruits from the resort’s organic garden for use in tailored, bespoke services.
“Lost Remedies” of Laotian healing practices have been resurrected and include a traditional Lao Herbal Poultice combining heat and freshly picked herbs which are said to have the healing effects of massage and the therapeutic benefits of acupuncture. Special “Hmong Experience” authentic therapies are performed by the native villager and healer Mr Xong, who has more than 25 years’ experience and utilises herbs and ingredients he forages from the surrounding forest.
In addition to a menu of mind and body therapies, all-day, holistic experiences and retreats are offered.
The resort’s swimming pool is situated in the centre of the resort, adjacent to a natural waterfall, in the forest-enveloped setting. Guests can take a refreshing swim and relax on sunbeds or in tented cabanas with oversized day beds while enjoying the tranquil setting and the relaxing sound of the cascading water nearby. Alternatively, guests can always try their hand at a leisurely game of pétanque or croquet in the lush gardens.
With myriad bespoke experiences available at the resort, guests may immerse themselves in the rich Lao culture in many forms. They can uncover the traditional crafts and way of life of ethnic hill-tribes and rural farming communities; explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang with a guided walk through the atmospheric mix of historic mansions, Laotian architecture and ancient temples; or enjoy a multitude of experiences of the Mekong river life that has sustained the civilisation for centuries.
Adventures include trekking through the forest to forage for medicinal and edible flora and fauna, before settling down in a village for a meal made with the ingredients; guided mountain bike explorations through a rich tapestry of remote landscapes; weaving traditional textiles or creating ceramics in traditional hill tribe villages acclaimed for these crafts; harvesting seasonal produce using traditional farming methods in breathtaking agricultural surroundings; and relaxing on a leisurely day cruise along the Mekong River in an elegant Laotian riverboat.
Guests are invited to embark on a journey of discovery with a specially curated Ancient Wonders of Laos introductory offer. The package includes riverside accommodations with daily breakfast for two at The Great House, a 60-minute Sense spa experience, as well as personalised excursions, including up-close encounters with elephants, a cruise along the meandering Mekong river and a tour of a traditional weaving village in the Laotian mountains. Additional benefits include luxury round-trip airport transfers and more.
Introductory Ancient Wonders of Laos rates start from US$780 per room per night for a minimum three-night stay in a Riverside Room for two persons, excluding tax and service charge. The offer is valid 22 March through 31 December 2018 and is subject to availability.