The new Rosewood Hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos’ ancient mystical city on the Mekong River, is merely a ten – minute drive to the town’s historic center but it seems worlds away. Set in a tropical forest, its ravishing landscape includes a river and natural waterfall running through the property. Accommodations surrounded by tropical jungle flora and fauna in the Bill Bensley – designed resort include ultra stylish tented villas perched on a hilltop, glamorous riverside suites and rooms and stunning waterfall pool villas. All are luxurious with breathtaking views and verandas. The sound of rushing water, birdsong and the beauty of the exotic jungle immerse guests in nature’s glory from the moment they arrive.
The 23 one of a kind accommodations exude Lao-colonial- chic. Rich teak, authentic antiques, original paintings and artifacts, decorative suitcases, silk lanterns and jewel tones create a refined Indochine ambiance. Each of the 6 expansive luxe safari style tented villas with wrap around balconies on a secluded hillside is styled with distinctive ethnic patterns of surrounding hill tribes. These heavenly havens splendidly tucked away high up in the jungle canopy with sweeping mountain and river vistas are sublime but be forewarned: You have to climb myriad steps to get there.
The pools villas are charming and easier to access, though you still have to ascend many steps. The stately riverside villas with no steps were my favorite. And the scenic resort pool with sun loungers and cushy cabanas was just a stones throw away. Guests can also play a game of pétanque or croquet in the lush gardens.
Fresh, seasonal Laotian Cuisine is served in The Great House where the fetching golden honey hued décor elevates sensory delights. For even more pampering head to Sense, with tented spa villas. Here therapists use indigenous herbs in treatments that induce Laotian bliss.
A short ride via the hotel’s complimentary car takes you to Luang Prabang with gilded Buddhist temples, French colonial architecture, fashionable shops and trendy cafes to explore. The Traditional Arts & Ethnology Museum dedicated to the traditional arts and lifestyles of Laos’ diverse ethnic groups allows visitors to better understand and appreciate their rich cultural heritage. Marveling at the exhibits, the wondrous weaving for which the region is renowned, I learned that it’s more important for females to have a beautiful skirt than to be beautiful. The skirt is all telling about the woman’s weaving ability and her future success. Different baskets were woven with different patterns and colors for each village. And oh those fantastical headdresses worn by Lao tribal women!
Onto Ock Pop Tok to see the country’s famed traditional silk weaving center set on the banks of the Mekong River. The sweet young man who gave me a tour told me that Ock Pop Tok means East meets West, ‘bringing people together through Lao textiles’. He explained the intricate process of silk weaving as I watched the ladies work their magic creating the exquisite woven art. Happily, the beautiful textiles, shawls and handicrafts made here can be purchased at the onsite shop. Don’t miss a stop at their riverside café for a glorious Mekong sunset.
One afternoon the resort arranged a visit to an elephant sanctuary. Laos used to be known as the Land of a Million Elephants but due to poaching and other difficulties, there are currently barely 1500. The one year old MandaLao rescues elephants and provides them with exceptional care so they can be returned to the wild. During the visit you learn about these gentle giants from their caretaker mahouts. Riding is not permitted since the saddles damage the elephants’ spines. Instead you get to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, which was fantastic.
I walked with the elephants, trekking through the verdant countryside alongside them, in front and behind them, watched them play with each other, bathe and splash in the water, eat bananas – even got to feed them bananas and touch their adorable trunks. It was great fun and a powerful learning experience. Additionally, your entrance fee goes toward saving elephants.
Returning to my own sanctuary at Rosewood, I stopped at The Elephant Bridge Bar overlooking the river. I gazed out into the dreamy mist and lost track of the world.