The tranquil setting of Angsana Maison Souvannaphoum lets David Bowden to chill out, slow down, smell the roses and get in touch with Lao culture
THERE’S something to be said about staying in princely surroundings, especially when the property was once the former residence of a member of a royal family.
Guests at Angsana Maison Souvannaphoum, located in the former royal capital of Luang Prabang, enjoy gracious hospitality in the understated elegance of a classic but princely Lao villa set within tropical gardens.
What was once the residence of the member of the former Lao royal family has distinctive colonial-styled heritage brick architecture with touches of French flair.
Luang Prabang is one big tranquil setting that is so sleepy that it feels like the whole town has come down with permanent insomnia.
But that’s the reason for travelling to this remote northern part of the country: to chill out, slow down, smell the roses and get in touch with Lao culture.
There are just a handful of rooms that there’s never a sense of being overrun with other guests.
White is the dominant colour scheme and the overall effect is that the interiors look bigger.
It’s hard to say whether the woodwork here has always been white. Maybe it was originally bare timber and this was changed to create a more spacious ambiance. Whatever it is, it works.
Splashes of rich red ochre and colourful local textiles ensure guests know they are staying in Lao PDR (Laos). Tangerine is the other highlighted colour with little detail here and there, and in line with Angsana’s corporate colours.
The bed is certainly wide enough and four pillows are of varying degrees of hardness. A draped piece of white clothes provides a canopy effect like a four-posted bed but without the posts. Dark wooden teak floors make the mood a little warmer and more homely.
While the room and building are dominated by heritage elements, every modern convenience is provided — fast WiFi, safe, cable television and shower robes. A nice touch is a bag containing insect spray and a universal plug.
I especially like the spacious verandah overlooking the gardens and with two chairs, table and ceiling fan.
This is a boutique property so dining is not on a grand scale but the food is excellent and served in the delightful Elephant Blanc Restaurant that is almost completely open-sided with burgundy-coloured, scalloped drapes shielding diners from the outside light.
There is a wooden verandah for those who want to dine in the open and this overlooks the property’s small pool. Gently cascading water from a small pool waterfall fills the air to create an even more tranquil setting,
Breakfast includes Lao touches like fresh fruit, slices of lime, locally-made tamarind, pineapple and apple jams, freshly-baked baguettes and croissants, noodle soup and eggs cooked in various styles upon request. Much of the produce is sourced locally from organic farms, including the hotel’s own herb garden known as Living Land.
Lao and Thai food dominate (ask one of the Lao chef to explain the difference) although there are some Western dishes such as pasta, steak and salads.
Chef Boonyadha is from Phuket and she showcases her skills on Thai set meal evenings. Lao set meal options are available on other nights.
Angsana Maison Souvannaphoum is a peaceful hotel with delightful gardens and a pool for total relaxation in a town that is made for those who love life in the slow lane.
Angsana Maison Souvannaphoum
Rue Chao Fa Ngum
Tel: +856 71 254-609
GETTING THERE Fly to Luang Prabang on SilkAir (www.silkair.com). The airline flies from Singapore to Luang Prabang three times a week with connection flights to and from Kuala Lumpur.
STAY The original rooms are located in the old block while a new block has been built to resemble the original building and it is hard to distinguish between the too. The new block is of just two floors so it is intimate and all rooms overlook the lush gardens.
EAT Elephant Blanc Restaurant is one of the town’s most respected Lao outlets offering classy surroundings and professional service. Lao, Thai and Western comfort dishes are offered with the only other option being room service. There is a small poolside bar too.
DO Luang Prabang appeals to those seeking culture, heritage, boutique shopping, natural attractions in the surrounding district (boat trips, caves, waterfalls, elephant camps, mountain biking and trekking).
GO The Unesco protected heritage site is easy to walk around although many visitors choose to hire bikes.
HIGHS Intimate boutique accommodation, superb food, cable television, fast WiFi and lush gardens.
LOWS It would be a fussy traveller who would complain about this place.
Pictures by DAVID BOWDEN