When I first heard that Hotel de la Paix was built in 1910 as a French colonial fort, I was curious to see the architecture. Then I learned the long and colorful history of this wonderful structure. The very same building used to be the governor’s residence and at some point in time the building was turned into the town’s former prison – I couldn’t believe it. And then I found out that before this building was renovated, it was left abandoned for 10 years! But then, it made my heart glad to read that Hotel de la Paix was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perhaps you are as curious as I was; I was just dying to see this hotel, this place that was drenched in history.
The day finally arrived; we found ourselves in Luang Prabang, Laos – the heritage town where this one-of-a kind boutique hotel is located. As we approached the hotel, we saw high white walls, a large entrance and a little watchtower on the corner of the building.
I was not sure what to expect, and as we got closer to the door, we saw candles aligned along the way that led up to the big courtyard, and suddenly, we seemed to have entered a sanctuary – wow! This is not exactly the jail that I had pictured in my mind, if all jails were this beautiful, I wouldn’t mind being locked up in one of them for a while… If you’re curious to see the hotel grounds, I invite you to see the virtual tour below.
As soon as we arrived at the hotel, a couple of staff members saw us enter. They were about 5 meters away, and without any hesitation they left whatever they were doing and rushed to help us with our luggage. I couldn’t have been more impressed! Don’t they say we only have a tenth of a second to form an impression of a person? This certainly held true for me. It was wonderful to begin with a positive impression and these two guys did just that – gained my trust and appreciation – in that split second.
We checked in and were welcomed with refreshing cold drinks and cold towels. Then, Mr. Somchan, one of the receptionists, escorted us to our suite – The Governor’s Suite!
On entering the suite we were greeted by the music of a peaceful Lao traditional song. Our suite was elegant, yet contemporary. Mr. Somchan very graciously gave us a quick tour around to familiarize us with everything, including where the power outlets were, right up to the turn down service schedule! This is perhaps the first time ever that we were given a tour of this sort; it was short and sweet and useful. It is thoughtful little gestures like these that make a hotel stand out from the rest.
The Governor’s Suite
After Mr. Somrach made sure we were comfortable, he left us to settle into what would be our home for the next ten days.
The room had a queen size bed, draped prettily with a mosquito net. Everything from the mattress and the pillows to the bed linen, were extremely comfortable. We had to drag ourselves out of bed each morning! But honestly, the bed linen was excellent in quality, on par with bed linen from any hotel around the world. And why not? I learned that all the linen is sourced from France!
The decor was all dark wood and elegant, a few pieces accentuating a contemporary and minimalistic look. Just the way I like it!
What gave away the fact that this once used to be a fort, were the high ceilings and tiny windows overlooking the courtyard. But there also were larger windows that overlooked the private garden that was attached to the suite.
There were long blackout curtains draped all along the bedroom walls, in a continuous flow of fabric. Not your typical design, but I have to admit that the curtains and the floor lamps added style and brought coziness to the room.
To say that the bathroom was immense would be an understatement. There were a couple of windows separating the garden and bathroom, but the amount of light that came through them highlighted the spaciousness of the bathroom.
The rain pressure shower was excellent. The heavy duty faucets around the double sinks, bathtub and shower added a cool contrast to the dark floors. Although we didn’t use the bathtub inside our bathroom, we did use an identical bathtub at the spa and it was perfect for the two of us.
The shampoo, conditioner and shower gel were packed in little ceramic bottles. One of the housekeepers informed us that these are made with 95% natural ingredients. All the toiletries were presented in a sweet wooden box.
We were provided with plenty of towels throughout our stay; however a towel drying rack would have been great to have so that it would have been easier to stick to the towel re-use program. But yes, the bathroom had pretty much everything you could think of.
Sadly, we didn’t get to use the garden space since the weather was unkindly hot. But I think it is a great place for reading or having a private meal. I heard that the weather cools off from December to March, so if you ever visit around that time, you will have the privilege of doing just that!
The Working Space
These days most people take their laptops along everywhere they go. So, having a desk or working space has become crucial for most of us. We were so glad to find a small desk, a comfortable chair and also an armchair near our bed.
I can’t think of anything we lacked at the Governor’s Suite. In fact, I took note of a few things that other 5 star hotels do not provide.
Little things – Big Impressions
- 2 sets of bath robes for each of us – An after shower robe, and another one to lounge around in.
- 42” Flat screen TV – with a vast choice of English channels
- Mini iPod dock – containing traditional Lao music
- Wi-Fi – each room has it own network
- Ground coffee and a French press
- Free mini bar – restocked daily with sodas, water, juice, milk and chocolate
The Surroundings and Facilities
As part of the conservation and protection efforts by UNESCO, I learned that the hotel walls, roof tiles, trees, slit windows and watchtowers, among many other details cannot be modified.
So, no matter when you visit the Hotel de la Paix, now, or years ahead, you are sure to be transported back in time.
Despite the fact that Hotel de la Paix sits on 3 hectares of land, there are just 23 luxury suites. Each suite contains a private garden and a few of them even have a private pool. I visited each suite and found them all spacious and private.
This is another area that clearly reminds you that the hotel used to be a fort. The pool area is surrounded by ramparts. I guess when the renovation took place, they stuck to the original design and just added the gardens and the pool to the center of the courtyard.
We were lucky enough to have the main pool right in front of our door. I may not have mentioned it before, but Hotel de la Paix has a wonderfully quiet atmosphere, and even though we had to share the pool with other guests, we always felt like we had the space to ourselves.
I would recommend that you bring your goggles, because this pool is big enough to swim many laps.
The Restaurant Library
This was without doubt one of the most unique restaurants I’ve ever been to. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor sitting areas.
The indoor sitting area is small, with low lighting, surrounded by hundreds of books – just like any library, but with a cool addition of a wine cellar and some catchy tunes wafting from the iPod dock. It all made for a very warm, inviting, homely atmosphere, so perfect for dining or having a glass of wine while reading one of their many books.
If you like being out in the open, there’s the outdoor terrace, under the shade of the frangipani trees and the delightful accompaniment of birds in song. An excellent choice, I assure you.
The quality of food was superb! The complimentary breakfast was a la carte and had a good variety of eastern and western choices. Every meal we ordered was accompanied by a basket of fresh croissants and some delicious pastries.
I opted for their homemade yogurt, muesli and fresh pineapple juice every morning, and I was absolutely delighted with my choice. Call me boring if you like, but I really loved having those as part of my breakfast.
When it comes to food, Jonah is the risk taker; he tried different offerings off the menu and he liked every single thing he tried.
Usually for dinner we opted for eating around town most days, but one of the nights we were too lazy to go back to town, so we decided to dine in. We had the Mekong river fish, and I have to say that it was super delicious, better than any meal we had in Laos.
As for the service, I noticed that the staff was more attentive in the morning than in the evenings. Perhaps that was because they had just hired new employees. I don’t mean to say that the staff was not respectful, on the contrary… Notwithstanding that tiny detail, I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for an intimate setting and delicious food.
In addition to the amazing treatments they provide, this is a one of a kind spa, the surroundings are none like you have seen anywhere else. Click here to read my review of the Spa Indochine.
The Cooking School
If you want to learn how to cook delicious Lao food, you could join any of their classes. The classes are held in a large, spacious, well equipped area, stocked up with every possible ingredient. Although I appreciate a good meal, I haven’t developed any interest in learning to cook. I can probably help you clean your mess if you want me to, but please do not ask me to cook that is one of my least favorite things ever!
Before we arrived at the Hotel de la Paix, I had checked their Facebook fan page and I was not sure how to interpret their slogan: “Arrive as guest and leave as a friend”. But, after ten delightful days in this sanctuary, I can honestly say that the hotel lives up to that slogan.
All through our stay, everyone we encountered was amazing in some way or the other. Some of them were more outgoing than the others, but all of them were very polite.
I would like to give special mention to Pookie, the spa manager. She encouraged us to participate in the alms-giving ceremony – a sacred Lao tradition. Pookie put us in touch with the right person who helped organize the tour. Click here to see pictures of the alms-giving ceremony.
The Neighborhood and Transportation
The hotel is located in a peaceful residential area, far enough from the crowds of the city center, but easily accessibly by bicycle, tuk tuk or by walking. We got around using all three methods, but we enjoyed walking the most. Why? Because, we got to interact with the locals and have a first hand experience of how they interacted with each other too. We stopped at some of the little shops a few times. We also got to see a traditional Lao wedding! We once stopped to buy corn from a little boy on the street – he didn’t know any English, but somehow we were able to do business together
It took us about 15-20 minutes to walk from the hotel to the center, but it only takes you about 5 minutes by tuk tuk, or a little longer by bicycle. We really love this location as it is considerably close to the city, and once you enter this sanctuary, it is like being transported to a place far away from everything.
Would I recommend this hotel to anyone?
Certainly, especially if you are looking for a quiet atmosphere. There is a wonderful calm about this hotel. But if you were looking for a party place, this might disappoint you. We did see others during our stay there, but it never felt too crowded. This is definitely a gem in Luang Prabang.
For more information about the hotel and types of suites, please visit their official website.
Hotel de la Paix Information
Rates at Hotel de la Paix start from USD 235/night.
P.D: The hotel also offers complimentary pick up from-to the airport.
Disclaimer: We were hosted at Hotel de la Paix, but all opinions herein are my own and have not been influenced in any way by arrangements we made with Hotel de la Paix.
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