The white yacht that had so majestically delivered me from northern Thailand into Laos pulled into Luang Prabang on day two and was immediately assaulted by a pack of urchins who crawled through the windows and battled over our luggage. My instincts were not fast enough; before I knew it a disheveled boy barely larger than my bag was clambering up the steep stairs with my duffel in tow. Though I tried to keep him in my sights, the uneven concrete steps demanded my attention and he soon scampered out of view, leaving me to wonder if I would ever see my luggage again. Under a blistering afternoon sun I scaled the stairway, wishing that my sadness over leaving the boat could be erased as easily as I swept away the sweat stinging my eyes. The Luang Say Cruise had ended too soon; nothing would have pleased me more than to stay on that lovely boat, sailing down the Mekong River forever.
Fortunately, my gloom was short lived. Like balm for a bee sting, representatives of the Luang Say Residence met me at the top of the staircase with a bottle of icy water and a chilled, lemongrass-scented towel. I hopped into the waiting van, where my luggage had magically been deposited, and slapped the towel on the back of my neck. Our ten minute ride to the newest luxury resort in Luang Prabang provided a tantalizing glimpse of traditional Lao wooden houses, French colonial buildings, and exquisite ancient temples that promised this ancient spiritual center would be fascinating. By the time we pulled into the sweeping circular entryway of the resort, any remaining disappointment over leaving the cruise had vanished.
Following a refreshing glass of lemongrass tea and a brief check-in procedure, I was escorted through gardens planted with exotic grasses and palms to one of the Pioneer Suites, a detached two-story building that housed four units, two on the ground level and two on the second floor. Though pleasant looking, the simple exterior of the Pioneer Suites belied their luxury; I stepped across the threshold and beheld a four-poster king size bed draped in soft mosquito netting; sitting area with sofa and coffee table; private balcony; writing desk; large flat screen TV; mini bar; wardrobe with in-room safe, bathrobe and slippers; and huge marbled bathroom with his and hers sinks, closet toilet, spacious shower with rain head, custom toiletries, and hair dryer.
For the next three days I reveled in the luxury of Luang Say Residence. At night I sunk into my cloud-soft mattress, pulled the thick duvet up to my neck, and flipped through dozens of English speaking TV stations, catching up on world news. In the mornings I sipped gourmet coffee on my balcony, prepared in the French press provided in each suite. Though I spent part of each day wandering around Luang Prabang, discovering the sites in this UNESCO World Heritage city, I devoted most of my time to the resort, enjoying the pool, reading in the plushly appointed library, or lingering for hours over meals that were delicious and decidedly too large for me.
On my final evening the General Manager of the Luang Say Residence, Rodolphe J.A. Gay, joined me at dinner and asked if I’d enjoyed my stay. As one would expect with any brand new property, I had encountered a few minor glitches, such as the plugs on the hairdryers being incompatible with the receptacles in the bathrooms (they were all being replaced the following week). But what perhaps had astounded me most was the level of professionalism and attention to detail that had been achieved, considering the resort had been open less than a month and that Laos, as one of the poorest nations in the world, does not have an abundance of workers with experience in the high-end hospitality industry. I was curious how they had overcome this obstacle.
“We chose our employees for who they are rather than what they know,” he explained.
Indeed, everyone at Luang Say Residence was a pleasure to be around. One afternoon I tarried after lunch, reading a book long after my meal was finished. The wait staff was unfailingly polite, repeatedly refilling my water glass and inquiring if I needed anything more. From my seat on the open-air deck I eavesdropped as they gossiped behind a lattice partition that separated the service area from the dining area. They bantered back and forth in jolly, sing-song Lao, obviously having a good time. One young man practiced Spanish phrases, eliciting giggling from his peers. The beaming faces and pleasant demeanor of all the employees at Luang Say Residence is something that can’t be faked; there is no doubt in my mind that they are one big happy family.
Rates and Specials at Luang Say Residence:
Internet rates for Pioneer Suites range from $285 to $369 per night, depending upon season. Internet rates for Explorateur Suites, located in the main residence, range from $389 to $517 per night, depending upon season. However, through September 30, 2011 the resort is offering special non-refundable introductory pricing of $112 per night in the Pioneer Suites with 21 days advance booking, or alternatively, one night free for two persons staying between one and three nights. All rates are inclusive of 10% services charge, 10% government tax , and includes The Residence Breakfast served in the restaurant. As the resort retains the right to change rates, please confirm these special deals prior to booking.
For more information about the newest luxury hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos:
The Luang Say Residence
4-5 Ban Phonepheng, P.O. Box 507
Luang Prabang Lao PDR
Tel: + 856 (0) 71 260 891
Fax: +856 (0) 71 260 892
Mekong Cruises kindly hosted the author on the Luang Say Cruise and at the Luang Say Residence. However, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items/services received will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and in this case, Mekong Cruises is one of the best tour operators I have ever had the pleasure to work with and the Luang Say Residence was an oasis of luxury.