Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos, now the second city, and is a designated World Heritage Site. UNESCO says that Luang Prabang “is exceptional for both its rich architectural and artistic heritage that reflects the fusion of Lao traditional urban architecture with that of the [French] colonial era”. I’d say it’s a must visit in Laos, much more so than Vientiane, the capital, which doesn’t have much going for it.
I stayed for six days in two separate hotels, both converted residences from the French colonial era. You’ll find them both on my map.
There are lots of other lovely colonial era buildings around. I’ve put them in a gallery at the bottom of the post.
The first place I stayed at, The Grand Luang Prabang www.grandluangprabang.com, was about 5km out of town.
Formerly known as the Xiengkeo Palace this French colonial building was once the royal residence of Prince Phetsarath, the Regent of Laos until the communist takeover in 1975.
It was at this time that the palace became a hotel and modern rooms were added.
There’s a large garden to wander around. You can click on these galleries to expand them.
The palace is set on a bend of the Mekong River and the garden makes the most of the vistas.
The views form the breakfast terrace are particularly nice.
Add a bowl of Chicken Pho to your continental breakfast and the experience is sheer bliss.
The fancy dinner I had one evening was okay too.
Each room of the Grand has a veranda with a view of the river.
You can leave the screen doors open and hear the rapids.
Another reason I choose The Grand was for its pool, which I had to myself as I was there out of season. Heaven!
If like me you love old colonial hotels then The Grand is a true Indochinese experience that shouldn’t be missed.
However, the downside is that it’s a bit of a trek to town. The hotel does provide a free shuttle a few times a day but it’s not always convenient. Much as I loved staying there, after three nights I’d had enough of the constant toing and froing so I moved to another hotel in town…
Villa Maly Boutique Hotel (High Intermediate A), Oupalath Khamboua Road, Ban That Luang Village, www.villa-maly.com
Villa Maly is a private villa built in the colonial era.
It’s furnished in an Art Deco style with a mix of French and British period pieces.
The villa has a small but very lovely garden.
And of course the all important pool.
The staff were lovely and the breakfast was very good.
By way of contrast, the five star Grand was £66 a night (off season, 2017) and rooms at the four star Villa Maly were £55-63. Villa Maly’s pool is 8m by 20m whereas The Grand’s is three times the size at 25m by 20m. Neither have a gym. There are of course many other excellent hotels in town.
There are many other lovely colonial buildings in town. All very obviously French but with Lao touches.
This is one of my favourites.
This French-style house was built in the 1920’s by a Chinese expat who was in love with the colonial style he’d experienced in Hanoi.
Double rooves and the use of wood seem to me to both be Lao influences.
There’s a fair bit of Art Deco around, both old and new.
This beautiful 1952 Citroën II Familiale is parked up outside the 3 Nagas on Sakkaline Road.
Hopefully this post has given you an idea of why Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Now for the wats…