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Review: Inside Rosewood Luang Prabang

Remote Lands goes inside the most exciting Laos hotel opening of the year, Rosewood Luang Prabang, a mix of riverside and hilltop dwellings designed by Bill Bensley in the country's hottest travel destination.

As luxury hotels open at an unprecedented rate across Asia, I find myself asking with each one: “Is there room for another one here?” In the case of the new Rosewood in Luang Prabang, the answer is unequivocally, yes.

Opened in March earlier this year, the new Rosewood Luang Prabang has eschewed an in-town location for a plot on the outskirts of town. While this means the primary access to the UNESCO Word Heritage listed city is a short 10-minute shuttle in one of the Rosewood’s luxury vehicles, the payoff is that the resort is nestled in a lush forested valley split down the middle by a waterfall and the river it feeds. It’s just gorgeous.

ABOVE: Bill Bensley designed suite at Rosewood Luang Prabang.

Add to the mix that this stunning resort was designed by the inimitable Bill Bensley and you soon realize you are in for a treat. Bensley’s famed attention to detail created an authentic, bucolic Laotian experience that nonetheless maintains the luxurious trappings essential for a property of this caliber.

First Impressions

The first thing guests see as they enter the resort is La Grande Maison, or The Great House, an open building which serves as hotel lobby, restaurant, and meeting place – the beating heart of the property. Mounting the steps you are greeted by the friendly general manager, Elias Pertoft, formerly of Amanwana, accompanied by his staff with offers of welcome drinks.

The Great House features funky custom leather sofas set in front of grand fireplaces, a three-sided terrace for al fresco dining, and plush daybeds which overlook the oval white sandstone pool in the main garden. Guests will struggle to miss the waterfall, and the calming white noise produces the “A Sense of Place” tenet central to Rosewood’s brand.

ABOVE: Elephant Bridge Bar at Rosewood Luang Prabang.

To reach the 23 rooms guests must cross the river, and the bridge to do so is also a bar. Or is the bar also a bridge? The dual purpose bridge-cum-bar is called the Elephant Bar, and as every guest must pass through it to reach their rooms, it is an ideal place to mingle with fellow travelers, if you are so inclined.

Resting your head

Rosewood Luang Prabang offers just 23 rooms across five categories: three Riverside Villas, four Riverside rooms, and four Riverside suites situated close to the Elephant Bar and opposite The Great House. The path past the Riverside area leads to the six waterfall pool villas, beyond which are the three spa treatment tents. Finally, a hike up the hill leads to the six Hilltop tents. Lovers of a good sunrise will be please to know that all rooms face directly east.

The two-story Riverside complex is cleverly designed, featuring dining areas that can be added to one or both of the rooms on either side; also, multiple rooms and suites can be connected together to create flexible spaces for larger groups or families. The Waterside Pool Villas are close to the waterfall and all feature private pools of varying sizes.

The Hilltop tents, Rosewood’s first foray into “glamping” are the true stars of the show. While they do require a climb equivalent to about five stories to reach, they afford a commanding view of the property and really evoke a sense of the camping experience. I started writing a journal – yes, real pen and paper – as it just seemed the right thing to do as the sun came up while I lounged on the balcony.

Every room is different in layout, design, and color. All rooms, apart from the tents, are named after famous individuals with historical connections to Indochine and are uniquely furnished with bric-a-brac and antiques that relate to the room’s theme. The tents are named after and decorated in the style of the ethnic tribes that inhabit Laos. It was in the Hmong Hill Tribe Tent that I stayed.

Sating Appetites

While the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus do offer what are termed “comfort flair,” and you will find burgers and fish and chips to choose from if you really must, I implore all who visit: do not waste any meals at this hotel trying anything other than the incredible Laotian food. Chef Sebastien has an effervescent passion for the cuisine, and he will tell you all about it at your table if you like.

All the produce is sourced locally. In fact, all the greens are grown on the grounds. Even the mozzarella is procured from the nearby Kaung Si Dairy Farm, which is worth an outing to sample their innovative buffalo milk ice cream.

For breakfast try the khai jeun – a flat omelet with local sausage and sticky rice. For lunch share some plates of tam mak houng, green papaya salad; mok nor mai, steamed bamboo shoot in banana leaf; and laap leu, minced buffalo with grilled eggplant and fresh herbs. For dinner try the locally caught fish. I loved the goi paa – fresh river fish mince with banana flower and galangal.

Final Thoughts

ABOVE: Pool at Rosewood Luang Prabang.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang is a fine addition to the hotel options for Luang Prabang and offers something very different from the in-town hotels on city blocks. You do give up the ability to exit the hotel right into the middle of the city but in return you get a lush hillside environment with its own private waterfall. The hotel welcomes children, and indeed the flexible arrangements of the Riverside rooms are ideal for all sizes of families; however, children under 12 are not permitted in the Hillside Tents.