PUBLISHED January 22nd, 2018 07:00 am | UPDATED March 26th, 2019 12:20 pm
At Azerai Luang Prabang, each room has its own private balcony with views of the property’s 120-year-old Banyan tree or the ancient Wat Mahathat temple (and with it, a flurry of saffron-robed monks going about their chores). The newest hotel property to open in the former Laotian royal capital, Azerai is the brainchild of famed hotelier Adrian Zecha, who set the benchmark for luxury hospitality when he founded Aman Resorts in the 80s.
The Azerai brand itself is barely half a year old, named after Zecha’s initials and the Persian word “caravanserai”, a roadside inn for caravan travellers of the past. Normally, the property would be considered small with just 53 rooms; but in the slowly-gentrifying town, where backpacker hostels outnumber luxury hotels, it’s fairly sizeable.
Against the backdrop of the old Luang Prabang Post Office and makeshift food stands across the road, Azerai is comparatively sleek and contemporary, and the juxtaposition as I step inside the lobby is fascinating. Decked out almost entirely in bright polished wood, the space is simple and refined, boasting a sort of easy French elegance that translates to the rest of the hotel.
A 25-metre pool in the courtyard, sheltered by the aforementioned Banyan tree serves as a focal point for the property. Passing a line of lazy loungers, you’ll reach one of three rooms, a standard room facing the south and west, a courtyard room facing the, well, courtyard, and a larger Azerai room (where I had the pleasure of staying in) on the second floor.
Inside, you get a charming blend of casual sophistication and traditional Laos architecture, divided into three distinct spaces: the lightly furnished bathing and toilet area painted a deep azure; the bedroom with beige walls, soft-toned upholstery, and teak furnishings; and through some solid French doors into a spacious balcony with more space than I know what to do with.
The thing about Azerai’s spaces is that you get all the things you need – nothing more, nothing less: a strategically placed fruit basket that also serves as a visual contrast to the room’s muted colours, an espresso machine, ice bucket, and several glasses hidden in the pantry cupboard. At the side, there is a long wall table with a simple reading lamp. The eponymous-branded toiletries are good, the bedding is immensely comfortable, and the lighting abundant.
Elsewhere on the property, you’ll find a small fitness room loaded with premium equipment from Precor, and well as a dim-lit spa on the second floor that’s said to have excellent therapists utilising a magical combination of Laotian and Asian massage techniques. Hungry? The Azerai Bistro, headed by Chef Ben Faker from Australia is definitely worth a visit for its Laotian and European offerings, with dishes like pressed pork knuckle terrine with green mango chutney and wild mushroom steamed in banana leaf.
This is also where breakfast is served, featuring a generous spread of cheeses, cold cuts, and select pastries baked fresh daily. My recommendation: try the chia seed pudding and housemade muesli.
Ultimately, the draw at Azerai is its sense of timelessness. In a town that sees rapidly-increasing tourism, the hotel somehow manages to be exceedingly close to all the attractions (the night market starts just across the road, and the monks pass by at dawn each morning) while still being shut off in a bubble of sophisticated serenity. And at its prize, you won’t get much better than this in Luang Prabang.