PUBLISHED December 16th, 2017 06:00 am | UPDATED March 26th, 2019 12:20 pm
There are hotels housed within UNESCO World Heritage sites, and then there is Maison Dalabua, which goes beyond to incorporate UNESCO-classified ponds within its grounds. Because of that, the Luang Prabang boutique hotel is widely considered to be one of the most serene properties in the city, and we can attest to that.
A quick eight-minute walk to the city’s iconic night market, the ‘Lotus Princess House’ is not so far out as to require transport, but far enough to offer a breather from the loud bustle of the city centre. Once you manage to find the discreet street, walk down the hotel’s strikingly-clean concrete steps and check in at the roomy open-air lobby, decked out in resort-style couches and plush cushions.
There are 40 rooms scattered around the property, and each are furnished in an interesting blend of ornate Lao contemporary design – that is to say, a lot of elegant wood frames – and modern fittings. In my Grand Deluxe Garden View, I find a spacious room with a central desk, two bedside tables, a nice colonial-style tripod lamp, and a caressingly soft bed.
Several Laotian prints are framed on the wall, with a splash of colour from cushions. The ceiling sharpens upwards with a large fan in the middle. Being on the second floor, I get a porch with two lounge chairs for looking out onto the gorgeous lotus ponds.
When you step into the bathroom, the only thing that might indicate you are in Laos is the dark built-in cabinet, rounded at the edges and made of polished hardwood. Turn left and it becomes a room that looks like it took inspiration from the ‘industrial bathroom’ board on Pinterest.
The all-concrete walls, floors, and double sink tops hit all the right spots, with light wooden details for contrast. There is a large rain shower and grooves in the wall for the exquisite amenities, with a partition between the toilet and shower.
Breakfast here is included in the room rate, and sees both Western and Asian options: from baguettes and banana pancakes to stir-fried vegetables, scrambled eggs, and fresh mango and dragonfruit. Certainly hearty enough to keep you going throughout the day.
Come dinnertime, you can head to, and subsequently fall in love with the hotel’s Laotian restaurant Manda de Laos. You’ll have to walk through a wooden boardwalk past the lotus ponds, and it is best visited during sunset as you gaze at the ‘secret’ view of Mount Phousi. Served at the restaurant’s open-air deck, the koi pa (a Lao-style fish salad) here is delicious, as are the buffalo steak (ping sin) and crunchy coconut rice (khao khati). And don’t worry about mosquitoes – the pond is teeming with fishes.
The pool, while not the largest, is great for lounging about soaking up some sunshine and getting a fierce tan (you can actually do this anywhere in Luang Prabang), and there is also a spa that offers traditional Lao massage (similar to a Thai yoga massage) and aromatherapy treatments at very fair prices. There are several complimentary bicycles for grabs, and if you need help with your itinerary, the friendly folks at the tour desk will help you to organise day activities to local attractions for a nominal fee.
You could say my stay at Maison Dalabua was love at first sight, what with their unique ponds and hundreds of blossoming lily and lotus pads both day and night. The rooms are great in comfort and design, and the restaurant is phenomenal, such that you’d be hard-pressed finding an experience like this anywhere else in Luang Prabang.