Smith Travel BlogTravel tales and hotel news from the boutique hotel experts at Mr & Mrs Smith

Postcard from Laos: Alila life less ordinary

Posted by Lucy Fennings on October 28th, 2010

Our intrepid AsiaPac counterparts report back from their travels on the hotter side of the globe, with news just in from Laos, where Team Smith has just checked into the brand new Alila Luang Prabang to celebrate the launch of our new South-East Asia hotel guide

Laos boutique hotel Alila Luang PrabangPostcard from LaosNothing says ‘making an entrance’ quite like a vintage Merc. I’m instantly wowed on arrival at Luang Prabang’s petite, palm-fringed airport, where I’m met by a cream 1957 Mercedes-Benz (complete with maroon leather interior and chauffeur) for the 10-minute transfer to my luxe-for-less Laotian abode: the brand new Alila Luang Prabang boutique hotel.

En route, Laos’s laid-back intimacy works its charm: an ambling saffron-robed monk here, a girl cycling past with elegant parasol in one hand there. Three-wheeled jumbos (like oversized tuk-tuks) whizz by, dodging snoozing dogs; golden temple roofs are glimpsed though frangipani trees.

Alila Luang Prabang hotel & Night MarketTeam Smith has rolled into town to welcome the all-new Alila Luang Prabang (right) to our hand-picked hotel collection: Laos’s latest glam getaway has barely been open a month. We’re also here to celebrate the launch of our fantastic new guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: South-East Asia (more of that to come in a future post).

While Thailand, Vietnam and even Cambodia are firm favourites on the travel map, less-visited neighbour Laos is still something of an insider secret. And Luang Prabang is our top trip tip: the former royal capital teams French architecture with jaw-dropping Buddhist temples in a magical Mekong River setting that earned Unesco World Heritage protection in 1995.

We spend our first evening wandering the town’s illuminated Night Market, checking out rainbow-hued throws, paper lanterns and parasols (above right), silver jewellery and the ubiquitous Beer Lao logo T-shirts. Most of the stalls are run by women from surrounding villages, so money spent here directly benefits local people. It’s a soft sell, too, thanks to Laos’ famously mellow vibe – so you can browse without bother.

The French once summed up the relaxed Lao take on life as follows: ‘The Vietnamese plant rice; the Cambodians watch it grow; and the Lao listen to it grow’. Star-gazing from my serene suite garden back at Alila, I’m with them: listening to rice never felt so good…

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10 Responses to “Postcard from Laos: Alila life less ordinary”

  1. I’m a huge fan of great hotel transportation as an amenity – and this is the first time I’ve seen a vintage Merc used like this. Great idea! Now I need to blog about this…

    By Josiah

  2. I love Luang Prabang – thanks for transporting me back there for a moment. When I visited 3 Nagas by Alila earlier in the year they were putting the finishing touches to the new hotel, which sounds wonderful – looking forward to hearing what you thought of it.

    By Emma

  3. […] Get the low-down from the original style-seekers' latest good-time hunting expeditions, find destination inspiration and insider tips from around the world. Welcome to the official Smith blog: we hope you enjoy your stay Home Previous post: Postcard from Laos: Alila life less ordinary […]

    By Alila Luang Prabang, Laos boutique hotel review – Mr & Mrs Smith

  4. […] tucked up at Laos’ latest luxe lovenest – so, hot on the heels of yesterday’s Postcard from Laos, here are their thoughts on their most recent find in the historic Mekong-side escape that is Luang […]

    By Alila Luang Prabang in Laos – Tips from the T | Asia Top News

  5. […] a big fan of creative hotel transport, and Lucy shared her experience at Alila Luang Prabang on the Mr & Mrs Smith blog: Nothing says ‘making an entrance’ quite like a vintage Merc. […]

    By 1957 Mercedes-Benz at Alila Luang Prabang

  6. […] I just read about their vintage Mercedes hotel transport: ♥ it big […]

    By NEW SPOT: ALILA LUANG PRABANG LAOS « Petite Passport

  7. @CarrieAndJonathan Since we’re talking south-east Asia, we understand why you’d pick up on the price – but we thought the rates (from US$170 a night for a Garden Suite) were good value: the rooms are super-spacious, and generally what’s on offer is a notch above the neighbours. Add to that the on-site spa, cookery school, pools and free bikes to borrow and we think it’s more than a fair package.
    On the prison tip, a lot of the world’s most glamorous hotels are housed in buildings with unromantic origins, including Soho Hotel in London (a former NCP car park) the Merchant Hotel in Belfast (Ulster Bank HQ), the Four Seasons in Istanbul (prison) and the Standard Downtown LA (1950s office block). Alila’s architectural legacy here (watchtowers) gives the hotel the kind of quirky spin that we love – plus you get a bird’s eye view of the hotel, surrounding mountains and streets!

    By Sophie

  8. […] fell for Alila Luang Prabang, a secluded colonial sanctuary in sleepy Luang Prabang (see also our Postcard from Laos earlier this month, describing our trip there), and The Fullerton Bay Hotel, a glam waterfront […]

    By New boutique hotels

  9. Sophie… I am intrigued. Did anyone from Mr and Mrs Smith really stay here? (my wife and I are currently in residence at Alila LP after spending a few days at one of the rec’s in Siem Reap). While most of the facts (excluding the Merc and the Yoga room) are accurate… the service is really not up to the usual Mr and Mrs Smith standard. Now – don’t get me wrong – the people here are lovely and really are trying their best. But its not yet in the service/cost ratio.

    One of the things we love about the Mr and Mrs Smith hotels – generally – is the attention to detail. Alila LP doesn’t get our rating for this yet. Maybe after running for a year or so it would be worthy of inclusion in the Mr and Mrs Smith line up.

    Alan

    By Alan

  10. Hi Alan, sorry to hear you weren’t wowed by the service at Alila Luang Prabang (since dubbed Hotel Luang Prabang). I did indeed stay at the hotel right after it launched last October, with some other Smith crew. I loved the hotel, although it was still at soft-open stage, so some details such as the garden planting and final interiors touches were still being honed.

    Service culture, too, can take a little time to bed in, and the hotel has a commitment to employ and train as many local Laotian staff as possible. I found that what the service lacked in slickness, it more than made up for in charm. Hope you visit again and agree.

    By Sophie

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