I recently had the chance to visit Laos, a country that’s intrigued me for a while now. Whilst I only stopped in Luang Prabang for around a week, it provided a great introduction to the quirks and qualities of this fascinating region – as well as the wonderful people, who in my humble opinion are some of the friendliest in South-East Asia. In particular, it was the kindness and warmth of the staff at our hotel, My Dream Boutique Resort, that made a lasting impression.
Surprisingly, I found that accommodation in Luang Prabang seemed expensive compared to neighbouring Thailand, for instance, with real estate overlooking the Mekong commanding the highest prices. Keeping in mind the trade-off between budget and quality, I found My Dream Boutique, which offered very comfortable accommodation in an authentically Lao setting for an excellent price (rooms start at $69 a night, including breakfast). Commendably, the hotel is also committed to rebuilding and supporting a local school, with 2% of its profits going towards supporting this project. Housed within individual wood and stone bungalows and buildings over a large estate sweeping down to the Nam Khan River, the hotel’s accommodation and setting is sublime – and you can feel good about spending your money here too.
Each room has a spacious balcony – some featuring stunning views over the lush gardens – with the larger bungalows offering more square footage and lounge areas. We stayed in a range of rooms, from the smallest ‘Classic Garden’ to the ‘Boutique Villa’, and found that even the lowest-priced rooms were more than sufficient. Furnishings in each are simple but in keeping with the hotel’s overall aesthetic; dark wood, plain fabrics and woven floor mats complete the understated yet stylish look.
I love a good hotel breakfast, and My Dream doesn’t disappoint on this front either. Sipping tea overlooking the pool, with birds and crickets chirruping in the background, guarantees a relaxing start to the day. In particular, the friendliness of the staff came into its element here, with the hotel manager personally greeting guests and discussing their plans for the day each morning. Crucially, this also wasn’t overbearing – at other hotels, this can come across as false and mechanical, but the staff here genuinely seemed interested in how you were finding your stay in the town, a gentle intrigue and curiosity that was replicated by many of the locals we chatted with. In addition to a fine spread, hot food and excellent coffees were available to order; if you’re feeling brave, ask for the Lao Omelette!
The pool itself is perfect for plunging into on a steamy South-East Asian afternoon, although it does tend to lose the sun later on in the day. Walking down to the foot of the gardens bordering the Nam Khan River can also provide some respite, with a cabana and a stock of books providing shade and entertainment, if needed.
As the hotel is on the northern side of the Nam Khan, reaching Luang Prabang town involves crossing either the road or bamboo bridge – a process which sounds deceptively simple. The bamboo bridge is only in place outside of the rainy season (apparently it gets washed away as the waters rise) and crossing it requires a small fee to go towards the yearly rebuilding. Aside from this however, it may be somewhat of an ordeal for anyone with the slightest fear of heights or water. (Crossing it in the pitch dark also adds a whole other layer of terror). If heights make your stomach flip however, I would recommend the bamboo bridge over the road bridge, which is just visible in the image above. Much higher than the bamboo bridge, this involves walking over slats of semi-rotten wood (some of which have fallen through) as the river sweeps by far below. Whilst I’m all for travelling that puts me out of my comfort zone, this was a surprisingly stressful ordeal, and not one that we repeated!
One of the benefits of the bamboo bridge was the ability to capture shots like these, however. The monk in this image stopped to chat to us, keen (like many of the people here) to practice their English. I managed to get a quick snap of him as he strode across the bridge, and it’s one of my favourite photos from the trip. Likewise, the picture below was taken an hour or so before sunset, on a blisteringly hot afternoon. Whilst staying in the centre of Luang Prabang may have a few advantages, our time at My Dream Boutique on the fringes of the town definitely helped us get acquainted with the quieter side of LP life, and formed an excellent introduction to the kindness of its people.
My Dream Boutique Resort, Meung Nga Street, Luang Prabang
Disclaimer: we were paying guests at My Dream Boutique Resort; all opinions are my own.