Recuperation by the river
Miss Noy welcomes us to the Riverside Boutique Resort as though she’s been waiting eagerly for us to arrive and is delighted to see us.
Perched on the banks of the Nam Song River in the town of Vang Vieng in central Laos, the hotel is four to five hours by road from Vientiane in the south, from where we have come, and four to six hours from Luang Prabang in the north, in the direction we will be heading.
Perhaps Miss Noy beams at all tired travellers because she knows that in minutes they’ll be captivated by the hotel and its surrounds, and the memory of long journeys soon forgotten.
Two-storey buildings with white walls and thatched roofs sit in a U-shaped arrangement facing the river, wrapped around a turquoise pool neatly bordered by sun lounges and umbrellas. On the other side of the river jagged limestone karsts rise above skeins of mist, bathed in sunlight. The river flows at a languid pace and so does everyday life; a man washes his motorbike in the shallows, a group of boys play under a trestle bridge that rattles when cars pass over.
Cushioned chairs line the hotel’s riverside boundary in the shade of a large tree strung with lanterns; it’s the perfect place to loll for a pre-dinner drink and a prime position to appreciate the view.
The styles and crafts of Laos’s main ethnic groups feature in the interior designs of 36 guestrooms. Ours is generously and distinctly Hmong with indigo and maroon cushions, bed throws and trim, all contrasting with white bed linen and curtains. Walls are hung with pencil drawings of village scenes by a local artist. Furnishings are a combination of rattan and bamboo, standing on a cool floor of terracotta tiles.
Our balcony, complete with low-slung wooden armchairs, takes in a sweeping view of the pool, the river and mountains. High quality ethnic textiles, traditional dress, cushions, bed throws and purses can be purchased from the hotel gift shop.
Vang Vieng earned its place on the tourist trail as the “tubing capital of the world”. Hordes of backpackers arrived to indulge in opium-laced pizza, alcohol in buckets and tubing on the river. In 2012, following dozens of drownings, the government closed down the bars along the river tube-route, putting an end to the boom and many businesses. The town has reinvented itself to appeal to more than young backpackers. Tubing on the
Riverside Boutique Resort Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province; + 856 23 51 17 26; riversidevangvieng.com.
From about $150 for a deluxe room to $266 for a riverside suite with wraparound balcony; all rates include breakfast.
Take a car and driver or mini bus from Luang Prabang (up to six hours) or Vientiane (up to five hours).
Mix of families and couples, including expats.
Yes, to reception leisure facilities; ground-floor rooms.
river is still available sans alcohol, and more wholesome activities such as rock-climbing, caving, cycling, kayaking and hot-air ballooning have developed.
There are no drug-laced dishes on the menu at the hotel’s Restaurant du Crabe d’Or, named after a series of caves. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner downstairs, inside or on a patio, and breakfast upstairs in a large room with lacquered basketware on display. We have lunch and dinner (Lao or French dishes) on the patio, serenaded by cicadas and frogs. The young waiters are ex-
The cold and sodden deep-fried chips added to our takeaway lunch bags.
Giant jars of homemade jam in flavours such as mulberry, pineapple, mango and passionfruit are a welcome change from the processed sachets of jam we encounter elsewhere in Laos.
ceptionally helpful, wearing touches of handwoven trim on their uniforms in the same colour scheme as our room. The food is excellent and I can’t resist the generous puddle of sweet sauce on the creme caramel, so I order it twice in one day.
We are sorry to leave the Riverside Boutique Hotel and to say goodbye to Miss Noy. She checks us out as cheerily as she checked us in, hands over two packed lunches of club sandwiches and crunchy red apples and waves us merrily on our way.
Pool with a view at Riverside Boutique Resort