A new addition in Luang Prabang, the Azerai hotel makes for a good base when exploring this soulful UNESCOlisted old town. By Lim Chee Wah
A new, heritage-rich hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos
A REGULAR FIGURE IN all the top hotel lists, Aman is preceded by an illustrious reputation, known for its storied locations, minimalist yet timeless designs and astronomical prices. The good news is, Aman founder Adrian Zecha has a new hotel brand that could just be the antidote to your Aman lust that doesn't deplete your life savings.
Named Azerai, the brand recently opened its first property in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang in Laos. Positioned as an affordable luxury, Azerai Luang Prabang's elegance and liberal use of natural wood are a nod to Aman – but beyond that, it's a distinct hotel in itself.
Despite being smack in the middle of the town's heritage core, the handsome hotel has a relaxed vibe. Everything revolves around the pool in the centre, shaded by a stunning 120-year-old Banyan tree.
Although its design language borrows heavily from colonial French influences, Azerai Luang Prabang keeps flourishes to a minimum. Clean lines, functional furniture and a restrained aesthetic give the hotel – and guests – room to breathe and relax. The rooms open out to either a balcony overlooking the pool or a private courtyard, and they all feature twin vanities, free WiFi, a coffee machine, rain
Azerai Luang Prabang could be the antidote to your Aman lust that doesn't deplete your life savings
showers and a host of other amenities.
In terms of location, Azerai Luang Prabang is perfect. You’re not entirely removed from the town’s daily life: the hotel’s just across the junction from the main street, where you’ll find the night market and also the highest concentration of restaurants, cafés and temples. Mount Phousi is also right opposite – the modest hill serves as the unofficial town centre, where people climb to the top of a gilded stupa to take in a breathtaking view of the town.
From that vantage point, you’ll understand the appeal of this historic town. Luang Prabang is a narrow peninsula where the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet, and it’s protected by a fortress of mountain ranges. This lush and fertile land was once the royal capital of the country, where Buddhist culture and spirituality flourished. In fact, the latter still defines much of life here, evident from the proportionately large number of active temples in this small town and the perseverance of the daily alms-giving ritual. Saffron-robed monks still roam the streets, just as the coconut trees here loom taller than the man-made structures, many of which date back to the 19th century.
While many ancient towns in the region are transitioning into the modernity, Luang Prabang still feels like it’s stuck in time. And at Azerai Luang Prabang, you’ll get the best of both worlds: direct access to this oldworld charm without losing the comfort of modern-day conveniences.
Setthathirath Rd, Hua Xieng Village, Luang Prabang (+856 7126 2333, azerai.com/luang-prabang). Rooms from USD250/ night (about $350).
The pool is the focal point at Azerai Luang Prabang
The view of Luang Prabang from Mount Phousi
The main street of Luang Prabang, where temples co-exist alongside cafés and restaurants
Elegant rooms at Azerai