Laos conjures images of simple, rustic life, conical hats and misty temples, but it’s increasingly catering to a more sophisticated boho crowd on the lookout for boutique hotels – getting down and dirty by day, reclining in Indochinese elegance by night.
Stylish boutique hotels in Laos are now blossoming, making some of those more intrepid trips seem tenable. Let’s face it, after a day’s trekking, who wants to sleep on a mat when you can be swallowed in Egyptian linen and goose feathers? Where better to escape to than a land of chic hotels, quirky guesthouses and cuisine that might have been swept off a Parisian table for a tenth of the price?
Beautiful Boutique Hotels
Inthira Hotel, Rue Annou, Thakhek: Converting a couple of colonial-era trading houses, Inthira has created the most fashionable haunt in town, the centrepiece of which is its New York-style bar and restaurant. Well placed too, with a street cafe opposite the handicraft night market.
Hotel Beau Rivage, Fa Gnum Rd, Vientiane:The place to stay for sophistication and escapism combined. Its fabulously bespoke rooms – decked in oriental screens, exposed brick and terrazzo floors – are beautiful, with riverside views and a sanctuary out back that is great for reading.
Three Nagas by Alila, Sakkaline Rd, Luang Prabang: With its wood-blade fans, elegant bar and ambient-lit restaurant, Three Nagas by Alila has long been the first word in style. The larger suites nearest the river are divinely chic with swallow-you-up four posters and Bedouin-style mosquito nets.
Shopping in Vientiane
In Laos’ sleepy capital, even locals refer to the market off Rue Mahosot as the Morning Market though, in fact, it’s open all day. Start here anyway, like diving in the deep end. Clean but rather toasty, the rows and rows of silk weavings are enough to drive even an aficionado dizzy.
Mixay Boutique, 053/55 Nokeokoummane Street, Ban Mixay: Stop by for adorable stuffed elephants and monkeys covered in Day-Glo antique textiles that little ones will love, plus easy-to-pack silk sleeping bags that make the perfect gift for the adventurous traveller who likes a little luxury.
Camacrafts, Nokeokoummane Street, Ban Mixay: The founder, Kommaly Chanthavong was nominated for a 2005 Nobel Prize for creating silk weaving opportunities in this struggling country, but the high quality items would be worth buying even without this tender tale. House wares abound, from simple potholders to festive holiday ornaments shaped like candy canes, but the most charming items are baby bibs that come in the shape of elephants, penguins and cuddly bunnies. Bachelorette Party Cartagena