Salana Boutique Hotel – original watercolor by Ginda Simpson
Salana Boutique Hotel
112 Chao Anou Road,
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Surrounded by temples, Salana offers more than just a boutique hotel experience. I have been in Vientiane for less than 24 hours; and at dawn following a good night’s sleep I find myself seated on the sidewalk with women preparing to give alms to the procession of monks. I have wanted to see this for myself – not as a tourist – and their kind invitation to join them and share in the handing out of their offerings has pleased me immensely. Sacred and serene, this moment will be my first memory of Vientiane.
Salana Boutique Hotel also offers a place to feel at home while visiting the capital city of Laos. It is elegant in its simplicity of décor, complete in the thoughtfulness of its amenities, and gracious in its hospitality. “Sabaidee” and a smile of welcome meet us as we come and go. Our breakfast is generous and we appreciate the array of choices, both Asian and Western to meet the cravings of an international clientele. Both the lobby and the restaurant are decorated for Christmas, another thoughtful touch for their guests who find themselves far from their home countries where this is the most cherished of holidays.
After a full day of sight-seeing, we retreat to the comfort and quiet of our room. But not for long – I have decided to indulge in a spa treatment, a two-hour package that includes a full body scrub followed by an aromatherapy massage. At the Sarila Spa, I feel like I have been rescued from the cares of the world.
The hotel location is ideal for visitors who wish to watch the sunset on the Mekong, to visit nearby temples, or shop at the night market. There is street food to tempt and restaurants galore all within walking distance, but we come “home” and dine at the Salana Kitchen Vibe Bistro. One need not go any farther for a fully satisfying meal, followed by an hour or so in their “living room” listening to music and reading a good book. Ahh… all is well with the world.
Riverside Boutique Resort
P.O. Box 360
Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province
+856 (0)23 511 726 http://www.riversidevangvieng.com
After the long drive from Luang Prabang, it is a treat to sit back on our balcony and watch the Nam Song River flow past the magnificent limestone karsts for which Vang Vieng is known. Better yet, on this hot afternoon, is a dip in their pool, where one can chill out with a glass of ice-cold Beer Lao. Riverside Boutique Hotel does not simply offer luxury in Vang Vieng, it offers guests the chance to learn about the diversity of the Lao culture through its studied décor which showcases the various ethnic influences of the country. There are hints everywhere of this rich diversity – in the design of the rooms, the artwork selected, the textiles used. Their boutique gallery and gift shop gives guests a chance to admire and purchase some of the finest examples of the artisan crafts of the Lao people. Be sure to visit the shop and ask the desk for their brochures that explain the rich traditions of the various Lao tribes.
The Crab d’Or Restaurant provides a relaxed setting in which to sample a tasting menu of Lao cuisine, a great introduction to the most popular dishes of the country or an opportunity to sample them again. The cook is happy to adjust the “heat” of the chilies so beloved by the local people. The restaurant features a wrap-around terrace overlooking the river and the garden, where In the evening, lighted lanterns and fairy lights provide a touch of magic. At breakfast, this same dining room offers sustenance, a rich buffet of both Asian and Continental selections sure to please guests, no matter what their tastes or dietary restrictions might be.
Vang Vieng awaits, luring visitors from the comforts of Riverside Boutique Hotel. There are trips down the river in traditional river craft, tubing and kayaking for the adventurous, villages and rice fields, temples and shops that tempt. Go ahead, explore, or simply rest in the natural beauty that surrounds you.
View of the Nam Song River – original watercolor by Ginda Simpson
Built in French colonial-style, yet deeply influenced by Lao culture, Satri House’s main villa dates back to 1904 when it was the residence of Prince Soupha-Nouvong, known as the “Red Prince” who was later to become Lao PDR’s first president in 1975. Expanded over the years, it was eventually converted into a “secret retreat” hotel featuring 28 guestrooms and 3 suites.
Satri House is an unabashed enchantress; she leads me from garden path to lily ponds, to a still channel of water where Lao sculptures and palm fronds are reflected in its surface, pleasing my eye not once but twice. Pathways through these lush gardens and quiet corridors invite us to the secret retreat that will be our accommodation for the next few days. Our room makes me feel like I have been invited by the Prince himself to luxuriate in his private home. Furnished in rich wood and dressed in delicate silk and linens, our room has a queen-sized bed draped in mosquito netting that while practical, lends a romantic air. Lao in all its beauty is everywhere, but the temptress does not stop here. A shuttered doorway opens to our private garden, a short walk takes us to the pool or the spa, and finally there is the restaurant with a wrap-around terrace that offers an intimate view of the garden from above.
The first evening we enjoy a set menu of Lao dishes, a perfect introduction to the country’s cuisine. Mme. Lamphoune salad is a green papaya – green mango salad with chicken and shrimp in a lime dressing; the Som Ho pomelo salad made with shrimp and vegetables is equally as tasty. For our main course we have Gaeng Phet Bhet Myung, a red curry duck with pineapple and become acquainted with Khabab Paa, grilled Mekong river fish wrapped in banana leaf, one of Lao’s most popular dishes. And for our sweet tooth, we get to sample another Lao specialty – local dark-sticky rice with fresh mango.
Three nights are simply not enough at this hotel. If our enchantress is benevolent, perhaps we will be lured back to her secret retreat again someday.