Unlike other alluring destinations in
Southeast Asia, where legions of fellow
travelers can overwhelm the integrity of
the place itself, Luang Prabang still feels
fresh. A town on the make. A city yet to
be discovered.Once the royal capital of
Laos, Luang Prabang nestles up against
the milk coffee-colored Mekong River.
Its wats, the architecture of its royal
palaces and its ubiquitous wooden
houses create a timeless ambiance that
almost feels forgotten though hardly
woebegone.UNESCO declared this
“delightful little town” as the French
naturalist-explorer Henri Mouhot knew
it, a World Heritage Site in 1995. The
town’s Buddhist aura emanates from a
plethora of irresistible wats, or pagodas,
and from a daily, early morning trudge
for alms through town by saffron-robed
In a single glance, the town can be
embraced by summiting, via 355 steps,
one of the Luang Prabang’s principal
attractions — Mt. Phou Si. From here,
trees. Indeed, regulations prohibit new
buildings from rising higher than the
trees’ leafy bowers.The Mekong sweeps
beneath the flanks of dramatic ridges,
some cut with stairways that lead to yet
another temple. Teak trees flutter their
pale, skimpy foliage from the banks
while the occasional elephant, led by an
able mahout, wades into the water for a
bath.The languor of the Mekong, here in
the midst of its 4,350-kilometer journey
to the sea, is a metaphor for the languid
appeal of the town itself. Listening to the
rice grow feels like obligation here. As
does a visit to one of the city’s many wats.
The city’s most renown wats - Mai, Pa
Huak – date to the 19th Century, though
many claim older pedigrees and most
feel like relics.
The city itself claims an ancient pedigree,
7th Century. The French, who assumed
protectorate status over the region in
the 19th Century, recognized Luang
Prabang as the capital of the Kingdom.
In 1904, they helped build a royal palace
where the Lao kings lived until the Pathet
Lao takeover in 1975.Today, the royal
palace is a museum, housing holy icons,
paintings and china. Another, more
fantastic collection of relics lies upstream
along the Mekong in the Pak Ou Caves.
Ou, a cave in a bluff on the river keeps a
pantheon of small Buddhist statues.
UNESCO hailed Luang Prabang as the
“the best preserved city in Asia” when the
organization inscribed the destination in
1995. Nothing has changed about that
The homelike ambiance of the Villa
Maly has a royal pedigree. This is what
In Southeast Asia, the great divide
between the colonial and modern eras
opened in the 1950s after the colonial
French decamped for Europe, leaving
Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to fend
for themselves as independent nations.
What endures in the former colonies
from before the 1950s is as captivating
as relics from another age. And so it is
with Villa Maly.
The anchoring villa at Villa Maly,
Plumeria, was built in 1938 by His
Royal Highness Khamtan Ounkham,
a grandson of a Lao king, Kham Souk
Zakarine, and the first of his seven wives,
Queen Pheng. Khamtan Ounkham was
born in 1909.
Like many well-to-do Laotians of the
day, Khamtan was sent by his father
to Hanoi, where the boy made his way
through the colonial educational system
from the age of 7 to 20. His success as
a student won him an appointment to
France where he continued his studies
for three more years.
Upon his return to Laos, Khamtan
pursued a career in government.
This was the ineluctable choice for
a well-educated young man of royal
pedigree. He served as prefect of the
provinces of Vientiane, Luang Prabang
and Sayabouri. In a surviving photo,
Khamtan is a dapper administrator
jacket, he took from the Europeans.
The young prefect married his cousin,
Princess Khampieng, who was born in
1911. Like her husband, Khampieng
was schooled in the colonial system.
At 18, she was named an auxiliary
instructor in the girls’ school of Luang
Prabang. She devoted her life to national
until she became principal of the first
class in 1962.
A wonderfully mature tropical garden
Stepping stones meander purposefully
among the plantings, showing off a
profusion of tropical life - frangipanis,
mango, ginger, orchids, lilies, gardenias,
mango trees and others.
It’s the sort of botanical garden that
should have identifying placards, an
aim we plan to satisfy. It is a place to
linger, whether with a cup of coffee after
breakfast, or on a stroll after dinner.
In the midst of Villa Maly is our singular
pool, and an ample pool deck, perfect for
sunbathing or a late afternoon apertif.
“With the rooms at the Villa Maly, we’ve
tried to evoke the ambiance of a space
remembered by a great writer, by a
oh, this was where I stayed during my
time in Indochine…”Eric Verschelden,
designer of the Villa Maly
With king beds, wonderfully subdued
colors and ample natural light, the deluxe
rooms rank as the Villa’s most exquisite
as Plumeria but once the residence of
Princess Khampieng and Prince Khamtan
The furnishings in each of the rooms
was specially designed for Villa Maly and
bedsteads, wardrobes and tables each add
Each of the superior rooms at Villa Maly
can lay claim to its own distinct appeal,
featuring custom arrangements and
The rooms do share similarities in
hardwood floors, vibrant colors, slate-
walled bathrooms, flat screen televisions
Some superior rooms boast a king sized
bed; others offer a pair of beds. All promise
At Villa Maly, our menu dabbles in the
culinary traditions of the East and West,
with a scattering of French standards and
a little bit of Lao adventure.
While you may be lured for a dinner or
two beyond the confines of Villa Maly,
we do urge you to experience the set
menu at Le Vetiver one evening. This
is real Lao cuisine by an exceptional
Dining on the mighty Mekong is to
being in Luang Prabang what walking
over the Brooklyn Bridge is to being
in New York. Essential. To ensure you
don’t ‘miss the boat’, we’ve launched
the Nava Mekong, the foremost regular
dinner cruise opportunity in the royal
capital. The cruise embarks daily at
5:30 pm and motors downstream to
moor near a traditional village where
traditional Lao dancers perform age-
old sets that include interpretations
of the royal ballet, rural life, folk
tales and legends. The boat returns
at 9 pm.Widened at the beam to
accommodate 10 four-top tables, the
traditional Lao river boat also embarks
every morning at 10:30 am for a four-
hour lunch cruise. During this cruise,
the Nava stops at the Pak Ou Caves for
adventuring among the 4,000 sacred
Buddhist statues and images scattered
about the two limestone grottoes.
Villa May’s own culinary options are a
good base for exploration. The hotel’s
kitchen serves a mix of Western and
Eastern dishes, from Italian favorites,
local fish to green curry, fried glass
noodles prepared Lao style and
Chinese fried rice.
We do soups, salads and sandwiches
as well. Though our menu is not
extensive, what we do we do well.
Likewise, our wine list. It’s short but
vibrant, with excellent vintages from
Europe to Australia.
On a balmy Luang Prabang evening,
what could be better than a poolside
barbecue and hotpot in the midst of
At our Sindad, our servers will whet
your appetite as they parade tantalizing
cuts of well-marinated tenderloin,
ribs, pork, shrimp and fresh seafood
to your table.
We’ll fire up the grill and leave you to
we’ll leave a steaming hotpot to simmer its
delights. Our wine list complements both
the grill and the hotpot.
On the ground floor of Plumeria at Villa
A bar, yes. But it’s more than that. It’s an
out-of-the way watering hole for those who
After the French naturalist Mouhot
rediscovered Angkor, he traveled through
But rest assured, there is plenty of quinine
As we are a boutique hotel, so too we
offer a boutique spa experience. In
our two-table, poolside venue, our two
therapists practice time-honored spa
With Marelli fans, vibrant, tropical
colors and hardwood floors, our spa
trades on the same charming aesthetic
at large in our rooms.
We’re ideally suited for one guest at a
time but couples can be accommodated,
and the four-hand massage is an option.
We do recommend pre-booking.
Please contact us for more information:
c/o BP 78, Luang Prabang , LAO PDR
Tel: (856) 71 253 902 /903/904
Fax: (856) 71 254 912
In the heart of the Lao jungle, on the
banks of the Mekong, Kamu Lodge
strikes a delicate balance between
tourism and the maintenance of the
region’s cultural and ethnic heritage.
However swift-moving the flow beneath
our bluffs, the Lodge is an eddy in the
rushing currents of our age.
A place to slow down. Disengage. An
opportunity to live as deliberately as
Thoreau, if only for a day or two, fronting
the essential facts of the natural world.
Beyond the confines of a compound
stilted, thatched pavilions, Lao beckons.
Primitives paths lead to remote villages.
Upriver and down, the allure of Lao
looms large, whether you’re checking in
at the Pak Ou Caves, where pilgrims have
placed thousands of Buddhist statues or
by some timeless village that looks much
plied these waters in the 1860s.
Our full board package feature return
transfers from Luang Prabang to
Two of the world’s top-three hotels
like Kamu Lodge. Our 20 free-standing
lodges are hybrids actually. Thick-walled
thatch roof guards against rain and
sun. However rustic the look and feel,
Kamu’s mattresses guarantee a good
night’s sleep.In the spirit of sustainable
lodging, solar panels fixed to the roofs
gather just enough juice to keep your
fan turning all night and your interior
lit. Every lodge features a white-washed
stone annex, and the familiar trappings
of a traditional bath. Hot water flows
from Kamu’s shower heads. And there’s
ample space to maneuver about as you
make your daily ablutions.
On the apron of every lodge, a thatch-
covered veranda and its rustic easy
chairs encourage passive enjoyment of
a timeless view over the slow-moving
Mekong. Our full board package feature
return transfers from Luang Prabang to
Perched on a bluff above the Mekong,
dining at Kamu Lodge is a cultural
experience all its own. In this unique,
stilted pavilion, guests dine as local Kamu
villagers frequently do. In the open air.
of Lao.At dinner, feast on fish harvested
from the Mekong. On pork raised by local
farmers. On beef and buffalo and curry
flavored Kamu style. Most of the rice and
And the fruits you eat at dinner may be
the fruits you passed during your trek that
day.Likewise, lunch is a local affair. The
pork, beef and vegetable dishes vary with
the season, and availability. What doesn’t
the locals are eating.
At breakfast, we deliver comfort foods
familiar to Western travelers. The
American breakfast is long on eggs and
bacon. The French breakfast favors
baguettes and jam.Beyond dining, the
bar at Kamu Lodge is a thirst quenching
experience whether your beverage of
choice is locally distilled or imported
from abroad. Our well-stocked bar rarely
fails to satisfy.
Thirty kilometers upstream from
Luang Prabang, the Mekong channels
scenery that very well may be unrivalled
in the river’s 4,350-kilometer journey
to the sea.
In his book about a landmark journey
from the river’s source to its delta,
modern explorer Edward Gargan
describes this stretch of the Mekong
this way: “Here, wrapped on both sides
by jungle, sometimes dense, sometimes
scrubbed by slash-and-burn agriculture,
the wagon train of globalization had yet
Everybody loves the idea of low-impact
travel. But so few actually embrace its
tenets. At Kamu, we do. We’re all about a
low-impact footprint. We work on a small
scale. We’re intimately involved in the
economic developments of neighboring
villages. We’re educating our guests. And
doing what we can to empower the Kamu.
63 families make a living in traditional
Kamu fashion. They fish; they farm; they
harvest teak they’ve planted, after 15 or
without a visit to Ban Nyoy Har. This is
life as the Kamu live it.Such a visit is vital
and life-affirming. Walk about the village
on a Saturday morning when children
are everywhere at play, and everywhere
delighted by your visit. They’re learning
about you, and you’re learning about
them. We’re building bridges.
A million things always seem to be in the
works here. A villager braiding strips of
bamboo into a cylinder for rice. Another
scooping harvested peanuts from a tarp
to a bamboo basket. And yet another
shaping a door frame. And everywhere,
dogs and pups, pigs and piglets,
chickens and chicks.Between the lodge
and the village, our rice field takes in two
hectares. The villagers work this field.
Our efforts, and your visit, help support
this traditional way of life, stimulating
sustainable economic development.
Please contact us for more information:
44/3 Ban Wat Nong, Kham Kong Rd,
Luangprabang Lao P.D.R.
Tel & Fax: ( 856 71 ) 260 319
Mob: (856 30) 5 140 315
(856 20) 6 032 365