Heaven in a bowl of noodle soup

Thailand June 15, 2016 06:44

By Chusri Ngamprasert
The Nation

7,594 Viewed

Gracious, elegant and friendly, Sofitel Luang Prabang is a showcase of the French art of hospitality

Originally built as a French Governor's residence in 1900s, Sofitel Luang Prabang is located in Ban Mano, a quiet residential quarter of Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
 A mere 20-minute drive from Luang Prabang International Airport and just 15 minutes on foot from the heritage Old Town, Sofitel Luang Prabang also offers easy access to the area’s silk weaving villages and waterfalls, which are less than 30 minutes away by car. 
Walking through the hotel’s main entrance, we arrive in a spacious and airy pavilion that doubles as the lobby lounge and looks out over beautifully tended garden.
The smiling hotel staff manning the reception desk greet us with the nop, a gesture similar to the Thai wai and a warm “sabaidee” before offering us a welcome drink and cold towel to freshen up.
Pookie, the hotel’s Guest Experience Manager, offers to walk my friend and I to our room. 
“The traditional Lao wooden house on the left is Le Spa. At our spa, we combine ancient Lao healing techniques with local organic products and the international advances in skin care so our guests can enjoy the best from the east and the west,” Pookie tell us.
Walking down the stairs, we enter the lush inner courtyard with swaying palms and colourful wildflowers recalling the Lao countryside. Seeing pink water lilies float on the pond and the mini rice paddy, I am glad that our room is at this end of the hotel so we can enjoy all the beautiful courtyard has to offer. The 25 clay-roofed suites and the azure pool add an even greater sense of elegance and sophistication to the hotel.
After thanking Pookie, we explore our twin-bed room. The bedroom is on the left side of the door. Facing the two beds is a flat screen TV with a small wall counter where welcome snack and drink are waiting for us. The compact sleeping area is compensated for by a spacious powder room, huge closet and generous bathroom with separate shower cabinet and bathtub with a connecting door to an |outdoor oversized bathtub in the garden. 
“The toilet is separate from the bathroom, but I don’t think I could use the restroom while you are having a shower because the bathroom door is clear glass,” says my friend with a laugh.
I spend less than 10 minutes in the shower because at this late hour, my mind can think of nothing but a soft bed. 
The plush featherbed with |a fluffy, downy duvet is surely an archenemy of an early morning call so I decide to have a late breakfast.
At the hotel’s tented restaurant, the Governor’s Grill, I tentatively place an order for vegetarian Khao Piak Sen even though it is not on the menu and am over the moon when the staff reassures me that the chef would be happy to prepare it for me. This is my fourth or fifth visit to Luang Prabang and I have as yet been unable to sample Laos’ famous rice noodle soup as the food stalls and restaurants inevitably cook the popular breakfast dish with chicken broth. 
The clear vegetable stock and the chewy fresh noodles are |served with crispy rice cake, fried garlic, chopped spring onion, chopped chilli and a slice of lime. Enjoying this simple comfort food served in an elegant presentation in a manicured botanical garden is one of the nicest ways to discover the warm hospitality of Laos and French “Art de Recevoir”.
The birds are chirping, the wind is whispering and the warm sunlight shines through the leaves. My usual hectic schedule |is a world away. Sipping my freshly brewed coffee and sinking into the comfortable chair, I hear myself saying, “A trip to the Old Town can wait”.
High point: Beautiful and peaceful hotel with helpful and friendly staff.
Low point: None 
Pay for it: Visit the hotel's website for the best deals.
Find it: Ban Mano, Luang Prabang 00600, Laos
Call it: (+85 6) 71 260 777