Somewhere between South America and South East Asia, Eaman and I went from backpackers to flashpackers, which, if you’re not familiar with the term, refers to backpackers who travel with a slightly higher level of comfort.
And with that comes nicer accommodation — partly because we had some hostel-fatigue and partly because for almost the same price per person we paid in South America (anywhere from $5-15 each), we get our own — clean, often spacious — room with a quality breakfast.
Laos, in particular, had some amazing hotels and guesthouses (and staff) that became just as much a part of the traveling experience as treks and tours.
Our first day in Laos saw us in Pakse’sChampasak Palace Hotel, which used to be a prince’s playground. Being pretty much the only guests there at the time, it felt like our ownpalace. Yes, it was a splurge — $35/night — but it was also our first night’s sleep after our momentous Vietnam-to-Laos bus ride, so we just wanted some peace and quiet…and comfort.
So much to love: The detail in the decor of the Shining-esque hallways were gorgeous, two lotus ponds lined the grand entrance and sunsets from our fifth floor were a killer neon orange. Plus, the breakfasts were big enough to hold me over until dinner: baguette, eggs, coffee, juice, water and dragonfruit! My bank account is looking meager, but I definitely don’t regret splashing out on this one.
I’ve already sung our praises for Anouxa Guesthouse, the place we called home for a few days in Champasak. But I’ll say it again, the family was so friendly, the room was clean and the setting by the riverside made it all about relaxtion here. We loved it so much that we skipped Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands in the Mekong Delta) and stayed here longer instead. Wise choice.
We’ve generally booked accommodation in advance because where we lay our heads at night has become a bigger priority in hot, sweaty and at times exhausting Asia. But sometimes not booking ahead paid off, like when we found Auberge Sala Inpeng, an oasis in the capital of Vientiene, which to be fair, isn’t all that busy anyway. But we did want to be off the main stretch, and not only were we off it, we were basically staying in a botanical garden. Pair the beautiful surrounds with a semi-private patio and a luxurious breakfast served right on said patio as soon as we woke up, and this turned out to be the ultimate treat for a couple of (former) backpackers.
But the real jackpot was stumbling onto the gorgeous property known as Maison Dalabua in Luang Prabang. We were staying at a nice, but pretty ordinary guesthouse around the corner for part of our stay, and during one of our walks, we noticed a giant lotus pond. We walked into what turned out to be the Dalabua premises and the marketing director showed us around and we were hooked. She explained to us that the owner found the lotus pond and decided to keep it but build a hotel around its entirety. It was one of the most picturesque hotels we had ever seen, so we booked a mid-range room for our final two days in Laos. And because it was low season, we got a crazy good rate — and were ultimately upgraded to the best room. Luxury, luxury, luxury.
But in the end, it was — as was the case in the rest of Laos — all about the people we met, from the aforementioned marketing director, an inspiring French woman named Marion, who herself spent about 17 months backpacking with her partner some years ago, to getting the chance to fish for one of the staffers, a sweet Lao woman who fishes from the lotus pond each night. Definitely a fitting ending for our stay in what has become our favorite country.