With a week of laid-back exploration on the cards, Modern Traveller found the perfect place to relax in Laos’ northern paradise beside the Mekong.
WORDS & PICTURES BY CHRIS ROWLANDS
A free airport shuttle might seem a small gesture in a place where the 5-minute tuktuk ride from terminal to hotel costs just a couple of dollars. Indeed, one could well walk the 3km route from airport exit to hotel lobby – were it not for the 40-degree heat.
All the same, My Dream Resort’s offer of complementary collection is very much a statement of intent. No task is too small, no effort too futile: if there’s some way in which the staff at this stilted sanctuary can supplement your stay – if even with a simple smile – then it’s as good as done.
From the moment Modern Traveller touched down at Luang Prabang airport to the day it left through the low clouds, much of what made MT’s memories of this small Lao city so special was courtesy of the staff at My Dream.
OK, so the setting itself is something close to incredible. From the shaded streets of low-built shops to the magnificent wats atop mountains and hills, this UNESCO World Heritage Site might not be immune from the familiar trappings of tourism (“tourist street” is a big clue), but it’s one of the most captivating honeypots you can visit.
How can a hotel augment such an astounding area? Like a cherry to a perfectly glazed bun, My Dream’s brand of jungle-like luxury is the consummate compliment to Luang Prabang’s lush locale.
Nestled amongst the fronds and trunks of dense trees and shrubs, entering My Dream from the road – through a Wonderland-like tunnel of plants – is like stepping into a surreal idyll that seems to tumble with nature towards the river at the foot of its green carpet.
Greeted by the largest of its two-storey thatched huts – beneath which sits the suitably calm restaurant and reception area – one can’t help but feel lulled by the serenity of this blissful boutique hotel.
As fellow guests quietly enjoy their honey-drizzled mango welcome nibble whilst looking out over the pool below, bags are carried, with a minimum of fuss, to neatly prepared rooms where delightfully inviting gauze-draped beds await.
It’s about as close to perfect as you can imagine, deftly blending unerring friendliness, stunning surroundings and cosy deluxe, in a package befitting far-flung honeymooners and cash-spare flashpackers alike.
Whether it’s the wonderfully fresh “orange jam” at breakfast or the riverside huts at the bottom of the garden, reminiscent of secret shelters where beach kisses are shared and sunset moments are made, My Dream really delivers on the details.
Sure, the towels might be a little threadbare, but when your room – complete with private balcony – is well-equipped, clean and lighter than foamed soya milk (with subtly stylish decor to boot) it’s tough to complain.
Tread the wonderful wooden boards along the avenue outside, descend the stairs towards the river and you’ll chance upon an oh-so-refreshing pool, served by bell-called attendants. It’s smaller than some would like, but, when even the thermometer is sweating, there’s little to moan about.
More of an up-and-at-it kind of guest? Free bicycle rentals set you up for an eco-friendly foray into town (this is one of just a few Southeast Asian cities were the roads are quiet enough for alert travellers to chance two-wheeled transport). There’s no gym, sure, but day-long treks to nearby waterfalls, villages and vistas also make for very viable alternatives.
The real reason to revel in My Dream’s magical surroundings, though, is not the facilities or the environmental frame, but the staff: from morning conversations with the manager to late night laughs with bar staff and receptionists, there’s a genuine wish to please – without the unnerving attentiveness which can come with five star settings.
Some might say it should be so: what is it that you pay for, if not sublime service? But there’s service, and then there’s organically smooth and genuinely warm service. My Dream is definitely of the latter school.
Sipping freshly squeezed juice on the balcony, as thunder rolls over hills not so far away – announcing the arrival of a storm later to batter the resort, yet do no damage, testament to the strength of those bamboo buildings – it’s impossible not to be overcome by the meditative ambience.
Calm is the order of the day, and boy does My Dream do calm well. It’s not devil may care, and there are no “Drink triple, see double, act single” tops to be seen; that said, happy hour will see you sipping a fair few delicious drinks ahead of a twilight toddle over the nearby bamboo bridge for dinner on the strip.
My Dream is not a hazy place of dreams rolled and smoked; it’s a secluded paradise of ethereal escape, where the wonderful world just across the river is occasionally invited in, but only once it’s taken off its shoes.