Surrounded by mountain peaks and frozen in time – thanks to its UNESCO world-heritage status – the northern Laos city of Luang Prabang has a main street full of traditional wooden homes and Buddhist temples where, each morning at sunrise, a procession of saffron-robed monks undertake the day's alms-giving ceremony. Inside the protected shopfronts you will find beautiful boutique stays, modern handicrafts (try Ock Pop Tock) or welcoming bars (try Maolin Tavern). The new Pullman Luang Prabang is out in Ban Pong Wanh, away from what little hustle and bustle exists in the city.
The verdant, tiered rice paddies ubiquitous in rural Laos form your backyard at the Pullman Luang Prabang, where the semi-detached villas – which echo local wooden homes – are spread throughout working paddies, complete with scarecrows, and the rice harvest is donated to locals who need it. In the centre of the property are three pools, designed to mimic the surrounding tiers of rice, and the H20 bar. The airy lobby space – with geometric wooden artworks and screens – features The Junction, a coffee-to-cocktails hangout space with outdoor seating and a separate building over a koi pond with eating space L'Atelier contained within.
The premium-deluxe ground floor room is palatial without being showy – wooden ceiling fans, a geometric wall mosaic and vaulted ceiling in the local tradition make for a homey space. Meanwhile, there are clever design features, such as a discreet workspace behind the bed's headboard. These are big rooms, at 67 square metres, with an additional spacious balcony overlooking the rice fields. At one-third of the room, the bathroom is big enough to hide a water buffalo, with a double sink, shower with bench seat, stand-alone bath and products from New York's Bigelow Apothecaries. Tech stretches to a Bose sound system and free Wi-Fi.
L'Atelier is a mix of international fare and Laotian food. A local feast might feature a minced buffalo salad, caramelised pork belly with galangal and star anise, or local tilapia fillets steamed in a banana leaf. French-born executive chef Marc Comparot also does perfect pastries in the morning as well as the full buffet with an egg station. Afterwards, grab a cafe-quality coffee by the lily pond. You can also try the novel "Eat Like an Elephant", a vegetarian menu based on the elephant's diet that helps support the Elephant Conservation Centre in Laos.
Those keen to explore the regional side of Luang Prabang might take a trip to the Kuang Si falls (literally "deer digging" falls, due to a myth surrounding how the falls were made). Bathing in the opal-blue pools is popular and the falls are also home to the Free the Bears charity. Free the Bears helps emancipate Lao sun and moon bears from the cruelty of bear bile farms and unsavoury tourist attractions, and gives them a new home at the base of the falls. Buy a T-shirt to help. Another great initiative is the Lao Buffalo Dairy. Set up by Australian Susie Martin, the dairy borrows cows from surrounding farmers for the milk, while giving them much-needed veterinary attention and care, before returning them to their owners in much better health. The Persian fetta and lemongrass ice-cream are also amazing.
A getaway from a bucolic city that is a getaway in itself, the Pullman Luang Prabang is pastoral tranquillity with opulent amenity where you can sample the local flavours without leaving the premises or explore the rural attractions with ease.
Premium Deluxe room from $158 off-season; Ban Pong Wanh, Luang Prabang. See accorhotels.com
Listening to the kids from the orphanage next door having a morning singalong as you stroll through the rice paddies to breakfast.
If you are not in such a leisurely mood, some rooms on this 16-hectare resort are quite the walk from reception, but buggies are on hand to help.
Paul Chai was a guest of Accor Hotels and Scoot.