If you’re planned out and partied out post-nuptials, there’s a gorgeously serene place in Southeast Asia where you can simply chill, soaking up exotic architecture and temples, not to mention rays; indulging in delicious food; learning the peaceful ways of the monks; and maybe chasing a waterfall or two. That idyll is Luang Prabang, Laos, a place many world travelers call their favorite destination in the east.
The pace is slow, unhurried, and entirely stress-free. That’s true from the very beginning of your trip, if you travel with Abercrombie & Kent’s bespoke Tailor Made program. They actually have someone to go through immigration and collect luggage for you, meaning you’re instantly whisked away to the hotel without any standing in lines or waiting around. (The same goes for other dreamy destinations they work in.)
Although the entire town of Luang Prabang is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning buildings can’t be torn down and rebuilt in modern style, and there will never be a chain there, there is an intimate new hotel as of this year that creatively got past the strict rules. Rosewood Luang Prabang, designed by the celebrated architect Bill Bensley, was built around jungle waterfalls in the same French Colonial style as its surrounds, and even boasts tents on stilts in the valley, which are without question the most incredible place to honeymoon. You even get to walk on bouncy wooden bridges to reach them, each named for and themed around a particular Laotian indigenous tribe and filled with artifacts and plush bedding and accoutrement, plus large decks perfect for cuddling with your honey and stargazing. Don’t miss the opportunity to have a couples’ massage in one of the spa tents, with windows in the floor under your faces so you can watch the trickling stream glide past. For those days you wish to do something, programming includes guided walks or hikes to monasteries and temples amid local villages.
Abercrombie & Kent’s knowledgeable local guides are valuable for at least a full-day outing—after a couple spent relaxing by an aquamarine pool, of course. It would be a shame to spend time in Luang Prabang without oohing and aahing over the countless golden Buddhas inside a handful of worth-it temples, architecturally unique from virtually every other Southeast Asian country’s. Vibrant glass mosaics, fanciful layered roofs and seriously gilded ornamentation make the hallowed structures—and the Royal Palace—true gems, especially for photography fans. The guide also comes in handy at The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in town, where artifacts and costumes from indigenous tribes are on display, and the stories to be told are fascinating, and the Buddhist Archive of Photography, a space dedicated to the Zen monastic life.
Another way to discover the day-to-day of monks—who populate dozens of temples in the town—is with a blissed-out stay at Amantaka, where staff make it easy to rise early in the morning to give alms to the orange-robe-clad holy men. Each morning they make their way down the main street in front of the low-profile Colonial-styled resort to collect handfuls of sticky rice from lines of locals and tourists alike. It’s a ritual that everyone should experience here, along with—if you don’t mind early mornings—a climb up to Mount Phousi temple for sunrise over Luang Prabang.
Amantaka is also the place to indulge in pampering, from the spiritual kind in the form of a traditional Baci ceremony with local elders (it’s a beautiful way to be blessed with good luck at the start of your marriage) to the physical, like with a deep massage using locally sourced clay and salt, or a gloriously transformative nourishing facial that includes not only the luxury hotel company’s amazing new skin-care line but aromatherapy, shirodhara, poultice massage, and hot jade stones.
From there it’s an easy walk to charming restaurants such as Tangor and Cafe Toui (the food in Laos is like the best of all yummy Southeast Asian flavors, with plenty of sticky rice, pork and fish), as well as the night market, where it’s hard to deny the itch to bargain for paper umbrellas, indigo-dyed accessories and other locally made crafts. (If the latter is an interest, also check out Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre.) Enjoy a drink while watching the sunset at The Belle Rive, right on the river, or for an expertly made after-dinner libation head to the intimate Icon Klub.
Although landlocked, Laos has plenty of opportunities to get wet—and not just in the vast pools of its five-star properties. A&K guides take adventurers past a black bear rescue center to Kuang Si waterfalls, a series of otherworldly aquamarine falls increasing in size until you reach the top massive attraction. Dreamy photo ops are definitely encouraged. There are also cruises down the Mekong River, like in Amantaka’s long boat. The most idyllic is in the morning before the mist has evaporated over the distant mountains, en route to yoga and meditation at the lush botanical gardens, or as the sun is setting, with cocktails and canapes. It’s undeniable: The setting is pure magic.