In hotel circles, the million-dollar question of just what Adrian Zecha would do next has finally been answered. With no fanfare much less advance publicity, the legendary hotelier and founder of the Aman resorts has quietly opened Azerai, a 53-room hotel in Luang Prabang’s historic town centre. (The name is a portmanteau of Zecha’s initials and caravanserai, a traditional inn and pit-stop for ancient Persian caravan travellers.)
The Thailand-based architect Pascal Trahan has converted a bungalow built for the French military brass in 1914 – next to the local night market and royal palace, and which later became the Phousi Hotel – into a cosy pleasure dome, its roofline, wraparound balconies, and façade quietly merging into the surrounding streetscape of colonial architecture.
Inside, Trahan doesn’t stray from the Laotian aesthetic as he swathes public spaces and rooms in hand-stitched and waxed batik, cement tiles, and local timber.
Like the Aman properties with which he revolutionised the idea of a modern resort, Zecha insisted that at Azerai, the contemporary touches be quietly delivered. And so, the 25m pool stretches out in the shade of an ancient Banyan tree. Post-prandial cocktails are sipped on the edge of a fire pit. And in the dining pavilion, chef Ben Faker blends bistro fare with Laotian dishes served family style.