The brainchild of young Frenchman Jean-Paul Duvergé, travelling to this eco-resort from Luang Prabang takes four hours by road across valleys, rice fields and mountains. Alternatively, you would be to fly Vientiane to Oudomxay airport, from which it is about an further hour’s drive by road.
However you get here, it is worth the trip to reach this small 10-room shangri-la in Northern Laos, set on the edge of the tiny Lao village of Tai Lu. Totally unexpected, but extremely welcome is how to best describe the Muang La Lodge, as nearby hub-town Oudomxay is not the most inspiring of places; often just a stopping point on long journeys in northern Laos.
The resort’s architecture is of modern design, but realised by local artisans using traditional skills. Spaced within a luxurious garden, three wooden villas house two extremely comfortable bedrooms each, with understated interiors of a differing colour scheme, lending itself an individual atmosphere of gentle comfort to each room. Laotian artworks created by local painters and sculptors adorn the rooms, which carry the names of local ethnic groups. The massage room, made of rice straw, bamboo and local wood is open on one side, so that you are always face to face with nature, during a traditional Laotian massage known as Bib Hayn Lao, an energetic mix of Thai and Chinese techniques.
Perhaps because Jean-Paul wants his resort to be ‘atypical’, the restaurant features a different menu each day and, once the menu has been reviewed, each meal is proposed in a unique environment – perhaps under the shade of a tree in the luxurious garden, or on a private island facing the resort, or in a little restaurant situated 200m from Muang La from where you return to your room by cart pulled by buffalos?