The start of something wonderful
After more than two decades at the helm of Aman Resorts – still the absolute last word in luxury resorts – founder Adrian Zecha has started a new chapter at the sprightly age of 84. Decades at the pinnacle of hospitality can leave a little impression of pride. So Zecha’s new brand Azerai combines his initials – AZ – with the Persian word for a resting place with a courtyard for travellers, caravanserai.
That Persian description sums up the appeal the debut Azerai, in Luang Prabang. Reportedly one of Zecha’s favourite destinations, Azerai Luang Prabang is a perhaps little less grandiose and a little more affordable than an Aman, but has lost nothing of the associated lustre. In a building that was formerly the Phousi Hotel servicing French colonial officers, Zecha and Luang Prabang-based architect Pascal Trahan have created a, well, caravanserai that is simple, refined and, importantly, discreet.
A courtyard pool and the 120-year-old banyan tree next to it serve as the central anchor to the Azerai. Flowing around that are the buildings, retaining vestiges of their colonial past under new facades of wood and refurbished roofs with their distinctive Lao finials. Behind these walls are 53 rooms, all clean and crisp. All are open plan, with louvred doors either offering privacy or access to inviting poolside deckchairs. Rooms on the first floor trade shade for glorious views of the valley created by the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. A retreat, fitness centre, reading lounge, the atmospheric Azerai Bistro and cordial Bistro Bar, complete the list of amenities.