Muang La

 

Muang La Resort is one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in. Conceived by a French hotelier who married a native Lao woman, it took 25 sit-down meetings for him to negotiate the land lease with the local owner.

You really do want to stay here. It is not cheap, but you get value for money. I particularly commend the personal service that management offers - the hands on manager will chat to you several times a day to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and offers advice on what to do. We stayed 3 nights, arriving late one day, taking a trek to a local Khamu village organised by the hotel the second day, and the 3rd day walking around locally and also enjoying the hotel facilities.

Around the hotel, there are a number of walks - there is a local temple which is interesting, though we were unable to find the monks' early morning alms walk. Also a salt extraction facility, run by the monks on the river bank - very basic but interesting.

The hotel has an infinity swimming pool on a private island accessed by a private bridge. There is a masseur available virtually on demand. And the multi - course evening meal is gourmet quality. Charcoal braziers are put by each table to keep you warm.Also thick jackets are provided in the rooms

My only problem was that on day 2, we had our noses put out by a large French group arriving and taking 8 of the 10 hotel rooms. Hence as a couple, we were marginalised, and could not even get to sit round the fire before dinner due to the sharp elbows of the French. I told the manager that I would not have booked here if I had known about groups visiting. To be fair, he swiftly solved the problem by offering us a private dinner on the island one night and in the library the other. I still think the hotel needs to review its policy on groups.

I really enjoyed my time here, and 3 days is probably the minimum you need to get the best out of the hotel

 

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For the trek the hotel Jeep takes you part way into the hills and then you walk, with a local guide, for a couple of hours along a dirt track to get to the remote village. There you have an excellent packed lunch prepared by the hotel. You can either call the Jeep to take you back to the hotel as we did , or walk to your start point to get it.

The jeep gives you views across the River Nam Pak, terraced rice fields and the small villages along the banks of the river. After some time in the 4*4, you start your trek along a mountain trail which follows a mountain stream meandering through the lush vegetation.  After around 1½ hours, you arrive at the village. Many of the women were drying and preparing for sale Pampas Grass which is a major cash crop here

 

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A walk to the other side of the river to see the monks carrying out the labour intensive business of salt extraction from the ground. A very obliging monk explained to us in Lao how they did it!

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PhaChiaoSingKham Temple in the village of Muang La has one of the most sacred statues of Buddha in Laos, so attracts Lao people wanting help from Buddha. According to local legend, it was found in the river in the 14th century. The two nearest villages fought over the statue, until finally they placed him in a bamboo raft to see which direction he floated in. Local people have taken great pains to protect the Buddha ever since, even placing him in a cave during the Vietnam War.

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