Sunday, May 27, 2012

One Royal Day - Pakse's Champasak Palace Hotel



Once upon a time, in a far away land of indomitable warriors, there lived a prince whose father succumbs to illness. Now who doesn't want a piece of this fantasy world? So when the opportunity presented itself, I booked for a room at a palace-turned-hotel in Pakse. Wouldn't you?


The Champasak Palace was a former residence of the Prince of Champasak, Chao Boun Oum, the son of King Ratsadanay from the latter's 4th wife, Princess Sudhisaramuni. Boun Oum ascended to the throne in 1946 upon the death of his father. But he eventually renounced his rights to give way to a united royalty system that made Sisavangvong the ruler of the unified kingdom. He became Prime Minister of Laos from 1948 to 1950 where, as a sympathetic patron of the French colonial rule, he commanded a force of 15,000 to fight the Japanese Troops and the Lao Issara uprising of South Laos. In 1960, he once again became PM for two years, then retired from politics thereafter. When the communist group Pathet Lao (a movement closely associated with the Vietnamese communists) came to power in 1975, Boun Oum had to abandon his post, flew to France for medical treatment and never came back. Sounds familiar? History is really a vicious cycle of seemingly preordained events, something that’s dressed differently where, in truth, is a familiar animal. With the monarchy abolished, what is left for any royal blood to linger?


Construction of the palace began in 1968 and went on until 1976 when the Prince of Champasak Chao Boun Oum had to abandon it 2 years short of its completion. The architectural style is French, more than Lao, although, as mentioned before, it reminded me of Louisiana and New Orleans of a grander scale.

In 1995, a Thai conglomerate succeeded their negotiations with the Lao government, effectively converting the palace into a hotel. Though the establishment has been fitted for consumerism (so much for the  tenets of communism, right?), much of its interiors and designs have been retained: the hand-painted art-deco tiles; the exquisite hand carvings found in windows, stairway posts and cornices – each one different from the next. 


The hotel boasts of 5 floors, 116 guest rooms, 6 different categories (according to the financial capability of the guest), glass elevator (the only one of its kind in the country) and a view of Pakse right in the heart of the southern capital. As a trivia, the establishment has 1,900 doors and windows, thus earning it the moniker of “Thousand Room Pavillion”.


Champasak Palace Hotel: grand wedding-cake layer design!





Though the hotel staff is mostly hospitable and accommodating, their number is limited. In fact, a hotel this big requires more personnel to run it competently. This is the reason why typical (i.e. “expected”) services found in other nearby hotels and guesthouses - like day tours, purchase of bus and plane tickets, transportations from and to the hotel, etc. - aren't offered here. One must arrange and secure his own transfer arrangement. The hotel won’t do it for you. If you require a tuktuk to take you around town, they will cordially offer a big grin then point you to the highway just outside the hotel where you could hail yourself transportation. Convenient, right?

The hotel is situated in the heart of the city. With its very central site, every tuktuks from terminals (from the VIP Bus Garage to the Southern Bus Terminal) know about this. And they cannot and should not charge exponentially considering its distance from the terminals. It should range between 20,000 to 40,000 kip from the terminal to the hotel. Moreover, the place is a wee more hectic because the hotel is located beside Route 13, the main highway that runs the north-south axis of Laos. There’s a beautiful, sprawling temple complex - Wat Tham Fai - to its south; the Sedone River and a scenic bridge (Sedone I Bridge) to its east; a backpacker’s row to the north; and the road towards Thailand to the west. Breakfast is a sumptuous buffet at the main restaurant beside the front desk at the hotel lobby. Dining tables are also available at the backyard garden.

LUXURIOUS DAYDREAMS


I got my room at the 2nd floor, room 203. It had a veranda and faced the lawn. More importantly, it had tastefully decorated interiors: from the curtains, fixtures of ceiling to floor, a huge bathroom with a curvaceous tub, etc. It was a beautiful place to stay! At night, I could sit at a corner and daydream of its bountiful, nay adventurous past; of gracious princesses and lavish ceremonies. It isn't such a bad deal to get a piece of fairy tale here.

The hotel is located 3 kilometers from Pakse Airport which has limited local services..

Call them at +856-31-212-263 or email them at  info@champasakpalacehotel.com. You can also visit their website at http://www.champasakpalacehotel.com/. More conveniently, Agoda offers discounts on certain months. A single standard room costs about 500,000 kip ($65 or P3,000) - and even cheaper if you a) book early, b) chance on a promo offer, c) book during an off-peak season. I would suggest Agoda, of course, for a no-frills booking. This includes buffet breakfast. Where else do you find palace living as cheap as this? Only in Laos.

For a gallery of the palace grounds: http://www.champasakpalacehotel.com/gallery.html

This is the Eye in the Sky!







Lotus flowers and Koi fishes inhabit this pond.
Hotel lobby surrounded by a pond and a garden







A fountain intermittently works at the facade of the palace-hotel grounds.


Front desk





Restaurant beside the front desk.

There are tables and chairs at the backyard of the hotel where you can spend  your meal at a garden with a pagoda and animal sculptures.

Warm morning sun bathes this east-facing veranda. 

My room at 203.







My veranda. Notice the door design and the unique lock system.

From my room, this hallway leads east to a glass lift.

At night, my beautiful veranda can get eerie.





The veranda facing the east which has a view of Sedone River.



A view of Sedone River

Sedone I Bridge. Just across the river is a quaint temple that people refer to as Wat Tsin, i.e. the chinese temple. Would I be able to see it up close?

The reclusive Wat Tsin from across Sedone River.

Wat Tsin

Statues of animals at the hotel's backyard



Restaurant tables at the backyard garden at night

A room at the 5th floor

Night view of the main highway, Route 13 at night.

Scale model of the palace now a hotel.




6 comments:

R.Ramakrishnan said...

Wow.What opulence and grandeur! Royals really lived well. Trust the hotel rolled out the red carpet for you and made you feel like a Prince.

eye in the sky said...

@ Ram:

They were alright, but they didn't really roll the carpet, so to speak. They were too undermanned for that. LOL

Ola said...

a very elegant place! I wouldn't mind spending there a nice morning on the veranda!

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shooting star said...

definitely a place i would love to relax :)

http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

eye in the sky said...

@ Ola:

I love the atmosphere of the place - plus the fact that it doesn't feel too touristy (not a bustle around the premises). :)

eye in the sky said...

@ shooting star:

I agree. It's the perfect place for that. It's a lovely place to chill. :)