3 Nagas

Luang Prabang & North, Laos Book from US$130

Reviewed by Rosanna de Lisle
A deft fusion of Lao vernacular, French colonial and contemporary Eastern style make this most authentic hotel in Luang Prabang
A grand stone staircase sweeps up the façade of an elegant villa. In Europe, such a flight of steps would lead to a grand entrance. Here in Luang Prabang, it curls up to a sprawling veranda and spoiling bedrooms - a flight of French fancy added to a traditional timber-framed, clay-straw mix Laotian house.

Khamboua House was built in 1903 during the heyday of French colonial rule and is a charming confection of eastern and western architectural style. Painstakingly restored in 1995, along with its neighbour Lamache House (originally built for the royal court in 1898), it then became a chic, 15-room hotel. A third building became the restaurant, and all share the name 3 Nagas, nagas being mythical serpent spirits, not sinister unless wronged.

A magnificent garden rolls down to the Nam Khan river, and with mature mango and jackfruit trees providing shade, 3 Nagas brims with tropical nature. East and west meet on many levels: at daybreak, monks stream past collecting alms in their Tak Bet ritual; at nightfall, European guests chow down on terrific Lao-French fusion food.

Highs

  • Charming Unesco-heritage houses carefully restored and deftly converted to a stylish boutique hotel
  • Two highly rated restaurants serving French-influenced Laotian cuisine
  • An incredibly central location on the main street so you can walk everywhere
  • Friendly staff - but don’t expect the kind of intuitive service met elsewhere in Asia
  • If you have a first-floor room, you can watch the Tak Bet alms collection, without feeling like an intrusive tourist

Lows

  • The pretty pool in the garden is ornamental and not for swimming in, but you can use the pool and spa facilities at sister hotel Hotel de la Paix (a short walk away)
  • Both houses are on the main drag; although Luang Prabang is tiny and quiet for an Asian city, expect to hear some hustle and bustle
  • Some guests have complained of hearing others through the floorboards, and of smells from the restaurant
  • We've also had reports that some areas of the hotel look run down, especially the bathrooms
  • There are probably cheaper places in town to stay, but 3 Nagas has style, service and flair

Best time to go

November to mid February is the 'cool' season - dry and quite warm, making this a great time to come. Mid February to May is the hot season and in March and April, smoke from agricultural fires can be a nuisance. The rainy season is May to late October; hot, humid and wet, but Luang Prabang gets much less rain than Vientiane.

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 15
  • Restaurants + bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Executive

Rooms

There are 15 rooms and suites in all. The quietest and most secluded are on the garden side of Khamboua House, and not adjacent to the restaurant building. These rooms have private terraces or steeply roofed balconies overlooking the Nam Khan river.

We didn’t stay here - the hotel was fully booked during the 3 days we spent in Luang Prabang, even though it was September and still rainy season: a good sign. We had a good look round one of the Executive Suites, which has lots of space, its own corner of balcony with daybeds, vaulted wooden ceilings held up by teak posts, and a four-poster bed with white and gauzy drapes around the beds (pretty but didn’t look that mozzie-proof). The bathroom is spacious and well-designed, the only disappointment the fact that the shower is over the bath, not separate.

The Superior and Deluxe Rooms are similar, without the four-poster and in some cases with lower ceilings, but still spacious with a sitting area and terrace or balcony. Superiors are on the ground floor, while Deluxe Rooms are above them on the first and therefore provide an unobtrusive view of the alms giving ceremony. Junior Suites are almost identical to the Deluxe Rooms, but are larger - we're not convinced they're worth the extra.

The furniture is mostly rosewood and so the colour scheme is serene, sombre and simple: essentially deep, dark brown (the timber floors and furniture), and cream and white (the walls, fabrics and bedlinen), enlivened by one or two hand-woven, striped or zig-zagged Ikat silks. You get WiFi, bathrobes, hairdryers, air-con, fans, safes, phones - but no TVs, this is a place to switch off and unwind.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

The hotel has 2 restaurants. Les 3 Nagas Restaurant and Bar, in a handsome townhouse beside Khamboua House on the Nam Khan side of the street, serves highly rated authentic Laotian cuisine for lunch and dinner. Dishes include Pla Thod Khing, a fried fillet of makohng fish with ginger sauce, and Phanaeng Kai, shredded chicken, minced pork and buffalo meat cooked in a coconut milk curry. The restaurant is very popular so it’s recommended you book.

The other, Mango 3 Restaurant and Bar, occupies the veranda and front garden of the Lamache building and is more of an all-day café serving Asian and Western food. Expect pan-fried, stuffed chicken breast and crème brûlée.

Breakfast (included) is served in both restaurants from 6.30-10.30am, and consists of an a la carte menu featuring continental (usual fare, including pastries, fresh fruit, cereal and yoghurts) and American (such as pancakes) dishes.

If you want to eat out, there are numerous restaurants a short walk away. We enjoyed a meal at Café Ban Vat Sene, an airy, tastefully worn French restaurant with wooden tables, rattan chairs and a stripy awning that might have been lifted straight from the Ile de Ré.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wat Xieng Thong is the oldest and arguably finest wat in Luang Prabang. The roofs swoop, the columns are stencilled in gold, the back of the temple is glass mosaic and the gardens brim with bougainvillea, frangipani and hibiscus
  • Tak Bet: the daily dawn alms-giving ritual, when saffron-robed monks stream down the streets accepting alms from Laotian women, divides foreign opinion. Some have been appalled at the behaviour of other tourists, jamming their lenses in the monks’ faces, but you can enjoy Tak Bet respectfully by either standing back from the parade and not taking flash photographs, or by actually taking part. Ask your hotel or guide to provide you with a stool to sit on and a steamer of sticky rice (do not buy one from street vendors as their rice can be dodgy) or go to a shop and buy individually wrapped biscuits
  • Mount Phousi is the only hill in town: come up for sunset and meet every other tourist in town. Tacky - well, yes, a little, but the views of forest and the Mekong are great, and you can see the wood smoke settling above the tree-line at dusk, one of the loveliest sights we saw in Laos
  • Play pétanque by the banks of the river. Luang Prabangers seem to love this game and there are pitches all over the place
  • Check out the markets: Phousi market, away from the old town, is where locals do their shopping. The night market, selling handicrafts from cotton appliqué duvet covers to silk shawls, sprawls through the side streets around the Royal Palace and its pretty lights make it a lovely evening stroll
  • Take a boat 25km up the Mekong to the Pak Ou Caves. You’ll find Buddha statues jostling for space and the cruise up the river is spectacular
  • Arrange a cooking class with Les 3 Nagas's chef and learn how to make traditional Laotian food
  • Drive or cycle up to Kuang Si waterfalls and check out the impressive 150m drop that tumbles from the sky over four ledges (at its best in November-January, after the rains); there are swimming holes downstream, but remember that Laotians bathe fully clothed. The journey south through the countryside is equally enjoyable
  • Hire one of 3 Nagas' vintage cars and take it for a spin through the surrounding countryside. Choose from a 1957 Mercedes-Benz or a 1953 Citroen (book well in advance)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking

Kids

Families are welcome although they're not that common at the hotel, as Luang Prabang is quite a grown-up city. Children stay free of charge up to 12 years old when sharing parents' bed; an extra bed or baby cot costs extra.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can fit an extra bed or a baby cot, but we'd recommend the Executive Suites as these are by far the largest, and benefit from both a living and dining area.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The chef is happy to tailor meals to little ones.

Kid Friendly:

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