Villa Maly revels in Explorer Henri Mouhot’s Laos
21 July 2010 — One-hundred-fifty years after Henri Mouhot embedded Angkor in the West’s imagination, and then perished on an expedition outside Luang Prabang, an historic hotel in the old royal capital is resurrecting the legacy of the French naturalist and explorer as the centerpiece of a new Explorer’s Package.
The novel package, the first in a series to be rolled out by the Apple Tree Group, invites guests to peel back superficial layers and delve deeper into the region with a trip that is part literary, part adventure and part posh.
“If you’ve come all the way to Luang Prabang, and you’ve not encountered the peripatetic Monsieur Mouhot, we, as hosts, haven’t really done our jobs,” said Eric Merlin, CEO of the Ho Chi Minh City-based Apple Tree Group. “Our properties, in Luang Prabang, in Halong Bay and in Hue, revel in opportunities for discovery, no matter what they say about the absence of terra incognita.”
Beginning at US $467, the ‘Mapping Monsieur Mouhot’ package combines a two-night stay at the Villa Maly with a trek to Mouhot’s jungle grave, a trip to a pristine waterfall he may have encountered on his journeys, a copy of his journals and a nightly drink in a Villa Maly bar named for the naturalist. The package also includes ground transfers.
The Laos Mouhot describes echoes over the past 150 years, as when the explorer writes about the “slow manner” of Laotian speech, or in the “excess of grandeur” outside Luang Prabang.
“Mouhot writes wonderfully about this area, so much so that to leave Luang Prabang, a place he described as a ‘delightful little town’ when he first visited in 1861, without researching a bit about Mouhot is to miss something grand,” said Marie-Helene Machevin, general manager of the Villa Maly.
A guide from Villa Maly will usher guests of Mapping Monsieur Mouhot up the Nam Khan River to Mouhot’s otherwise forlorn grave. They’ll travel to the Tad See Waterfall, a cataract that looks today as it would have looked to Mouhot 150 years ago.
And at the end of the day, there’ll be opportunity to ruminate over Mouhot’s legacy while ensconced in Mouhot’s, a bar located in Villa Maly’s historic old villa.
Mouhot’s journals cut no corners as he journeys through Laos, whether he’s finishing off a rhinoceros, or describing the physical attributes or speech of its inhabitants or commenting on the endless chants of the Laotian priests: “Assuredly they ought to go direct to Paradise,” Mouhot writes.
As a parting gift , Villa Maly will dispatch guests from Luang Prabang with a copy of Maly’s journals, much in the same way that one of Mouhot’s travel attendants carried his journals back to Bangkok after his death in 1861.