AN ARCHITECTURAL GEM IS RESTORED
Imagine growing up during the heyday of Indochina, born in Laos to the son of a French father and Vietnamese-Chinese mother. Your home is the most elegant hotel in the Laotian capital of Vientiane; known throughout Southeast Asia as an architectural gem. “The Settha Palace was the place to be in the 1930s and ‘40s,” says hotelier, Billy Theodas. “Our hotel was a magnet for both Laotian and European socialites who hobnobbed at glamorous parties hosted by my parents in the opulent cocktail lounge.”
Fast forward to 1975, Theodas and his parents are forced to flee the country as a communist takeover pushes them out, turning their beloved home into government housing. After attending boarding school in Hong Kong, he graduated from the prestigious EcoleHoteliere in Lausanne, Switzerland and relocated to Singapore where he built a successful hotel management company. On a journey back to his home country17 years after their departure, he and his mother are devastated by the deterioration of the Settha and vow to get the property back into the family. Although structural walls remain strong, a testament to the original design and construction, the interiors are battered. Overwhelmed with emotion, he makes a promise to restore the family’s legacy and makes a deal to buy back the hotel. With a vision to recreate the grandeur of a bygone era, Theodas begins a personal and professional journey to restore Settha Palace.
Following in the footsteps of many of Southeast Asia’s architectural treasures includingThe Peninsula Hong Kong, Bangkok Oriental and Raffles Singapore, the journey began by securing a long-term lease for US$150,000 – the price of relocating the 30 families living inside the hotel. Without luck, he searched through Paris for the hotel’s original blueprints, and turns instead to the interior designer credited with bringing Raffles back to life. Several years later, US$ 3.1 million and a little heartbreak thrown in for good measure, Theodas realizes his dream. With Laos gaining momentum in Southeast Asia’s booming visitor market, the Settha is once again considered Vientiane’s poshest hotel. Royal guests have included Prince Henrik of Denmark and Princess Zufuerstenberg who say the Settha ‘feels like home’.