“Huge, uber-comfortable rooms in a villa-style hotel, perched on a riverbank overlooking Luang Prabang”
This second project by Ivan Scholte (the first, sophisticated The Apsara is across the river), is a more refined undertaking, and is filled with Ivan’s favourite pieces from his travels: glass Buddhas, glowing Vietnamese lanterns, and designer wallpaper from Sussex. The 9 bedrooms are airy, vastly comfortable affairs with French doors leading to terraces overlooking the pool. This long sliver of emerald water is sublime and quite the envy of the neighbours on the peninsula, where Heritage laws prohibit pools.
Don’t get too horizontal, however, as Luang Prabang, a Unesco-listed city, offers a huge amount; we loved its flower-filled streets with ornate temples at every turn. It’s unbelievably picturesque, with traditional Lao businesses sitting harmoniously alongside upmarket restaurants, and Buddhist culture pervading the spas, boutiques and galleries. And this is the perfect base to dip in and out of it all.
- The hotel feels secluded and intimate, due to its small size and personal service
- Blissfully away from the madding crowds, yet just minutes from Luang Prabang by private boat
- Romantic, spacious rooms with large balconies, outdoor daybeds and tubs-for-two in the bathrooms
- Fantastic food, especially the Laos set dinner
- Rising at dawn to watch the procession of monks receiving alms from kneeling locals (touristy but we enjoyed it) - then whizzing back on the boat for breakfast
- Some might find being out-of-town inconvenient, especially if you don't like boats and therefore need to get across the river by road (approx 15 mins)
- Steep, uneven steps up to the hotel are not suitable for the unfit
- Noise from the road and village behind the hotel is sometimes audible in the rooms
- The restaurant and bar close at 10pm, so those after a late drink will have to go into town (note that there's an 11.30pm curfew)
- As with many hotels in Luang Prabang, prices may appear a little high for Laos. But we felt it was worth the money
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant + bar (open daily)
- Over 12s only
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Bicycles Available
The Apsara Rive Droite has 9 rooms, all beautifully decorated in very good taste. All room are identical save that the Garden View Deluxes are on the ground floor and the River View Deluxes are on the first: upstairs rooms have a lovely view of verdant mountains and a more private terrace, although easy access to the pool and a garden view is a draw for the downstairs rooms. They are all extremely large, with shuttered French windows leading to private terraces, and dark wooden floorboards. Simple Asian motifs and framed black and white photographs depicting rural Lao life in the 1950s adorn the walls.
Each room has an alcove housing a sumptuous kingsize bed, with a fashionable Jim Thompson silk print hanging above it. Elegant lanterns made from Chinese fabric give subtle evening lighting, and a tropical fruit bowl greets you on arrival.
Spacious bathrooms have a walk-in rain shower, a bathtub for 2, and a double vanity area, all tiled in slate grey. Signature toiletries and handmade soaps are placed in traditional glazed plates.
The overall effect is one of elegance and style, with every comfort and practicality thought of, and a couple of unexpected luxuries such as iPod docks. All rooms have an outdoor daybed, and some have indoor daybeds too, which can be made up as a single bed. Terraces also have a wicker table and 2 chairs, perfect for an aperitif.
- Air conditioning
- Extra beds
- Ipod dock
- Safe box
The restaurant is a small, open-sided affair with bleached white wicker furniture spilling out onto an outdoor terrace. The bar, inside, has a few stools dotted around and offers a great selection of cocktails and aperitifs such as Pastis or Kir.
All meals can be eaten here, with breakfast served until noon for late risers. This (included in the room rate) has a French twist, and the hotel uses a patisserie in Luang Prabang for breads and viennoiserie. We demolished our toasted baguettes and flaky buttery croissants, the best we’ve tasted for some time, but luckily still had room for a seasonal fruit plate with tasty papaya, mango and banana. The petit dejeuner also includes a hot choice, such as eggs, pancakes or a spicy Laos omelette, all washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice and a jug of strong coffee.
If you're around at lunchtime, the a la carte menu offers some lighter fare. Baguettes are a good choice, but we'd recommend one of the tasty and wholesome salads, either Asian-style roasted aubergine, or beef and lemongrass salad. Laos staples such as fried noodles or rice are available, too.
If you’re planning a night in, the restaurant is a lovely spot for an evening drink and meal. We started off with the house cocktail, a mint and lychee martini, then had the traditional Laos set dinner, which you need to order in the morning. This was a great showcase of Laos food, including some unusual choices you might not think of ordering, such as fried river weed, which was delicious! The main course had 4 dishes, and we loved the Laab Gai, a spicy minced chicken salad, and the Mekong Fish, steamed in banana leaves and perfectly seasoned with dill.
For an evening out, Luang Prabang has a wealth of options for drinks and food, and a great buzz in the evening with shops and markets staying open late for after-dinner browsing. We liked Utopia and Lao Lao Garden for pre-dinner BeerLao’s, and enjoyed food in L’Elephant and the 3 Nagas restaurant (Les 3 Nagas).
- Organic produce
- Restaurants nearby
- Room service
- Vegetarian menu
- Take the boat over the river to Luang Prabang, or borrow a bike and cycle round. Top of the temple list is golden Wat Xieng Thong; don’t miss the Royal Families’ funeral urns or the ornate tree of life adorning the inner sanctuary
- Bargain for beautifully embroidered purses and slippers, silk sarongs and Buddhist artwork in the night market on Sisavangvong street, one of the most attractive markets in south east Asia
- Take in some history at the Royal Palace Museum, which including fascinating exhibits on the 27 ethnic tribes in Laos
- Rise at dawn to watch the Buddhist monks’ procession along Sisavangvong Street, or wait on a quieter side street to avoid the tourists and observe the locals giving alms
- Ask reception to arrange a boat-trip up the Mekong to the Tat Kuang waterfall; bring a swimming costume and bathe in its crystal-clear pools
- Trek north of Luang Prabang to see how local people live, visit waterfalls and kayak home along the Mekong river
- Learn how to be a Mahout on a 2-day elephant trek, staying overnight with the Hmong tribe in the hills. Book with ‘Tiger Trail’ for a company renowned for fair treatment of animals and respect for ethnicity (ask at reception)
- Take a tuk-tuk to the Pak Ou caves, 25km from the hotel, and admire the hundreds of Buddha statues inside
- Pamper yourself at a spa in town - we loved Hibiscus for its soothing atmosphere and restorative oil massage. Or just ask at reception for an in-room massage
- Order a BeerLao and recover from all that activity on a lounger around the peaceful pool
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being