My third trip to Luang Prabang and as during the first two trips, finding a Hotel was challenging. There are plenty of Hotels! Actually too many! From walking around town this trip, I had the feeling that every secular building was either a hotel or a restraurant. But finally I decided to stay at the Apsara Hotel by the Nam Khan river which promised a quiet stay off the main tourist road AND it obviously had a nice restaurant with great reviews! Last time I had stayed at a different Hotel at the start of the night market and it turned out too noisy (open stairways and banging doors) and too busy with all the night market tourists outside my balcony. Shortly before my trip I got notified that the Apsara was planning to „close our restaurant for the renovation which will complete transform our restaurant to a state of modern, elegance and luxury“. Here went one of my reasons to book the Apsara, since I wanted to be close to a good restaurant during the rainy season. However, management offered me three choices for breakfast, which was either in my room, at their terrace, or sending me across the river to their sister hotel Apsara Rive Droite. I choose the latter option, which was great. A little boat ride in the morning and a really nice place for breakfast. Both the breakfast in the room and at the terrace would not have been good options, for not enough space in the room and a terrace which is next to the street level with everyone walking by.
Once I arrived I learned that the Apsara which I had followed in Facebook actually consisted of three parts. Two parts of the Hotel were located on the westside of the River, with a non-related restaurant in the middle between the two buildings. The nicer photos of rooms, pool and green lush garden was actually the sister hotel Apsara Rive Droite on the other side of the river. I had not realized that since the photos were mostly mixed on Facebook and the name in Facebook did not make an obvious difference.
Anyway, the room was in the quieter part of the two buildings, away from the main building with the restaurant. The construction noise though was still very dominant during the day and in the heat of the day when I was planning to spend some time in the room it was actually quite loud. The room was big enough with a rustic interior, wooden floor and furniture which gave it a bit of a natural „hut-like“ feeling. Nice though. The balcony was connected with the other two rooms on my level and a door to the stairway, so not really private. I was lucky that I had almost no neighbors during the rainy season, so I could used the balcony chairs in privacy. WiFi in the room worked at some points, like standing close to the door. At the desk I had almost no signal. The bathroom was held in an open design, so no real privacy between the toilet and the shower. Shampoo and shower gel came out of dispencers. After the luxury of my stay at the Salana Hotel in Vientiane it was a bit less than what I had expected (also in comparison to the hotel of my last trip here). Same goes for the service staff. They were helpful when you asked them for something but they would normally not greet you first. They would also just stand there and look at you if you did not say anything to them first.
The noise level of the room was much higher than I thought. Though this is the quieter street, there is still plenty of motorcycles racing down the street. Young Lao guys with their high powered machines! The Hotel is a historic building, so the glass in the windows is not sound proof. And further more there is huge cracks between the wall and the window frame, which lets every bit of noise from outside come in. So you hear a variety of noises from the restaurant next door, motorcycles and early in the morning minibus after minibus pulls up to spit out their tourists for the morning alms round of the monks.
The boat trip over to the sister hotel Apsara Rive Droite had to be arranged every morning but worked flawlessly. The breakfast at that location, I heard from staff, was of a higher standard than what I would have gotten at my location. It was all freshly made. Service was really friendly and it was all very clean and comfortable. If I had a choice again, I would probably rather book the sister hotel!
A few words about the service! I understand that it was rainy season and not a lot of tourists were in Luang Prabang. A lot of hotels did renovation and when you book your hotel 6 months ahead of time, I would still expect to know this fact while booking my room. The hotel’s restaurant was a big part of my decision to stay there. In the room the safety box did not work – no batteries! When the lights went off during a storm, I wanted to use their flashlight, but again – no batteries! Upon checking-out I made sure that I do check out early in the morning even though I was able to do a late check-out for an afternoon flight. But I was told that the machine for charging my credit card did not work due to the storm the night before and that I would have to go to the ATM to withdraw cash! So, all packed and dressed for the flight, I walked up the main road in the heat of the day to change money and pay my bill in cash! When I approached the owner of the hotel later I was told that we would have been able to find another solution, like running the bill through when the machine worked again, but the service staff made it pretty clear that the only option I had was to „GO TO ATM“. In my mind the owners/managers of the hotel need to do some serious coaching and training with their staff, which think that typing on their mobile phone has priority (actually on both locations, even in the sister hotel). Would I come back to the Apsara? I think not. Too many other places which compete!
So, my updated personal rating looks like this now:
Location 5 of 5
Room Size 5 of 5
WiFi free and working 2 of 5
Breakfast included and yummy 5 of 5
Staff competency and friendliness 3 of 5
Safety box in the room and adequate size 4 of 5
Bathroom functionality 5 of 5
Room design and functionality 4 of 5
Sounds 2 of 5