We are founder members of the Amanjunkie club, having stayed at Amanpuri and Amandari in their first year of operation. Aman revolutionised hotel design and management and we loyally followed them for several years, though we abandoned them in 1999 because they did not have hotels in places we wanted to visit. So this trip to Aman’s outpost in the Lao PDR (and on to Amansara in Cambodia [qv]) was a sort of belated homecoming and, I must say, it was simply wonderful to slip back into the familiar Amanworld of hotel perfection.
Amantaka is on the site of a 1920s French-colonial style hospital in central Luang Prabang, one of the most attractive towns in Indochina. The restored original hospital building houses the lounges, restaurant and library while the 24 rooms and suites are newly-built in the same style, surrounding a huge rectangular garden. As a piece of hotel design it is one of the very finest we have ever seen. The predominant colour scheme of grey and white, plus the green of bamboo, makes for a restful, minimalist statement that is in no way clinical, though that might be appropriate for a former hospital.
Bear in mind that Amantaka is in the centre of a busy town, so there is traffic noise, about a dozen planes a day fly right across the property and because there’s a school right behind Suites 18 and 19 you will soon learn your times tables and the Laotian national anthem. So unlike other Amans, which make a virtue of their serenity, this one is a slightly lacking in the quietude department.
The suites are utterly outstanding, with acres of space, high ceilings and the total thoughtfulness that characterises the Aman group. Ours was Suite 15, with a private pool and courtyard garden, a blissfully comfortable bed, world-class bathroom, rapid wireless internet etc etc. No TV, of course, which isn’t the Aman way. Generally your room is serviced when you are having breakfast - the ideal time - though this can lapse, as on our last full day when we planned a whole day by our private pool and the room wasn’t serviced until mid-afternoon which was really annoying. The front desk eventually told us they were waiting for us to go out when we were waiting for them to come in!
Mostly, service levels border on the clairvoyant and despite the odd language barrier we found the service better than some previous reviewers would suggest. You never sign a bill, everyone knows your name, and they know what you want before you know it yourself. They also discreetly monitor your movements, so that if you hand your key in and leave for a walk or an excursion they quickly freshen your room, neatly fold the sweater you threw on the bed, hang the pair of slacks, replace a used towel, that sort of thing. And by the main black-tiled swimming pool you are given water, sunscreen, coconut sorbet and fresh towels after your swim. It’s the attention to detail that simply amazes us, though it is never intrusive or suffocating. It’s just fabulous.
Luang Prabang has quite a lively restaurant scene, though I’m not ashamed to admit that we ate every meal at Amantaka. When the food is that good and the surroundings are that beautiful we couldn’t see the point of eating out. And it looked as if many guests thought the same as we did. The menu changed daily and offered a choice of European dishes as well as a set Lao menu. Three course dinners for two with a decent bottle of wine run to about $140. Because we were staying in January, when the evenings and nights are decidedly cold, we only dined once on the exquisite pool terrace where we were delighted to be presented with menus that had a little light attached to them, a clever designer thing that looked like a half a set of Bose or B&O headphones. A brilliant innovation.
We stayed four nights at Amantaka and count it as one of our all-time great hotel experiences. But even one night at an Amanresort will spoil you for life. Yes, it is hugely expensive, as all Amans are, but I have given it a top rating for value as you get a unique hotel experience here and that’s priceless. This is a hotel for the connoisseur.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.