At the time I write this, Thongbay ranks first among all B&B's in Luang Prabang, and this rating probably accounts for a lot of their business. Both the favourable and the few unfavourable comments are largely accurate. However, depending on what type of traveller you are, I feel you risk disappointment at Thongbay if your expectations are elevated by its number one ranking. If you are an older traveller, or someone who desires a reasonably high comfort level, there are a number of letdowns and irritations that are at odds with the ranking. In no particular order:
- The hot water is insufficient to have a decent warm shower. You can either have a trickling-warm or high pressure-cold flow, but not a high pressure-warm shower.
- You are allotted two relatively small (and thin) towels. No bathmat provided (though I suppose you could ask for more towels).
- There is a lot of night noise for a relaxing country location: planes, barking dogs, crowing roosters (from midnight to morning), bar music from early to late evening, squirrels dancing on the corrugated bathroom roof. Ear plugs were used by most people here.
- The mattresses are very hard which might bother some people.
- The rooms are poorly lit (a headlamp will be useful) and claustrophobic, and they lack enough counter/desk space to comfortably stash your watch, wallet, guidebooks etc… There is a small wardrobe with a few hangers but your belongings are likely to remain squashed in your bags. Most bungalows do not have a chair and desk. Power points are hard to come by and not conveniently located.
- Mosquitos are not a problem during the day, but around 5PM, enough of them rise from the river to drive you into your room to hide or put on repellant. If you're not careful, one or more might gain permanent entry and cause havoc all night. Mosquito netting is provided.
- Walls and floorboards do have substantial gaps to the outside world but that didn't lead to any adverse events for us.
- The location is far enough out of town that it is difficult to be spontaneous about visiting the city. As a result, you usually make only one, at most two, return trips a day.
- There is little to do on the property, which is mostly fine during the day when you can enjoy a book on the riverside verandah, or in the small, well tended garden. There is no pool, dodgy to non-existent internet when we were there, and no nice neighbourhood walks… so once the mosquitos make their way up the riverbank at dusk, and the streets turn dark, you are often forced into your room where it is far too dark and cramped to do much. At this point, it's best to head to town if you have the energy.
- If you are not in one of the nine river view bungalows, the situation is worse because having the river view is what redeems the entire experience
Those are the realities of Thongbay. Nonetheless, the staff are friendly and eager to help, and the owners are earnest and likeable. It must be difficult and a constant struggle to maintain a guest house in rural Laos. It's a labour of love and they try their best. The food in the cozy eating area is not spectacular, nor is it bad - a mix of Laotian, Chinese and Thai dishes (tom yum, fried rice, fried vegetables, red/yellow/green curries) and western ones (spaghetti carbonara, steak, fried chicken), all around 20-30,000 Kip (3-4 dollars) a plate. Considering you don't have an option, the food is good and the prices low. When comparing the cost of different guest houses in LP, keep in mind that for each day at Thongbay, you need to add around $3 for breakfast and $3 for a tuktuk back to the inn - in total, around $6 per person per day. if you don't mind roughing it a little (sleeping there reminds me of summer camp), your stay should be fine. Otherwise, you might consider mixing a short stay in Thongbay with one in the town itself where it isn't a struggle to view the monks, temples, visit restaurants, get internet. If you enjoy an abstemious lifestyle like the monks across the Nam Kham river and (truly) want to escape your iPhone and Blackberry and meditate for hours, this is the place to hang.
- Also Known As:
- Thongbay Guesthouse Hotel
- Thongbay Guesthouse Hotel Luang Prabang
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Agoda and Otel so you can book your Thongbay Guesthouse reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.