We agree completely with every point in the Williams17 review.
In addition, yes, our room #3 was huge with a king bed, very comfortable. There was plenty of room for the daybed, as well. Water gets nice and hot but low pressure. Room has both shower and tub; shower has good flow but plan on taking 15 minutes to fill the tub. Complimentary bottled water is generously replaced but tumblers are plastic; there is no porcelain plate or cup in the room. Since we travel with a small electric kettle, a cup was provided to us for our room. True, there is no room service listed but staff has a very attentive attitude (if you sit inside or outside the lobby at any time, glasses of water will appear before you without your asking) and I am sure that anything you desire from their bar or kitchen (or any kitchen in L.P.) will be delivered to your room. Yes, the location is hard to surpass. A 3 minute walk up the short side street will put you right on the 6 am monks' rounds, as mentioned, and you are near the best croissants and espresso in town (Le Benneton) and near 3 Nagas restaurant (popular, but not our choice). This neighboring avenue is "the main drag" and you will find everything mentioned on Tripadvisor on it; the night market (which we despise) is a 10 minute walk. The hotel location is also across the street from the Mekong River but the banks are high and tree-lined and all buildings in L.P. are limited to two storeys, so do not expect to see the water from your room anywhere in L.P. with the possible exception of the Mekong River View (not sure-did not visit). Regarding the 7am breakfast, the omelets are delicious. The bread is toasted baguette. Two homemade jams seems to change daily. Butter is unsalted. O.J. is fresh and good. Coffee is good Lao but my preference is for great espresso, so drink at Le Benneton or order tea. A superior upstairs room comes with free transfer from the airport, but not to the airport; we e-mailed them that we were on our way the morning of travel and someone was waiting there for us when we arrived. Low season in 2012 cost us $US 7 to return to the airport.
General Opinion regarding Lao markets: Last century, imperialist countries purchased the affection of their colonials with cheap goods and trinkets. Now the former colonies seem to be getting their revenge. If you prefer to decorate your life with Proof of Travel furnishings, go for it.
Our Opinion of Luang Prabang: The city center has been turned into a theme park for tourists who wish to delude themselves that they have encountered Lao culture. L.P. city center (LPCC for short) is a sanitized, code-enforced, rebuilt exposition. Every building is large, 2 storey and adjacent to its neighbor; every building is a restaurant, guest house, temple, store or school. Most buildings in the enclaves behind the main boulevards have been turned into guest houses. The streets of LPCC are lined with neat brick sidewalks and are swept scrupulously clean, putting any street in Vientiane to shame. With the exception of the schools, library and some service buildings, every building is devoted to attracting or serving the tourist industry. The locals cannot afford to live in the LPCC and have mostly been displaced to the outskirts, where they now have to motorcycle their children back into LPCC to attend the schools that are surrounded by hotels and restaurants. Even the temples in their placid indifference have been pressed into service as points of interest. The temples, who have endured their destruction over the centuries by a succession of invading armies, are now besieged by a hitherto unimagined type of invading army.
I do not have time for irrefutable research, but, to my enquiries, most hotels and I expect, every hotel reviewed in TripAdvisor if not every hotel in L.P., is foreign-owned. Therefore, with the exception of minimum-wage jobs, none of the money spent by hotel guests in LPCC benefits the local economy; almost all of it leaves the country. I suspect that the three or four eco-tourism agencies present in LPCC are a welcome veneer to divert the attention of conscientious tourists away from the fait accompli: the depredation of Luang Prabang.
General Opinion regarding food in Laos: First, my credentials: occasional S.E. Asia traveler, frequent visitor to the communal dinners of the displaced Lao Vientiane community in New Iberia, Louisiana, USA, and married to a Thai. There are four food groups in Laos: Lao, Thai, French, and other, mostly western. Lao food does not appeal to westerners or other Asians because there is little developed Lao cuisine, just as there is no North Korean cuisine. Laos has been torn by war and disorder for two centuries. Hard outer necessity precludes cultural development. Lao cuisine is opportunistic; being poor with limited food distribution, they eat what is at hand: rice and fish from the many rivers flowing into the Mekong. Cultivation is needed for the necessities and not for the garnish. Laos dishes depend upon a strongly-seasoned chili-paste type of curry prevalent in many variations throughout S.E. Asia. These curry dishes are most often fish-based, sometimes pork. Spooning these curries over a mound of rice as one would with other cuisines is the wrong way to eat them; the result is often bitter and/or salty. The Lao squeeze a small amount of sticky rice into a ball with their right hand and dip the rice into the communal curry dish. This allows the flavors to be diminished and broadened enough to be enjoyable. Therefore more rice than curry is eaten at the Lao table; westerners tend to eat equal amounts of rice and curry or mostly curry. Fresh or boiled leafy vegetables, basil, cucumbers are eaten by hand with the curry. If you want to try authentic Lao cuisine, go to the food tables on the small street paralleling Kitsalat Road to the east of it; it is the last small side street off of the west end of the night market. Even once you arrive, it is more trouble to get authentic Lao food than imitation. The 5 or 6 vendors selling Lao food are scattered along the street. You can tell who they are because they will have no signs over the tables in English; in fact, no signs of any kind. Their customers will only be Lao; no westerners buy from them. They have no plates, forks, or access to any of the eating tables - they just sell curries, curry paste, vegetables, boiled and sticky rice. Therefore, they are take out only and you must take your bags of food back to your hotel room or find a curb to sit upon and provide your own plate, bowl, and utensils. That is what we have done from 4 of the tables and we have had no digestive problems. You are not welcome to bring other vendors' food to tables maintained by the vendors who sell dumbed-down imitation Lao food to the satisfied food adventurers. These vendors outnumber the Lao food sellers 2:1 and you can identify them because they thrust a small plate out to you, which you can fill with any of their noodle, rice and 'curry' selections for 10,000 Kip (doubled in price in the last two years). The signs are in English over their tables. They provide tables at which to sit and utensils with which to eat. These are good choices for vegetarians; while not strictly vegetarian, the buffet dishes contain little if any meat. If you put any of the offered eggs or meat-on-a-stick on your buffet place, you must pay a premium, although the signs over the tables will not inform you of this in advance.
Once you leave the center of L.P. by bicycle, motorcycle or car on any of the emissary roads, authentic Lao restaurants with tables and utensils are frequent roadside features and they all have large yellow, black and red signs sponsored by ubiquitous BeerLao identifying them as restaurants. A 5 minute bicycle trip from the center of town will leave all of the tourist-oriented eateries behind, but you will have no TripAdvisor reviews to inform you.
The land around Vientiane and Luang Prabang have gone back and forth between Thai and Lao invaders for centuries. Therefore, Thai and Lao cooking can overlap. There are many vendors of Thai food (or Thai restaurants) in Laos but it is not Thai food. It is just not possible to get the variety and quality of curry ingredients, fish sauce, other sauces, Kefir lime leaves, Thai basil, that make for a complex and satisfying Green curry, for example, because Laos does not have the distributors or the profit margin to obtain these niceties. I will not comment on French restaurants or western pizza parlors, since we did not try them. If you crave an ice cream dessert, you are bound to be dissatisfied with Lao ice cream. Although milk is good, safe and plentiful in the cities, cream seems to be harder to come by, or much more expensive. The ice cream in L.P. and Vientiane seems to be ice milk with a scant amount of cream; sugar and flavorings also seem to be on a budget.
I see no reason why I should return to Laos, nor do I see any reason for anyone to go there in the first place, except that they have seen every other locale in S.E. Asia and do not know what to do with their time or money. Thank you for reading my rant of a hotel review.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The first and still one of the most beautiful boutique hotels in Luang Prabang, the Apsara was originally a rice warehouse situated on the banks of the Nam Khan [The quieter side of town]. The Apsara is also right in the heart of the heritage village, making it the perfect place to stay. From the comfort of its large, airy bedrooms, rated by the Washington Post as "an inch beyond decadence", it's easy to explore temples and the lanes of Luang Prabang. After which you can relax on the river terrace and enjoy the spectacular views and a refreshing Beer Laos. But that's not all, our restaurant is well known for having one of the most interesting menus in town as well as a superb wine list and the driest martinis in Laos. As Hip Hotels said "Both the restaurant and bar reflect a refined sense of taste" and who are we to argue with that. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Apsara Hotel Luang Prabang
- Apsara Luang Prabang
- Apsara Hotel Luang Prabang