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“Disappointing!”
Review of The Apsara

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The Apsara
Ranked #22 of 68 Hotels in Luang Prabang
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed October 29, 2012

The hotel is well situated in a rather quite area of the town. From outside, the hotel has a certain charm, unfortunately, once entering the lobby one get an overall impression of shabbiness.
This is even more with the small ugly stairs which bring you to the first floor.
The rooms are very spacious and have a small balcony with a view of the riverNam Khan . The dark wooden floor is stained and not very clean. The furniture is also dark and depressing as well as the decoration. The big bed has uncomfortable hard mattresses.
The shower and toilet are small and old. Outside the bathroom, in the room, stands a huge bathtub we never used.
The breakfast was very monotonous (only eggs and jam) and the bread of poor quality.
Overall we felt very disappointed about this hotel that certainly has much more potential to make it a nice charming place.

Room Tip: The rooms on the first floor have more privacy.
  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Rose L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed October 1, 2012

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.

Room Tip: Choose an upstairs room; downstairs rooms seem to open onto the front porch where people congregate.
  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank satipatipatti
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 26, 2012

We came here as part of our civil partnership honeymoon as the hotel was recommended on Utopia. It really was an inspired choice and is for anyone who wants to really experience the Luang Prabang state of mind - easy going and reflective. Chic, comfortable and with the driest martinisi have ever tasted close at hand. Hotel staff were great and eager to make our stay as comfortable as possible. Will be back!

Room Tip: Spend a bit more and get the superior rooms
  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank DollyBirdScotland
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 14, 2012

We went for this hotel as it had 3 main things we were looking for, free wifi, room safe and the room not a shoebox size, difficult to achieve in LP. Our room was in the second building, upstairs and had a nice view of the river.  There was a balcony, but it was communal and quite narrow. It is in the ancient city opposite the Nam Khan river, a very convenient location to the main city attractions, morning alms can be seen just up the lane, one street behind the hotel.  The room was tastefully decorated, the bed was very comfortable and cosy, lots of nice pillows and it had a large bathroom, with huge fluffy white towells.  Breakfast was Western, which i was initially disappointed about, but it was extremely high quality including different freshly squeezed juices and homemade jams each morning.  We travelled from Phonsovan in a mini bus ( a long journey of about 6-7 hours), it was only about 10 mins in a tuk tuk from the northern bus terminal to the hotel, the tuk tuk component cost 50,000kip which seems to be the standard fare in LP for longer journeys.  On the downside, very minor, no TV, no room service or tea and coffee making facilities.  Otherwise all good, a quality establishment.

Room Tip: If you like a bit of privacy, don't choose the ground floor rooms. They open up directly to the...
  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Williams17
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 12, 2012

After a disappointing initial welcome to Laos - the friendly, welcoming and amazing customer service of Apsara employees immediately regained our confidence in the Laos people and countryside. A disheveled and upset duo of late-twenties females found themselves on the doorstep of Apsara pleading for help. After a couple of minutes Francis and the team had us some great mojitos, a yummy dinner and within a couple of calls- a driver, accommodation awaiting at our next stop and most of all A HUGE SMILE! We weren't even STAYING THERE! The staff go above and beyond and should be commended for their caring and honest nature. When in Luang Prabang, you MUST stay with the team at the beautiful APSARA!

Room Tip: Take a look at the rooms to decide, the staff are more than willing to show you a room on arrival.
  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with friends
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1  Thank Tempest22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 6, 2012

I have stayed at the Apsara a few times with my husband, and we love it. The superior rooms on the top floor are very comfortable and stylish. Breakfast is a real treat with the most delicious jams I have ever tasted. It's a top place in a beautiful town. I'll be back.

Room Tip: The superior room overlooking the street/river is good value.
  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Lisa R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 4, 2012

We stayed at the Apsara during low season. Even though the hotel was empty, the hotel couldn't do enough to help. The staff were wonderful, the food delicious and the rooms cool and comfortable. For me being in somewhere with character far outweighs wanting the comforts of a TV and cable! And anyway - there is wifi if you can't be out of touch.

Don't expect the Hilton (and why would you want to in lovely Laos?), do expect honestly enthusiastic service and a wonderful base in this pretty town.

Highly recommended.

Room Tip: Upstairs rooms and a lovely view and a balcony that isn't overlooked.
  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with family
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Thank MuddyMiles
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Apsara

Address: Kingkitsarath Rd | Ban Wat Sene, Luang Prabang, Laos
Location: Laos > Luang Prabang Province > Luang Prabang
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#17 Romantic Hotel in Luang Prabang
#18 Family Hotel in Luang Prabang
Price Range: $51 - $100 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — The Apsara 3*
Number of rooms: 13
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

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