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Thongbay Guesthouse
Ranked #1 of 257 Luang Prabang B&B and Inns
Certificate of Excellence
Kangaroo Island South Australia
Level Contributor
7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Fantastic”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 25, 2009

We booked into Thongbay Guesthouse for 4 nights and stayed for 7. Everthing was fantastic. We had a riverside bungalow which we highly recommend. We spent hours on the verandah watching the people across the river tending their gardens. Breakfast brought to us each morning was served on the verandah. Each bungalow is seperate so very private. We had no noise from other guests. The free transfers into the town were very convenient. The bungalow was immaculately clean and the staff friendly and very helpful. When we left all the staff assembled to say goodbye. We were very touched. We did not see any accommodation anywhere else in Luang Prabang that we thought, gee we wish we'd stayed there instead. This place is exceptional value for money. And the Thai Red Curry in their restaurant was delicious.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank KI10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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947 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Location
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (218)
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English first
Montreal
2 reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 20, 2009

I stayed at Thongbay Guesthouse from Dec12 to Dec18th 2009 I rented 2 riverview bungalows, one for my wife and I and one for my 2 teenage daughters. The guesthouse exceeded all our expectations. The grounds are very beautiful and well maintained, as are the rooms. The view from the gallery of our rooms was breathtaking. The bungalows are perched about 50 feet above the river, and on the other side were homes and fields which were tended to by the locals, giving us an intimate look at the daily life of the resident farmers.
The guesthouse is a little ways out out of town, and the guesthouse offered a shuttle service about five times a day into town. Even though we had to pay about three dollars to return, we appreciated the peace and tranquility the location gave us.
A very important point which can make or break a place is the service.. I can truly say that the staff was amazing, and made every effort to please. The owners Phillipe and Lay were extremely helpful and hospitable. All in alll we had a great stay there and would reccomend Thongbay Guesthous highly!

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank bagus101
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
East Cowes, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
9 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 16, 2009

I recently stayed at the Thongbay Guesthouse with my elderly mother and, after seeing a couple of the recent reviews, would like to add my comments (as well as those of my mum).

While I stayed only a couple of nights because I had to return to work, my mother was at Thongbay for longer. During that time, the Lao/Swiss family who run the guesthouse really took every care of my mum and made her feel truly welcome as part of the family (but not in an oppressive way) … and she was not the only guest afforded such treatment.

The guesthouse itself is in an idyllic location on the banks of the Nam Khan River which feeds into the Mekong. For the utterly reasonable 30 US$ a night, we had bungalows which had wonderful views over the river and from our balconies we could watch the monks and local ladies doing their laundry and people working in their market gardens planted on the riverbanks. In the distance, we could see the Phou Si temple on a hill and by night we could watch locals fishing in the river using torches and nets.

Some of the previous reviews mentioned noise issues. As a light sleeper myself, I can honestly say that I was not at all troubled by the distant sound of modern Lao/Thai music drifting over from a neighbourhood bar in the evening – Philip, one of the owners of the guesthouse, told me that they had made many complaints about the music but I definitely didn’t find it to be at an offensive level. I think that this is a matter that is largely beyond the control of the guesthouse. Having lived in Asia for a considerable number of years, I know that it is very difficult to do anything about this kind of issue if the bar/restaurant owner has “connections to the right people”. Although planes do come in to land fairly close by, since not many flights go to Luang Prabang, it’s not a terrible problem in terms of noise (the first flight did come in at 7.30am though!). As for the sounds of roosters crowing, dogs barking, etc … well, Thongbay’s in the country and these are typically rural sounds – personally, I never heard any dogs barking around the guesthouse during my stay. In fact, I fell asleep every night to the sound of the river (normally I wear ear plugs when traveling but not at Thongbay!).

The guesthouse had a lovely well-maintained garden and I would like to add that, despite my mother’s eye problems, thanks to Thongbay’s well-maintained pathways she had no problems getting around the guesthouse and found everything quite comfortable. True, there is no pool but I don’t think that the majority of guests come to Thongbay looking for such things – for a start, the mornings were a bit chilly for swimming and then there are so many other activities to do in the area. There is a pond in the middle of the gardens and for people traveling with small children it may be reassuring to know that it’s fenced off against wandering toddlers by a wooden barrier.

Regarding the showers, when we checked in we were told that the best way to get a good hot shower would be to turn the water on only halfway. When I did this, I got a shower at a good temperature and it certainly couldn’t be called a trickle. Showers are something that guesthouses, and even more expensive hotels, regularly fall down on and this was in no way the worst shower I’ve had. Even my hot shower-loving mum found it OK. Oh, and we found the towels to be an average size and quality.

The bungalows were quite dark, so it was easy to lose small items around the room. However, any travel around Laos quickly reveals that houses in this country are usually quite dark … deliberately so, to keep the warmth in at night during the cool weather and to keep the hot sun from shining in during the day. There was plenty of room inside the bungalows and the bathrooms were huge. Unlike one of the previous reviewers, I found that Thongbay is a rare example among tourist accommodation in Asia in that the bungalows do have enough power points and in appropriate places.

Mosquitoes are around in the evening but I would like to note that the mosquito nets over the beds were clean and well maintained (importantly, no holes, unlike those at some other guesthouses!).

The Internet was unfortunately out of order while we were at Thongbay but this is a common occurrence in developing countries such as Laos. I also presume, judging by Lay’s (the lovely Lao owner) pretty quick response to my emails, that the Internet is normally working OK.

It’s about a 20 minute walk into the old town, via paths and lanes, giving you a better insight into the lives of normal Lao people than you would get in the old town which seems to be mostly inhabited by people in the hotel and restaurant trade (and the monks of course!). The guesthouse runs a free shuttle to Luang Prabang at certain times of the day (with a small and reasonable fee charged if you want to go at other times) – Philip also gave us all lots of useful information and tips when he drove us into the old town. In fact, I found it actually quite nice not to be based in the beautiful but very touristy old town, but to stay in a place where normal Lao people live.

In addition, there are all sorts of nice touches at Thongbay, such as:
- hot water bottles for putting in your bed at night
- free refills for your drinking water bottles
- breakfast delivered to your balcony
- self-service storage lockers in the secure reception area

And on departure, you get a couple of nice “goodbye and bon voyage” tokens!

The only negative things I could say about Thongbay is that the eggs served at breakfast could have been more cooked (the food served at dinner was very good, if slightly lacking in spiciness s for my taste) and, in my bungalow, although all the windows were screened against mosquitoes the louvers on the door were not. Oh and it was a little tricky for us to find when we arrived in Luang Prabang after dark – a light over the guesthouse signboard at the main road would have been great!

Thongbay is a super welcoming and friendly place and great for guests of most ages and abilities whether traveling alone, in a group or as a couple. The Lao/Swiss management has achieved great things so far. All in all, a lot of thought has obviously gone into this place and, for the price you pay and what you get to enjoy, I think it’s a complete bargain and a little gem. I just wished I could have stayed longer … well, I’ll just have to return when I have a new passport to accommodate another Lao visa (now, E-visas would be a great idea for Laos)!

  • Stayed December 2009
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank dottieontour
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brooklyn
Level Contributor
10 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 15, 2009

I had the joy of spending 5 days in Luang Prabang this past November, an absolute oasis in beautiful Laos. I chose to stay at Thongbay, which is substantially outside of the town - I would say a 40 minute walk, or a 10 minute van or $1-2 tuktuk ride. As some have mentioned this does create some inconvenience - it is more of a hassle to get back and forth (certainly makes you think twice about wanting a 30 minute afternoon nap, or to drop off a sweater or change clothes), their "free shuttle" only runs a few times a day, and you have to wake up extra early to see the already-very-early monk alms at 6:30 AM.

All that said, it was priceless to have a private balcony on the Nam Ou River. It was so quiet at night (save the roosters!) and so idyllic by day to watch the farmers tending their gardens, monks bathing in the river, bonfires of pulled up weeds, and to watch the sun setting over the golden chedi glinting above Luang Prabang. It is a breathtaking view, and one of the most beautiful places I have stayed in my life.

So, if you are only in LP for a day or two, you may want to stay downtown for convenience. But if you aren't in a rush, and understand that you are staying outside of town, it is so wonderful and peaceful to have a private bungalow in this lush idyllic landscape.

One last note, the one time I had breakfast delivered the food was quite terrible - the eggs cold and salty, and the OJ from a powder mix. It was not good. But I did enjoy my evening Beerlaos from my balcony lounger!

  • Stayed November 2009, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank JDMBrooklyn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
58 reviews
56 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 75 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 14, 2009

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.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank ajsm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
78 reviews
76 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 64 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 12, 2009

I enjoyed our stay here, the setting is superb, to me it's what this place is all about, our room was good, spotlessly cleaned everyday.

The wooden bungalows are set along the river so a little out of town but the guest house has a frequent shuttle service into the centre and its 10,000 kip to get one back, or you can cycle, or even walk.

There was some noise at night so I would suggest earplugs for particularly light sleepers, normally a rooster makes himself heard but if you are wanting to stay at a place off the beaten track and in the midst of the countryside, what do you expect? To me it's just part of the romance of the place.

This place is ideal if you want somewhere to relax and chill out and not pay some of the higher prices in some of the fancy resorts here, the staff here even bring breakfast to your room and were lovely throughout our stay. The food was great too.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Mooms77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
England
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 9, 2009

I arrived here after 3 days of travelling from Thailand to a warm, friendly reception. I had a bungalow overlooking the river, clean & peaceful, I ate a number of times at Thongbay & really enjoyed the food, which was little dearer than that in town.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank planet37
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Thongbay Guesthouse

Property: Thongbay Guesthouse
Address: Ban Vieng May, Vat Sakem, Luang Prabang 0600, Laos
Location: Laos > Luang Prabang Province > Luang Prabang
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 257 B&Bs / Inns in Luang Prabang
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Thongbay Guesthouse 2.5*
Number of rooms: 16
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Also Known As:
Thongbay Guesthouse Hotel Luang Prabang

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