We were surprised by the chilly welcome we received when we visited luxury boutique hotel The Apsara Rive Droite and inquired about a possible three-night stay. The person at the front desk informed us it was private property and that we had to come back the next day and make an appointment with the manager to view the room. He said it was the manager’s rule for all visitors, including potential guests. This is a baffling approach, especially when compared to the warm welcome and hospitality Luang Prabang hotels usually show. This was an unfortunate introduction to an otherwise recommendable hotel.
As the name suggests, Apsara Rive Droite is located on the other side of the Nam Khan river, directly across from the town centre. With just nine rooms, the property is very quiet – maybe too quiet for some. This isn’t the place for a traveller looking for a convivial atmosphere or a place in the town centre.
The hotel is a recent build (not a heritage property) so everything from the walls to the furniture look fresh, painted and in good condition. The lobby entrance, with its French wallpaper and palette of pink and blues, looks like Martha Stewart Living-does-French colonial chic. It’s refined but clinical. You’ll either love the style or you’ll hate it.
The rooms are uniform in size and layout and all face the river. Except for a TV, the spacious rooms are equipped with the amenities you would expect in a boutique luxury hotel: mini bar, comfortable king-sized bed, air-con and WiFi.
The rooms won’t offend anyone but are ultimately forgettable. The interiors have white walls, beige linens and dark wood floors. It’s sparsely decorated, teetering on minimalistic. The interiors remind us of something you would find in a generic city hotel rather than Luang Prabang. The same feeling applies to the bathrooms: They are modern, clean, bright, neutral and bland. The bathtub and a separate rain shower are a plus.
The private veranda and pretty view do redeem the room, finally giving you some sense of where you are. You’ll have a better vantage point of the river landscape from rooms on the top floor. The downstairs rooms have a walk out to the lawn.
There is a pleasant swimming pool with loungers, gardens and a small restaurant. For lunch and dinner, guests may want to opt for taking the boat across the river to their sister hotel The Apsara for more selection and a livelier ambience.
The quirky and memorable part of the hotel is the 30-second boat transfer across the Nam Khan that puts guests directly in town. Small and cute, “The Apsarian Queen” is available to ferry guests at any time, saving them from a 20-minute walk, 10-minute bicycle ride or 10-minute tuk-tuk shuttle (another service the hotel provides). The boat is not feasible for those with mobility issues as there are steep steps to conquer on both sides of the river.
Overall The Apsara Rive Droite is pretty and the brick-and-mortar is faultless, but perhaps they equate “boutique” and “luxury” with exclusivity and pride, a little out of place in down-to-earth Luang Prabang. We still have, “This is private property,” ringing in our ears.
My Dream Boutique Resort and Bel-Air Boutique Resort are located on the same side of the river. They are not rated as luxury but at nearly half the price it’s worth comparing while shopping around. For a location in town, consider The Apsara. If you want to compare it to other luxury hotels in the same price range, check out Belle Rive or Maison Souvannaphoum.
By Cindy Fan
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.