We stayed at a Khan Pool Suite (Suite #9) for 3 nights over New Year's. How did the property and service hold up under the avalanche of guests during this period?
First, the arrival experience... After touching down at Luang Prabang Airport, we had to wait for about 10 minutes before the hotel vehicle arrived. No apology was given by the representative for the delay, which was a inexplicable. Also a surprise was the lack of bottled water or cold towels in the vehicle. Mind you, it was a 10 minute drive from the airport to Amantaka, so it wasn't something we particularly missed. But it's definitely something we've come to expect from an Aman.
The Khan Pool Suite was was wonderful and inviting. It's tastefully decorated while being low-key at the same time. If there's one complaint to be had, it's in the layout of the suite - it's a very large suite, mind you, but it feels far less cavernous than it ought to be. While the sitting room (adjacent to the bedroom) is quite spacious, the bedroom feels a bit cramped. The twin sinks, closets and showers are all somewhat segregated, (sort of their own enclaves in a sense), often connected by mini hallways. The courtyard and pool are in the back of the suite with the courtyard having a table, two chairs and two loungers for relaxing. Unfortunately, it was very cold during our time in Luang Prabang, and we never got around to using it as a result.
We had dinner at Amantaka all three evenings we were there - during the holiday season, a compulsory supplementary charge is tacked on to the rate and includes breakfast and choice of lunch and dinner daily. If it wasn't for the supplementary charge, we definitely would not have dined there as often. We stuck mainly to Laotian dishes, although we did try two Western entrees for one of our meals. while there was nothing wrong with the food, we found it rather bland and unimaginative. By comparison, the food in town was great. We had lunch at Tamarind, and everything we had was fresh, full of flavor and very creative. We also checked out a "hole in the wall" noodle shop, which specialized in one noodle soup (which is all it offered!). Especially noteworthy was the dried crispy rice that gets added to the soup - think sizzling rice soup for those of you familiar with Chinese cuisine. It blew away the breakfast noodles on offer at Amantaka, which had far less umami and the noodles were way too soft. Dessert at Amantaka was decent, however. We had sweet sticky rice with mangos on two occasions; it's a great finale to end any meal.
How was the service during this peak period, you ask? Good but far from exemplary. We were rarely greeted by name, and service at the restaurant was not attentive at all and was very, very slow (despite it being less than half full on most nights) - every time we wanted to ask for something, it seemed like forever before the waiter would appear... definitely not the "anticipatory" service that one expects from an Aman resort. At times, we sensed that the staff were under the strain of having to deal with a full house. One example: one our walk back to our suite, we realized we had forgotten to pick up our room key at the front desk (we always leave our keys there when going out), and asked one of the staff nearby if they could go get it for us. After 10 minutes of waiting in the middle of the property grounds, I gave up and trekked back to the lobby, only to find said staff member sitting at the desk. When he made eye contact with me, he didn't flinch - he clearly had completely forgotten about the key request.
While we were not expecting perfection considering the period of our stay, I find it hard to excuse such mishaps, especially when you consider that Aman charges more during peak season (including the compulsory supplementary charge.) Given the wide quality gulf between Amantaka and other properties (including La Residence Phou Vao, which, while though highly rated here on TripAdvisor, is a big step down, property wise), perhaps this is a sign of complacency? I definitely hope not.
In summary, Amantaka is a wonderful property that is slightly marred by mediocre food (which is the case at most Amans we've been to), slow and inattentive service, and some mishaps along the way (making us wait at the airport with no apologies as the most egregious one.) It definitely lacks the polish found at Amanpuri or the Bali Amans.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Set on a large garden estate, Amantaka is housed in graceful French colonial buildings in the UNESCO protected town of Luang Prabang. Airy and elegant throughout, the décor and furnishings reflect the town's French colonial history. Situated just south of Phousi Hill, the resort is within strolling distance of the boutiques, bakeries and restaurants lining the town's main street. The fabled night market, the picturesque banks of the Mekong River and the former Royal Palace are also nearby. ... more less
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