Executive Summary: Even in Luang Prabang, you can do better than this place. The beauty of the gardens and the Mekong river are quickly negated by the isolation and lack of basic amenities.
First, some context: Laos in general and Luang Prabang in particular, are very poor and barely developed places and are trying very hard to get themselves up to something in the general vicinity of international hospitality standards. They are in that awkward stage of becoming very popular with tourists for their various historical attractions, without having developed sufficiently to actually provide good service to the throngs that are coming to see the place. We had heard a lot about how serene and picturesque this hotel was, how the simple dignity of the local life and customs would inspire us, how the local French-inspired cuisine was going to blow us away and how we would emerge from the experience refreshed and inspired. Fortunately, we have travelled enough to be very skeptical of these types of claims and were only mildly disappointed. If you actually believe the brochure, you will be in for a bad time.
Now to the hotel itself. It is true that the hotel's gardens and its view of the Mekong are impressive. Unfortunately, these views come with a price, most immediately the 15-minutes bone-jarring journey to and from the center of town each time you want to get an ice cream cone or a cup of coffee.
The rooms are small and unremarkable and are all the same size, so there is no opportunity to pay a bit more for a better room. The hotel does not have an elevator and if you have a mobility issue (which we thankfully did not) you need to get a ground floor room. There is also no AC, so your only cooling option is to leave the balcony door open. This was not an issue during our stay in February, but I can imagine that a summertime stay would be less than comfortable. The trickle of hot water you get in the shower comes from an individual on-demand heater installed in your bathroom and it does not always work as advertised, so you need to run the hot water to make sure everything is working before taking your clothes off to take a shower, in case you need to call the front desk for a repairman to come to your room.
As others have mentioned, the rooms are not sound insulated and since there is not much else do here at night, guests tend to get drunk and loud into the late hours. We were travelling during the Lunar New Year holiday and there was not much serenity at night with the Chinese guests enjoying the cheap booze available at the local stores.
because of its distance from town, the hotel operates a shuttle service into and out of town, but there are pretty strict requirements for reserving a seat on it, and ultimately it's easier to spend the 4 Dollars to take a Tuk-Tuk into, and back from, town than to jump through all the hoops the hotel requires for a ride on the hotel shuttle.
The breakfast buffet was pretty minimal, but the food was OK, especially the cooked-to-order noodles. The coffee service was not exactly snappy, and when we got our own coffee from the waiter stations, some of them got annoyed with us. We had dinner at the hotel the first night we got there, and the food was OK and nothing to write about.
The staff were friendly enough and tried to be helpful but the communication was far from perfect and there was not a whole lot they could do anyway. They were also very easily overwhelmed when even a small group was checking in or out. Our guide had to get pretty assertive with them to get them to focus on dealing with one task at a time rather than stopping work on whatever they were doing to respond to every new query or request.
From our exploration of the town, we found a number of small inns in town that would not have been as secluded, but much better places to stay and a lot closer to the restaurants, the tourist attractions, and shops in town.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Miracle of Luangprabang city, the Grand luangprabang hotel is where the music offered by the river. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Grand Luang Prabang Hotel Luang Prabang
- The Grand Luang Prabang Hotel And Resort
- Grand Hotel Luang Prabang
- Grand Luang Prabang