From the minute we arrived at the Mekong Riverview Hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos we knew we were in for a treat. The hotel is owned by Urban Paulsson, a successful hotelier who, after partnering in two big hotels in Sweden, was drawn to the simpler life and slower pace of Laos. As he likes to tell it, it was series of synchronicities and serendipities that led him to open one of the preeminent five star luxury hotels in Laos. Not only is it a great place to stay, the hotel also sponsors many local charities and organizations that focus on projects to make the city an even better place. Many of the staff lives on the grounds and are given schedules that allow them to also concentrate on higher education or training in the hospitality industry. It was an honor to be invited to stay at such a great place.
The Mekong Riverview Hotel is perfectly situated in the Old Quarter overlooking the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers at the tip of“the peninsula” in Luang Prabang. It is less than a five minute walk to the boat dock, the famous temple Wat Xieng Thong, numerous restaurants and Th Kamal Street; where you can see the morning alms giving. It is less than ten minutes to the city center, the Night Market, Mount Phousi, the Royal Palace and most of the city’s other attractions.
Our superior room made us feel like we were staying with designer friends who took great care to make their guests feel comfortable and at home. All rooms are air-conditioned and have a private outdoor sitting area with comfortable lounge chairs; perfect for watching life on the Mekong. There was a complementary, well-stocked mini-bar filled with all sorts of drinks and snacks. There was a flat screen TV that apparently has all the channels you would want (but we didn’t turn it on). The bathroom had all the right touches including dual sinks, halogen lighting, the highest quality fixtures and the fluffiest of towels. There were two showerheads in the standup shower that included a luscious rainfall showerhead that flowed with plenty of hot water (if you travel much in Southeast Asia you know what a luxury this can be) and many high quality toiletries. There was even a bouquet of fresh orchids on the twin vanity.
The beds were not only covered with fine imported linens but the beds themselves were imported by Urban from Sweden especially for his guests. The mattress cradled us perfectly and the bed even had controls that you could use to adjust back and leg heights individually. An amazing touch.
There is a comfortable lobby with books and travel guides available for planning your time in Luang Prabang and beyond. The grounds are meticulously groomed and maintained. Bicycles are available for the guests to take or if you choose one of the staff will deliver you into town in one of the hotels electric carts. Breakfast is included in the hotel’s restaurant, the Viewpoint Café, across the road and you are free to choose something from the European style breakfast buffet that included huge samovars of local coffee, teas, imported cheeses, cured meats, flakey fresh baked croissants, crusty fresh baked baguettes, artisan homemade jams and the absolute best yoghurt I have ever had – or, you can order pretty much anything a la carte including pancakes, real (meaning streaky bacon), and eggs cooked to your liking – or, do like I did, order BOTH, twice!
We were met at the dock by a smiling member of the hotel staff who had and electric golf cart to take us and our luggage to the hotel. When we arrived, we were offered a welcome drink and Urban sat down with us and gave us a map with hand written notes describing the sites. He explained to us the best times to visit, what to look for and what to expect as far as products and prices. When visiting a town, as you know, this sort of insider information is invaluable. Everyone wore casual but very smart uniforms. Whenever we needed anything the staff member we talked to seemed to take personal responsibility and ensured that whatever we needed was taken care of.
The hotel was only built in 2007 but, because of the care taken by Urban and because it is part of a UNESCO Heritage city, the architecture feels very old world. Situated along a shady tree lined street overlooking the Mekong River the hotel exudes upscale elegance, luxury and old world charm. Because many of the staff live at the hotel it feels almost like you are staying in a very nice home with hosts whose main concern is seeing that you enjoy your stay. On the night we stayed Urban hosted an evening cocktail party for the guests with nice wines, delicious cheeses and canapes. It was a perfect evening enjoying a few glasses of wine, watching the river flow by, the lights of the city come on and in the company of Luang Prabang’s dignitaries and interesting travelers.
What a view of the Mekong! And beds with adjustable legs? We’ve never heard of that before. The hotel sounds like just the kind of place we’d love (if we ever make it to Laos!). Nice to hear that it also has a “giving-back” bent…