There are two Apsara properties in Luang Prabang – the original lies on the riverfront on the peninsula just next to Tamarind restaurant, a block from the main street.
We were staying at its sister hotel across the river. Apsara Rive Droite is a newly built edifice in French colonial style with mustard yellow render, and teal woodwork. There are 11 rooms, all reasonably spacious with large beds, Common areas are decorated with charming hand painted toile de jouy scenes and have a Designer’s Guild touch, however the rooms are a little monastic, although I think the purported décor is intended to be minimal chic. The new build doesn’t help.
The advantage the Apsara Rive Droite has (aside from endless glowing epithets from Mr and Mrs Smith, Tablet and the like) is a lovely, private green swimming pool which is something of a rarity in Luang Prabang unless you venture further afield (in both distance and price) to the grown up resorts like Amantaka or La Residence Phou Vao.
The disadvantage is its location – a fairly scary fifteen minute bike ride negotiating trucks and dogs on the main road, or an equally scary one minute boat trip in a flimsy boat across the river (which is 12 metres deep and flowing fast at the time of writing). Scariest however are the steps required to descend to the river – they start off well enough but about two thirds down the cliff you’re feeling like an extra in an Indiana Jones movie, clinging to a vine as a rickety plank sways and creaks beneath you and a large gap yawns treacherously between it and the next. I swear I could hear the snap of crocodile jaws in the river below.
In all seriousness though, it is something of a hassle to get into town and after a pleasant evening sampling the town’s wine bars and rifling through the food market we looked longingly at the 3 Nagas as we passed by, knowing that we had about 80 steps down to the river and another 80 back up. In the dark.
So who stays here? The prices are not expensive, but for Luang Prabang, they are not cheap either and the guest list seemed to comprise well-heeled couples in their early thirties of various nationalities. I can tell you who doesn’t stay here though – people with dicky knees.