Did you know the Mekong River is one of the wildest rivers in the world? Originating in Tibet, tumbling down through the Himalayas, through China, and then Laos, it’s often been described as a big, muddy-brown river, but the swirling mass is a beauty in its own way. And at the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan River lies the fabulous Mekong Riverview Hotel, right at the end of Luang Prabang’s old town.
In a city now strewn with GoPro-slinging backpackers all year round, this is perhaps the quietest part of town to be in, great for getting some shut-eye in a country where the locals love their karaoke and occasional beer-fuelled ‘parties’. A quick 15-minute walk from the city centre, the boutique hotel is owned by Urban Paulsson, a successful hotelier who’s managed two large hotels in Sweden. As he tells us, developing the property was somewhat of a serendipity that occurred during his first visit to Luang Prabang. One thing led to another, and it’s been 11 years since it all began. Now, it’s expanded from less than 10 rooms and suites to an impressive 22.
Arriving outside the hotel, I was greeted by two genial staff members who take your luggage and show you in. There is a cosy lobby decked out in quality Laos rosewood, like the rest of the establishment, and Urban sits down with me while waiting to be checked in. I get a welcome drink, a sort of fruit punch, and a handy map with hand-written notes describing the best places to see and eat at – a valuable gesture that puts you in the know in an otherwise unfamiliar place. You’ll find an assortment of books, brochures, and travel guides too.
My room, a Superior Mekong Riverview, is one of the best in the house, and boasts a veranda that faces out to the Mekong River right across the road (albeit partially blocked by palm trees). Air-conditioned and outfitted in a full-on traditional style with polished wood floors, there are elegant Laos-styled furnishings and wicker patio chairs, a large windowed bathroom with separate partitions for the toilet, rain shower, and double sinks complete with the array of amenities. Outside, a private sheltered terrace with two lounge chairs is great for people-watching.
And there’s more. The mini-bar, filled with soft drinks and more than enough water to keep you hydrated in sunny Luang Prabang, is complimentary, while the Sweden-sourced bed employs top-notch linens. If you’re the type to work in bed, a remote allows you to raise the back or front of the bed, just like those you might find in hospitals. Clean and well-maintained with a high attention to detail, other services the hotel available include free airport transfers, complimentary bicycle rentals, and a chauffeured golf cart that takes you into town. Twice a week, Urban holds complimentary wine gatherings for guests to interact at the park opposite the hotel. Just a few little things that make the stay ultimately very charming.
In the mornings, breakfast is served at Viewpoint Cafe opposite the road. The view is fantastic as its name suggests, and you can sit next to the riverside to enjoy views of the rivers converging with the occasional long boat passing by. The spread is small but well curated, seeing several breads (excellent flakey croissants!) from Joma Bakery Cafe down the road, cured meats, cheese, assorted cereals, yoghurts, punch, and fruit shakes. Eggs can be cooked to order in any way you desire (down to the minute of a boiled egg), and there are pancakes with bananas and chocolate sauce. Or opt an Asian-style breakfast with dishes like noodle soup and fried rice.
Nearby, you’ll find the famous Wat Xiengthong – which is Luang Prabang’s largest temples – to be worth a visit. Walk along the Mekong and you’ll find any number of boat operators willing to take you across, where there are plenty of sights worth seeing. If you need any assistance, I find the staff members – many of whom live on the grounds itself – at Mekong Riverview Hotel to be extremely well-trained, and they’ll go out of the way to make sure your needs are taken care of.
Rooms here are not cheap, with rates starting from US$130, but if you are willing to splurge a little, you’ll get a beautiful place in the old town that’s all about delivering the personal touch. Book in advance to avoid disappointment as the place is usually full all year round.
Mekong Riverview Hotel is located at Mekong Riverside Rd, Xieng Thong Village, Luang Prabang Old Town, Luang Prabang 06000. For reservations, please call +856 71 254900 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.