Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by green luscious mountains and rivers which include the mighty Mekong river. It’s a good mix of culture, heritage and natural wonders that attract all kind of travellers from around the world. Kuang Si Falls, Tat Sae Falls and Pak Ou Caves are a short distance drive from the old town. The Belle Rive Boutique Hotel’s unbeatable location right amidst the ancient temples of Luang Prabang and on the shore of the Mekong River is a major selling point of this beautiful boutique hotel.
The Belle Rive Boutique Hotel is a short walk or bicycle from the main road and the night market. Three colonial style buildings make up the entire property, not very huge but full of details and all protected by UNESCO. The middle being the oldest and where I stayed, is a perfect example of French-colonial architecture with symmetrical stairs in the front and lovely french windows.
The management did a good job pairing up a beautiful property with excellent staff. Very accommodating and friendly, this the first time I met Laotians (the local people of Laos), and they were not left behind when it comes to Asian Hospitality to its neighbours. The Swiss Manager Damian, and the Laotian Supervisor Von, who is like the mother of all the local staff working as a family, ensured that I’m having an enjoyable and memorable stay. Von has excellent stories to share about the place and her own story as well which were really touching.
The Belle Rive Hotel has only 13 rooms, and I stayed in a deluxe suite on the second floor of the oldest building. The room is elegant. Beautifully designed with a mix of modern luxury without surpassing the colonial style and feel of the suite. All essential amenities of a luxury hotel are available, what sets it apart is the fridge full of different kinds of refreshments like sodas and juices all complimentary and replenished daily. The bed is very comfortable; I instantly doze off from a tiring day once I laid my back on it. My favourite part of the room is the desk, where I stayed most of the time while sneaking at the windows with the views of the Mekong river and munching on the complimentary banana chips. If you’re an internet savvy like me, WIFI is not a problem, it’s working decently. There’s no TV in the room, but it can be requested, I did not go to Luang Prabang just to watch TV anyway.
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I have no high expectations of Lao food; it was a surprise, and I got easily satisfied. It’s delicious! It’s like a fusion of Thai and Vietnamese cooking, and the Belle Rive Restaurant serves excellent local food. Breakfast is complimentary, and it’s lovely to have it at The Belle Rive Terrace facing the Mekong river. You can expect fresh ingredients in Luang Prabang and with excellent cooking, this transcends to a delicious meal. They also serve western dishes if you want a break from heavy carbs of Laos cuisine.
The hotel is under UNESCO World Heritage protection so I did not expect a swimming pool. The Belle Rive Hotel has The Belle Rive Terrace Restaurant, where you can enjoy the views and fresh air facing the Mekong river while having your delicious meal.
They have plenty of bicycles which are free for all guests to use to go around Luang Prabang. Cycling around Luang Prabang is one activity you cannot miss! It’s one of the best experiences I ever had from consistently travelling around the world.
The hotel also can arrange excursions in and around Luang Prabang. I booked a tour with them to see Kuang Si Waterfalls. I had the TukTuk all by myself, and I didn’t bother preparing anything else, just my camera. They got me a towel and water ready placed in a small white tote bag.
The best surprise from the hotel is the sunset cruise at the Mekong River. It’s never mentioned on their website and is a delight surprise to all guests. It’s hard to miss it; one cannot miss enjoying a glass of cocktail or wine while sailing peacefully at the mighty Mekong during the golden hour.
Luang Prabang is a unique and charming heritage site. All the interesting places and the main road are both easily accessible by bicycle or on foot from the hotel. You don’t need to go far to check the 33 temples and old colonial buildings that blend in harmony and makes this place unique. While other interesting places out of town is an hour drive by tuk-tuk or car.
The Night Market is open daily from 5 pm to 11 pm at the main road starting from the famous Wat Mai. It’s one of the cheapest shopping place in South East Asia where you can get everything from hand made souvenirs, clothing, local coffee and street foods.
Kuang Si Waterfalls is an hour away by tuk-tuk. It’s a breathtaking wonder of nature you cannot miss when you visit Luang Prabang! The water is so clear and cold; Swimming is allowed only at the pools at the bottom of the hill. The Bear Rescue Centre is also in the same area where these endangered species are rescued from the wildlife and kept at the centre for protection. Their enclosures are surrounded by nature, and visitors have a viewing platform with a fence.
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The Belle Rive Hotel Experience
I had an enjoyable and memorable stay in Luang Prabang. The Belle Rive Hotel accommodated me like a family and like I was at home. Damian, the hotel manager warmly welcomed me and showed me my lovely suite. Shortly after I settled down and put down my stuff, he took off to go to his football game, and I met Von, the supervisor.
Von looks strict and tough, but I found that she is very gentle when I started talking to her. She showed me around the property and gave me useful insights about Luang Prabang. One morning, I saw her unclogging the drainage in front of the hotel with a huge bamboo branch, while giving instructions to her staff and she waves at smiles at me. That is village life. Von arranged a private sunset cruise on the Mekong river for me.
Selum, the boat captain and I are the only people on the huge the boat. I finished a quarter of the bottle of wine and enjoyed the nuts all complimentary from the hotel while I enjoyed the serenity and taking pictures of the Mekong river. Had more beers after and until we dock and I met Selum’s family, staying at the other boat anchored in the same area. He also has great stories to share, and we ended up drinking more beers before I go back to my suite and order a hot bowl of Pho in my room.
I spent my last day in Luang Prabang cycling around, checking out the temples and taking pictures. Before my departure, Damian gave me a book, A Walk Through The Heritage of Luang Prabang. It’s a detailed walking guide to explore Luang Prabang’s rich culture and heritage. I’ll use it given a chance to visit this charming place again and definitely; The Belle Rive Boutique Hotel will still be my home in Luang Prabang by then.
About the Writer
Jaypee Licudan is a Filipino Expat based in Singapore. He’s a traveller and writer for Two Monkeys Travel Group – Community Travel Blog and has been to over 30 countries across 4 continents. He’s major long term goal is to go back to the Philippines for a long time travel to discover the hidden gems of his home country. Follow his personal blog: The Rustic Nomad
Note: This Luxury Hotel Review is in partnership with The Belle Rive Boutique Hotel. The hotel provided the complimentary stay during my stay in Luang Prabang, all opinions on this article are my own.