Date Traveled, August 2012
Luang Prabang is one of my most favorite places in the world. It will be a stretch if I told you that my stay at the BelleRive is the reason for it, but this beautiful boutique hotel on the bank of the Mekong river certainly helped.
The historic district of Luang Prabang is roughly in a narrow peninsula with the Mekong on one side, the Nam Khan on the other and the confluence of the two rivers at the tip. The whole town is quite charming no matter what spot you pick, but a personal opinion of mine, the views of the Mekong are better. The BelleRive is located on a waterfront road that overlooks the Mekong river at a kind of central spot in the Peninsula. This is a convenient spot, far enough from the bustle of the night market area but not too far a walk from it either. In all fairness, nothing is really too far in Luang Prabang's historic district, but nevertheless it is in as good a location as it gets. Aside from convenience, the BelleRive has some fantastic views. You should note that all the hotels and guesthouses in the historic district are not actually right by the water. They would be situated across the street from the waterfront. The other side of the street facing the waterfront is really the edge of an embankment and you would need to climb a good 15-30 feet down stairs to actually reach the water. A practical system to prevent floods I believe. On this overlooking embankment all around the peninsula are outdoor restaurants that belong to the whichever guesthouse or hotel is directly across from it on the street. The BelleRive actually consists of 3 separate adjacent buildings and its own riverfront restaurant or outdoor lounge spans a stretch that roughly covers all the buildings of the BelleRive across the street from them. This is where my partner and myself enjoyed a lot of time during our trip to Luang Prabang, just sitting on the tree lined waterfront and watching time go by on the Mekong river whilst sipping a drink, having some Beer Lao or enjoying the lovely fresh mangoes the hotel has daily (I could go back to Laos just for the mangoes).
Breakfast by the Mekong
The view of the hotel buildings from across the street at the hotel restaurant
We ate so many mangoes
The different rooms are located on one of the three buildings that make up the BelleRive. The first one makes up the lobby in the ground floor and also had a tastefully decorated lounge and bar inside. We thought about enjoying a drink there at night but each time ended up coming back from other places too tired and never did spend an evening there. Our room was one of the Mango rooms, which was the most economical in the BelleRive. Without waffling words, the cheapest rooms :-), but regardless they were great. They are located directly in front of the street and have their own porch. This was a bit of a concern for us at first but that turned out to be no trouble. It is a quiet town and a generally quiet street and we enjoyed morning cups of coffee on the porch in front of the street. There was enough privacy and would be completely open to returning to that room. The inside is small but very comfortable with your own safe. The bed takes up a lot of the space and there is not much living area in the room, it was more than sufficient for us but might be an issue if you have a lot of luggage. There was a wash basin outside and separate rooms for the shower and toilet. No tub. Other amenities included a small closet, free and decent wifi, umbrellas for use and all the electrical outlets came with universal converters which was convenient.
We had all our breakfasts at the BelleRive. We had plans to try the cafes around when we originally came, but after the first breakfast there we decided to just continue eating there, it was just too good and the experience of watching the mists clear in the hills across the Mekong as the day grew brighter was priceless. Laos has some of the best baguettes in the world and the ones in the BelleRive were as good as any. You should certainly try out the baguettes in Laos when you visit. Aside from the baguettes they served excellent omelets and Lao style broth with noodles, like Pho. And always fresh fruit was available, we couldn't stop eating the mangoes and would order them in the afternoon as well when we would lounge around there with a drink.
The mango room
Cosy but comfortable
Enjoying coffee from our room porch
Service...always makes up so much of any experience in a hotel or restaurant. It was excellent and was part of the reason we left with such lovely memories. Everyone was friendly and helpful all the time, even the cleaning ladies and when we arrived we were given a great welcome with a refreshing drink a map which we used throughout our stay and suggestions. But above all for us...we got a surprise sunset private ride on the Mekong.
Just remember one thing, service is relaxed. That is to say, slow :-). But that isn't the BelleRive, that is just Luang Prabang and life just moves slowly there. If you are in Luang Prabang, don't try to fight out. Waiting half an hour for someone to check you out is to be expected, among other things that will keep you waiting. Just enjoy a Beer Lao and relax while you wait for things to catch up.