An Aman type experience at 1/3 of the price
We are widely experienced travelers and have stayed at many different Aman Hotels, Four Seasons resorts, etc around the world. La Residence Phou Vao is an unexpected gem in Laos. The siting on a hill, overlooking the town and the temple (lit up at night) on the central hill in town, is spectacular. The rooms are spacious and lovely, again with views overlooking the town. The restaurant by the pool, again with that view, is enchanting.
I would love to go back and spend a week. The hotel is incredibly inexpensive for what it offers-- namely, a 5 star resort experience. You can quibble about little things but no resort is perfect. In countries with an average annual income less than the cost of a night in an Aman Hotel, you feel that an Aman Hotel must be perfect-- but frequently they aren't. In La Residence Phou Vao, you get virually the same experience, along with that blissful feeling of utter relaxation and beauty, at a fraction of the price.
May be the best in Luang Prabang but .....problems
We have just spent 4 nights at La Residence Phou Vao and have travelled all over Asia - Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam etc, at various price points, so can compare. The hotel does have a good position, out of town, with good views and on initial impression is stylish and well run. However, there are some problems, the biggest being noise, both from outside the hotel and inside - all the rooms have hardwood floors that really don't absorb any noise so take earpugs or don't sleep well. I thought the room downstairs was rearranging all the furniture at midnight, when they were just walking around. Yes, you are in Laos but the hotel prices are in dollars and all menus are in English ( and it isn't cheap believe me - some prices are just too high for the level of hotel or service ). The staff , therefore, should have a basic grasp of English - some have very good English but other front of house staff appeared to have none - frustrating when you just want a coffee and water and it doesn't arrive, or does so in dribbs and drabs over half an hour. If the restaurant became at all busy service fell off a cliff and often many items weren't available. Not exotic things - melon or many of the wines on the winelist - but rather than tell you the meal would just arrive with some of the main ingredients missing! And after you'd waited 45 minutes. It was slightly Fawlty Towers-ish. Perhaps I am being too hard and this is cultural. But in that case charge Laos prices, not western. Couple of smaller points - the pool was really cold, to the point of many people deciding not to get in, and the hotel pillows were all foam ( rather than feather) and really hard, to the extent you wake up with an aching ear, having not slept very well anyway. There weren't enough loungers by the pool for the guests and the one pool boy isn't yet engrained in the art of service - when you want him he's often disappeared or on a break, not to be summoned, despite numerous requests of assistance. I hope they get it right, as it could be a good place for a couple of nights.
Loved the Phou Vao Hotel
We only stayed one night at the Residence Phou Vao, but it was an amazing night! We were welcomed with a delicious fruit drink (think it was papaya) and then brought to our beautiful room, Indonesian style, with a balcony. Sat out by the gorgeous pool and had drinks, very relaxing with great views. Breakfasts were delicious, buffet with made-to-order eggs, pastries, fruits and more.
The hotel is a bit away from town, which is not necessarily a bad thing as it can get noisy in town. It is only a 5 minute drive and the tuk tuks are incredibly cheap (I don't think we paid more than $2). Great hotel!
We stayed at the Phou Vao for five nights Dec 10-15. It was our second trip to LP. Last time we stayed at the Grand which we liked, but it doesn't compare with the Phou Vao which is a smaller, more beautiful and stylish hotel in warm tones. We wanted to stay closer to town this time, and debated between the Maison Souvannaphoum and the Phou Vao. I think we made the right choice.
I believe an earlier reviewer compared it favorably to similar Balinese hotels, and we would concur as both the style and the view reminded us of smaller hillside hotels in Ubud. We loved the spa where we got a free herbal steam bath. The other services (massages, facials) are pricey by Laotian standards, but we found them well worth it. The views from the spa and across the infinity pool to the temple on Phousi Hill are memorable and the colors change as the day goes on.
The food is good. A nice buffet breakfast was included that included fresh fruits, breads, and cooked to order omelets. Again dinners were not cheap by local standards, but they had four set dinners for US$15. We received fresh fruit and candies in our room daily.
A couple of items to be aware of. There are mosquitoes, perhaps encouraged by the water features, but they spray daily and you sleep under netting in a large four poster bed in our case. The bath while aesthetically nice had a shower that was difficult to manage both to control the temperature and to keep from getting water on the floor. They offer internet for a minimum of US$4, but they only had one computer in the library and one had to be patient at times to get to it. Of course, the internet cafes in town are much much cheaper but we found them very slow by comparison.
Service was good. The hotel provided a van to get us to town at 6:00 am to see the monks getting food. There is a shuttle to town which has a schedule in the evening. During the day you can book it if it is free. If not, you can get a tuk tuk to and from town for about US$1 per head (or less if you negotiate).
We would be happy to return to the Phou Vao.
We stayed at this hotel in March 2006. This has to be one of the most relaxing hotels on the planet! We were fortunate enough to have a room that overlooked the pool from the second floor; stunning views and a terrace on which to relax.
Incredible fruit is delivered nightly along with a couple of sweets. I found the service to be quite good. We used the airport transfer and were delighted with the service. We also took the tuk tuk tour (we purchased one of the hotel packages that included a couple of excursions). Our tuk tuk driver dropped us off at the night market and then promised to pick us up...while we didn't really expect to find him amid the chaos we actually did! Even though he had another passenger he was on the lookout for us. What a sweet guy! We also very much enjoyed our trip to the caves, we had a excellent guy and the hotel packed us a great picnic lunch.
Some of the staff aren't the best English speakers, which I could tell frustrated some of the other guests, but since I can't speak any Lao it did not bother me. I thought they were doing a great job especially considering the diversity of the guests staying there, it is a lot to manage. I felt all of the staff were very sincere and always tried to help.
The breakfast at the hotel was really great. The fruit in Laos is exceptional. The dinners were also good, especially when compared with some of the restaurants in town.
I have to agree with the other reviewer - it is worth it scheduling an extra day to just chill out at this hotel.
Good hotel, bad location, worse service!
Stayed at the Phu Vao in November for one night. When booking, I requested a balcony room with view over the valley. Upon arrival in the evening, I ended up in a small room without a balcony to the back directly above the entrance. This meant noisy tuk tuks all evening from guests returning, the kitchen radio at 5.00 am and then from 5.30am the free tours into town for monkviewing - I could hear every roar of it. So sleep was not what I got there. I asked for another room when I saw the one they put me in but they claimed the hotel was fully booked. No apologies, no nothing. Walked onto berakfast which was average and tried to enjoy the day at the pool. There was some kind of ceremony in the late afternoon so felt out of place there as well.
The setting of the hotel is good if you don't mind a trek into town and want a resort rather than being in contact with the place you stay. I wouldn't recommend it.