More about Le Bel Air Boutique Resort and Villa
We just kept extending our stay!
I can't remember how many days we stayed at Bel Air because we kept extending our original 4 day reservation! That's how pleased we were with the hotel! The manager Somnuek was very kind to accomodate our last minute requests and I have to say they are very professional about everything, confirming every little detail in a typed up letter!
This resort is about a 5 minute bike ride from the Luang Prabang penninsula. I would say riding a bike to and from the hotel to the main attractions and around the city is the most efficient way to see the city. Because it can get hot and very sunny during the day, zipping around on a bike made the tiny commute a non issue, also, it is so much better to have a bike in the city too, you can zip around without planning and not feel tired from walking at all! And the bike is provided by the Bel Air for free!!!
Do keep in mind though the bridge seperating the hotel from the town does not allow motor vehicles across, so each time we joined a tour we would have to walk across ourselves. But it is no problem when you don't have much luggage, just a 2 minute walk.
The atmosphere at the Bel Air is very idyllic, really slows down a city paced heart to match the local rythm and put one in the vacation mood. We slowly adapted and went from our initial rush to see a lot of things to relaxing on the riverside lawn and watching local children swim... the setting is quite magical, you get to see a lot of everyday life pass by, but still relatively secluded in your comfortable environment.
The staff are so eager to please, extending their famous laotian smile everytime they see you. And the big difference is you feel that they actually are happy to see you! They are very very sweet people!
The bungalows look very nice and private, but the big house which houses 5 or 6 rooms is very beautiful too. The only draw back being wooden houses are not very insulated, you do hear almost everything your neighbor is doing. I was woken in the middle of the night and listened to the entire conversation of a neighbor calling the U.S. at 3am! You also hear creaking footsteps if you are on the bottom floor. The bungalows and superior rooms are worth the splurge!
Breakfast was a bit limited though, and gets repetitive if you stay more than 3 or 4 nights like we did. I would advise them to provide some local items like noodle soup to jazz it up a bit! But indeed one almost welcomes that as an excuse to have a second breakfast in town!
The free pick up and send off to airport/bus station is wonderfully considerate of them! We were also able to use their laptop in the garden to check emails and surf the web.
We compared a lot of hotels in L.P. and Bel Air is the best combination of atmosphere and value for money.
These folks still have work to do
Unfortunately, I have to agree more with brooklyngal (review below) than with the majority of the other reviewers. There is no doubt that the grounds and gardens around this hotel are beautiful. We stayed 4 nights in one of the detached bungalows, so there was no problem with noise from above us. Also, there was no drumming coming from the monastery that we could hear. The hotel is right next to the old bridge into town, but the bridge is limited to motorbikes, bikes, and foot traffic so that wasn't a problem either. Management must have realized that their breakfast was too skimpy because during our stay there was plenty of fresh fruit, eggs, toast, noodles, coffee, tea, etc. Finally, the location relative to the town can't be beat. It's a 15-minute walk or a 5-minute bike ride into town. You're in town, but you're not part of the tourist scene.
That having been said, the hotel management needs to take care of a few things before I would rate them as a top choice. These are probably just startup issues and I feel certain they will "get it right" before too long. Though the rates are very reasonable by US standards (we paid $95 per night), they are at the upper end of prices for small hotels in Laos. Until their service matches their price, I would not rate them as a 4 or 5.
Here's what happened during our stay:
- There was no hot water in our bungalow when we arrived. I asked about it the next day and the manager was on the job immediately. The problem was a mechanical one and he patched together a fix. However, a permanent fix won't be installed for a week or two and, in the meantime, we had only tepid water.
- The hotel provides bicycles free of charge but what they did not tell us was that the locks they provided were too flimsy for the bike thieves in Luang Prabang. We parked our bikes on the street around the corner while we had lunch and when we returned, the bikes were gone. Hotel staff told us that ours were not the first bicycles to be stolen within the last week. New locks have been ordered but, in the meantime, they charged us $160 to replace the stolen bikes.
- The hotel provides a laundry service but beware -- the price is 10 times what is charged in Luang Prabang for the same service.
- The teak doors onto the deck were beautiful but didn't work too well. Not only were they very difficult to open and close, they did not close completely, which allowed mosquitoes in.
- The in-room safe was not functioning when we arrived. We mentioned it to the staff several times but nothing happened until we asked the manager what the problem was. He took care of it within an hour.
This is a beautiful place and some day it will warrant a 4 or 5 star review. Not today.
Great Manager and Great Accommodation
Had a wonderful stay, staff very friendly, rooms cared for and clean and great location!!! Cold at night so take warm clothes!!!! Would certainly come back!!!
Will and Marie Banks
We stayed for two nights at Le Bel Air and two nights at the much more expensive Apsara. Le Bel Air won hands down - free airport transfer, free bikes, fruit basket, TV and characterful room. The only hitch is that it's on the opposite side of a pedestrian/bike bridge from town but it's within walking distance or you can get a tuk tuk on the other side of the bridge. We paid US$52/night.
great river views, easy access to the town and very comfortable
Wife and I stayed here for four nights at the end of Feb and were pleasantly surprised by the comfort, location and overall experience.
There are four bungalows two close to the bridge, and the other two at the other end of the long garden which borders the river. We were at first a bit concerned about being so close to the bridge (bungalow #2 was our's), which serves as the main access to Luang Prabang by motorcycle and bicycle. But there is no noise at night, and even in the morning you couldn't really hear any noise.
The other noise hazard in Luang Prabang is the morning brum beat from the temples, which seems to be a problem for those staying in the main streets in town, but again wasn't a problem for us at le Bel Air.
The bungalows are very comfortable - very comfortable bed, good a/c, large well equiped bathroom, and a great private balcony overlooking the river - perfect for a drink whilst watching the sun set directly across the river.
The hotel is new, and not many people in the town had heard of it when we booked tours etc. The staff were generally polite and helpful, but overall I'd say the service was a bit inconsistent, but as we only really had breakfast at the hotel it didn't bother us, and was consistent with Luang Prabang service in general.
Getting to town was easy - either a 10 minute walk or a 5 minute cycle ride (the hotel lets you use them for free) across the bridge. They do also provide a free minibus service but it takes longer than walking!
There was lots to do in and around Luang Prabang but we organised these ourselves rather than using the hotel. Particular highlights were the cooking course at Tamarind, and an elephant ride. We also took our own boat down the Mekong to some beautiful waterfalls.
We found the restaurants to be a bit hit and miss - with the exception of the 3 Nagas, we had no luck on the main street for dinner and I would suggest you keep away from all the other restaurants on the main street. Tamarind and Apsara are highly recommended.
Overall, great value, good location on the river and easy access to town, but the service was a bit hit and miss.
Staff makes you feel at home in their paradise
We've stayed in a few places in LP, but found Le Bel Air Resort strikes the perfect balance between convenient location and picturesque setting. The resort—situated next to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge on the other side of the Nam Kham—is three minutes from town, but feels a lot more connected to the city and its residents than the downtown/touristy options. The riverside bungalows combine Lao details with modern conveniences and the rooms in the villa are a true bargain. The manager Somneuk is very present and he and his staff make you feel right at home and totally taken care of. For instance, when I asked about where I could rent a mobile phone, they lent me one of theirs. I thought I was getting special treatment, then I realized that they were also lending out laptops to guests as well as bikes and proving free airport transfers and rides to downtown (turns out it's quicker to walk). Don't miss the market next door--it's where the locals actually shop for food and you'll be the only tourist in sight.
Peace and quiet in Luang Prabang. With smiles.
I have just returned to the UK from Luang Prabang. I stayed 4 nights in Le Bel Air and had a wonderful time. The rooms are excellent, the gardens wonderful, the staff are happy, sweet people and the manager is charming. Over the years I have stayed in several hotels in Luang Prabang and this is the best.
Precious and rare familiar treatment in a resort style accommodation
We spent there 6 wonderful days, in a really nice bungalow, sorrounded by a beautiful park and by the kindness of all the staff; particularly, we appreciated the attentiive and familiar care of Somnuek, the manager.
The resort is in a quiet location, connected with the city center through an old pedestrian bridge. There are also complimentary bicycle for guests and a free transfer service to and from the resort that can be very useful if you suffer from vertigo (the bridge is very far from western standards of security). The management also offers guests the possibility to get a free mobile phone, during their stay, to ask for a transfer from the city when needed.
Lovely staff, peaceful garden
We stayed here for several nights and the time went too quickly. The manager, Somnuek, is dedicated to making his hotel work well, and to training the staff. He asked us to tell him, or the receptionist called Khamlat, who speaks excellent English, if there were any small problems. Everything was sorted out. Some of the staff has been recruited from poor villages and their eagerness to please makes up for a few small hicks in the service. They were all keen to practice their English and the obliging driver, Boumni was especially eager to learn useful phrases.
We had a bungalow in the garden which was very quiet except for a wedding party one night at the disco across the river. The big bed is extremely comfortable and extra pillows are provided on request. Once we asked for a mosquito device, we were not bothered at all by insects. The hot water tank was changed while we were there and there was no problem with showers. AC worked very well, but the fan was often sufficient at night. We also used the excellent laundry service. Ok – it is more expensive than in town – but I don’t mind paying $1 for a clean pressed shirt delivered to my room only hours after giving it to reception.
The breakfast was freshly cooked, with a smile, and gave us an opportunity to wake up gently, without having to find a place in town. We had lunch and dinner there a few times and it was fresh and convenient, without much excitement.
It’s fun taking the wooden bridge across the river, then it’s just a short walk into town. We heard no noise from the bridge at night. You can fill up your water bottle free at l’Etranger, have a coffee and change some books.
Yes, they will lend you a mobile phone, come and collect you at the airport, or in town if you are too tired to take a tuk-tuk. But it only costs 10 000 kip – remember to show them where it is on the map, as vehicles have to take the new bridge.
If you want to help the local community, Somnuek has a flyer indicating some schools that could do with help. He is a Buddhist, with plans to build schools and toilets in several small villages. It only cost $5 to buy a mosquito net for the orphanage. $10 will provide 30 bricks for a new school. I thought it was a great way to give back.
The peace and quiet, the lovely garden, the life on the river and the delightful staff make this place our favourite in Laos in which to relax.