Shandelle Battersby checks into Mekong Charm Riverside, Luang Prabang, Laos.
The ancient city of Luang Prabang, in the northern part of Laos, can be reached by air, bus or river. We flew in from Thailand on Bangkok Airways, a 90-minute flight and were picked up by minivan outside the small airport, courtesy of the guest house. The airport is only a few kilometres from this pretty town's Unesco World Heritage Site-approved historic centre so a motorbike-run tuk tuk is another option if you have to sort yourselves out.
Check-in experience: Chang, the guest house's superb manager, was waiting for us with a cool watermelon juice and spent a while chatting to us about what to see and do in the city and answering our questions. While this was happening our bags were whisked away to our room on the first floor where towel swans awaited us on the beds.
Room: A triple room with a balcony. There was one king and one single bed, a flat-screen TV with a wide selection of cable channels (some overdubbed in Lao), a safe, fridge (with the world's cheapest minibar: a can of Lao beer was about $1.70), aircon, a ceiling fan, and plenty of room to store our luggage. There is also a room available at the reception level of the guest house with its own terrace area complete with a swing.
Price: Rooms went for $133.
What's in the neighbourhood? Everything you'd want to see in Luang Prabang is within walking or biking distance — if there is anything you want to see further afield the staff can help you arrange it.
We spent a lot of time at the city's famous night markets and its fantastic restaurants and visited temples, a local market, did a boat cruise at sunset on the Mekong, walked up the sacred landmark of Mt Phousi and also took a day trip to Mandalao, an elephant conservation centre about 30 minutes out of town. This organisation, which cares for 10 rescue elephants, promotes the ethical treatment of elephants in Laos: no riding, hammers or hooks.
Toiletries: Yes, including dental kits.
Food and drink: A complimentary a la carte breakfast is included and it is fantastic — there are several food options from banana pancakes and cereal to fried rice — and you get a plate of fresh fruit, freshly squeezed juices and tea and coffee too. Breakfast is served across the road at a little dining area overlooking the main highway that is the busy Mekong River.
A room with a view? Our balcony looked at the building next door but some of the rooms have balconies facing the river.
Bathroom: The best shower out of five different hotels on this trip, with great pressure and a rain shower option. The rest of the fittings were modern and new.
Room service: Not really, though Chang brought us some watermelon juices a few times off her own bat on the warmer days when we'd been out and about. Very thoughtful.
Free Wi-Fi: Yes.
Exercise facilities: There are plenty of free bikes you can borrow with baskets and locks — the layout is simple, the roads are flat and the people you share the road with are courteous and respectful.
Perfect for: A relaxing and friendly base to explore this special part of Laos. We'd return in a heartbeat.