Folks it’s time for another ‘Retro Review’, and this time we’re heading to Laos and the sleepy capital, Vientiane where I stayed two nights back in 2011. I stayed in two different hotels/guesthouses when I was there, so one night each, and this review is for the Chantha Guest House, where I stayed the first night.
It’s fair to say that you probably have figured out that the main reason I didn’t stay both nights in the Chantha Guest House may in some way reflect on the quality of the stay and the experience I had there. And you’d be right. You know how all these “Retro Reviews” have been somewhat positive thus far? That’s all about to change!
So I came in from Vang Vieng on a bus with a load of backpackers. Like Thailand there are a bunch of tourist buses and mini-buses to get you around the country, and I have to say, travel could be a little more comfy there. In one journey I was stuck waiting for a replacement minibus for two hours as the one I was on broke down, for example. It’s a hilly, windy country and the roads aren’t too bad I guess, but the transport there is lacking compared to both Thailand and Vietnam. *NB I say this but at the end of the day, my favourite country in South-East Asia? Yep, Laos!
Vientiane though is not a traveller’s dream. There is a backpacker area, it seems nice enough but actually it turns a bit seedy at night – I was approached shall we say walking down the street on more than one occasion. Other parts are wide and busy and there is the famous Gold Stupa, and this giant arch in the middle of the road, an old palace and temple or two, it’s not going to set your world on fire (despite it generally being pretty hot) but then again, there are plenty of worse places on Earth too!
Having said that, and remembering that it’s hot hot hot (at the time, I think it’s quite pleasant in the winter but this was April), an air conditioner is something I would be wanting in a hotel room. I got off the bus having made some new acquaintances, and a couple I met decided on this hotel not too far from where the bus stopped – actually I think they asked for a stop outside the hotel. I hadn’t picked a hotel but the location seemed okay and it was pretty shady, so I got out and thought I would check out their hotel.
It was the Chantha Guest House, and it’s price was 75,000 kip – that’s just over $8USD on today’s exchange rate. I expect it was more like $10USD back then, but I could be wrong but all in all, it was a very cheap hotel and less than I had paid for anywhere in Laos. So I was probably attracted by the price and the fact that I was already there so I decided to take a room and then went off to explore the city.
The room was dark. It was quite big, the facilities were shared and they were cleanish but pokey. I didn’t use their shower. It seemed quiet, the room was very brown. There were two single beds, the floor wasn’t quite flat, and there was only a floor fan. My notes say that it was quite dirty, I think the colour of the room – being brown – probably actually covered the true extent of it.
The window was either small or couldn’t be opened – or both. And this was the killer. When I returned in the evening the room was a lot hotter. It was upstairs and possibly it was the top floor. And this heat didn’t dissipate over night. It was so hot! I could barely breath, it was stuffy and the fan did little. I just sweated the night away.
Sometimes it’s great to save a few bucks. And sometimes you can find some real gems for next to nothing, but sometimes it is clear that you get what you pay for. I barely slept at all that night. To this day I remember lying there planning my next move in the morning. I checked out at 7am. Yep. SEVEN in the morning.
I made my way up and down a street with many hotels, and I found the Mixay Paradise Hotel. I’m not sure how much like paradise it was, but to me it seemed to nail paradise compared to where I was staying. TV, air conditioning and my own bathroom. Comparatively it was heaven. And I was able to check in mucho-early and so had a shower and slept til midday. This was 125,000 kip. That’s less than double the price so it was less than $16USD, more like $13-14USD.
Another $6-7USD gets you to another class of hotel altogether, it goes to show. And sure I saved that amount on my first night, but I would have been happier with two nights in the second place. Oh, that price also included breakfast. It’s funny how we can become so preoccupied with saving a bit of money. Looking back it makes no sense at all.
I found Chatha Guest House on Trip Advisor, not with a lot of reviews but basically positive. They commented on the Wifi and the air conditioning, neither in effect in 2011. Perhaps it’s improved. Who can say? I guess it must have. But I will remember that one, sweaty night I think for a long time to come.
Value for Money: 2/5
Total: 8.5/20 [42.5/50]
Do you recall a bad hotel you stayed at? Please comment below! And May the Journey Never End!