Low-Cost Luxury: Crowne Plaza Vientiane in Laos
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To The Point
The Crowne Plaza Vientiane is a solid property in Laos’ capital city, especially if you want to earn points and credit towards elite status. Pros: Comfortable rooms and a great staff. Cons: so-so location, and few Laotian touches.
I ended a recent trip to Laos with two days in Vientiane, the landlocked nation’s capital, before continuing on to Singapore. While there, I decided to stay at the Crowne Plaza, which opened in late 2017, and the new hotel proved perfect for my needs.
Hotel options in Vientiane were limited to either budget hotels, many of which actually looked pretty nice, or more expensive luxury hotels. The Crowne Plaza Vientiane represented an interesting in-between, since it was not quite a budget hotel but room rates were well under $100 per night. Not only that, but, as far as I can tell, it may the only hotel in Laos that participates in one of the major hotel loyalty programs.
For the nights I was looking at, rates were $69 each for a standard king deluxe room, which came to $83 per night including taxes and surcharges.
Thanks to my IHG Rewards Club Select card (I still had the old one) and the Platinum status it conferred, I earned 7.5 IHG Rewards points per dollar on my stay plus 3x Ultimate Rewards points by putting the stay on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I did that instead of spending on my IHG card, which would have earned five more points per dollar, so that I had the flexibility of transferring Ultimate Rewards points to a number of different travel partners.
If I’d wanted to use points, this room would have cost 25,000 per night, but it would have been an abysmal value for the IHG poitnts, so I decided to pay cash — which also helped me hit some of my IHG Rewards Accelerate offer terms.
The hotel is just a 10-minute drive ($7 each way in a taxi) down a major road from Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport (VTE) and a five-minute walk to the riverbank, where there are a lot of bars and restaurants. You can follow the river toward the main part of town and shop at little stands in the evening. Most of the city’s other major sights, like the Wat Si Saket temple, are within a 20- to 30-minute walk, though you’ll have to take a taxi to the golden-spired Pha That Luang temple and monument.
When I got to the hotel in the early evening, it was thronged with a group checking in, so I had a chance to have a look around the lobby.
It’s a two-story space with escalators that run up to the events rooms (there was a huge wedding there one night during my stay).
I particularly liked the upholstered screens behind reception, since they’re based on traditional Laotian textile patterns.
To the right of reception lies the Elephant Lounge bar and a seating area with live music in the evenings.
There was also a stand with complimentary water.
When I did make it to the front of the line, the young woman who checked me in was great. She pulled up my reservation, thanked me for my loyalty and informed me that I’d get a 600-point welcome bonus. I had been upgraded to a room on the eighth floor with a Mekong view, which would have cost $15 more per night.
She told me that breakfast wasn’t included in my rate, but that if I wanted to add it, it would cost $18 per day. I declined, figuring I could make coffee in my room then get something to eat when I was out and about in the city.
She then pointed me to the elevators around the corner, and I made my way up to my room on my own.
One interesting thing about the elevators was that each of them had wraparound imagery about a point of interest in Laos along with a written description of the site.
The elevators are located in the middle of the two wings of the building, and there are golden sculptures resembling river plants on panels on the wall.
My room was at the end of the hall.
Just inside the door was a set of buttons including those for housekeeping, do not disturb and lighting controls.
My room featured an open floor plan with sliding doors on two walls of the bathroom so that you could access it from the entrance or the bedroom.
The closet had drawers and a safe on one side and a hangers on the other.
And the minibar was stocked with soft drinks, a couple of beers and a Kit Kat.
Plus a kettle and coffee and tea necessities.
There were two small bottles of complimentary water.
Housekeeping also left me a welcome amenity of fruit, a custard pastry and a chilled bottle of Perrier, all of which I enjoyed.
The king bed was dressed simply in white linens with silver striped pillows and a gray dust ruffle. The carpet was gray with amorphous yellow patterns on it. The material headboard was beige with a golden pattern that looked like river weed from the Mekong and looked hand-painted. I also liked the slender, hanging conical lamps. I found the design to be a nice combination of traditional and modern, with uniquely Laotian design flourishes laid over a clean, modern aesthetic. I wish the property had more of these design elements throughout.
The nightstands had universal power ports, which was convenient, and another example of the property including the latest and greatest in terms of tech features.
One of them also had a kit with Elemis room mist to spray on the pillows before bed.
There was a purple sofa and a small elliptical desk with a cream-colored ergonomic rolling chair facing the corner.
The desk also had a compartment with a variety of power ports and A/V inputs — essentials for any traveler.
The wall opposite the bed had a 40-inch flat-screen TV mounted on it.
The bathroom was spacious and bright, with tiled floors and walls, including a marble accent next to the freestanding bathtub.
The shower was glassed-in and stocked with Elemis products, a high-end touch.
There was a single sink. Incidentally, the hand soap on the sink was from a company called Soap 4 Life and was handmade by Laotian women as part of a female empowerment and fair-trade project. It was also made from all-natural ingredients, including coconut, palm oil and wild honey.
Next to it was a box stocked with amenities like dental and razor kits.
The toilet was located in its own private WC.
Though my room was categorized as having a view of the Mekong, and I guess you technically could see the river from it, the vista wasn’t exactly picturesque.
I could, however, look straight down at the pool.
The hotel spa, gym and swimming pool were down on the third floor.
The pool is small, but it’s attractive and is probably large enough to do laps in.
It has infinity edges and is surrounded by umbrella-shaded and comfortable lounge chairs. Visually, it’s quite appealing.
I found the gym to be surprisingly nice, with a long row of treadmills, ellipticals and new weight machines.
There’s a section for free weights and a yoga and stretching studio at one end.
The spa, meanwhile, has separate men’s and women’s locker rooms.
As well as shower facilities.
And wet areas with saunas and Jacuzzis.
The spa offers an extensive menu of treatments such as a eye-contouring facial; several types of massages, including one using rainforest clove, tangerine, pink grapefruit and rosemary essential oils; and a jasmine-rice body scrub followed by a moisturizing mask of jojoba oil and shea butter.
During my visit, prices for services ranged from $20 to $50, which I thought was reasonable for a hotel, but given that you could get a massage out in the city for a fraction of that price, and that my time was limited, I skipped it.
On the first floor (meaning one floor up from the lobby), there are several massive ballrooms, most of which seemed to be taken up by wedding parties during the weekend of my stay.
One not so great amenity was the Wi-Fi — I had some issues with it. The system kept kicking me off, and I had to reconnect each time I got back to my room.
When it was working, though, it worked really well.
Food and Beverage
The hotel said it would eventually have several bars and restaurants, though only a few were open during my stay.
Up on the third floor and adjacent to the pool, Splash Bar was a casual venue serving snacks like sandwiches and satay as well as cocktails.
Beyond that was an events space where they were setting up for something that evening.
The hotel’s all-day restaurant was called Mosaic and was on the first floor, one level up from the lobby.
Dinners on Friday and Saturday nights, when I was there, were international buffets.
They were serving everything from Peking duck and Asian tapas to fresh salads and vegetables, plus a whole dessert station.
The cost was 299,000 LAK ($36) per person, and the food did look nice, but I decided to eat out both nights while I was in Vientiane.
Down in the lobby, Elephant Lounge served beer, wine, Lao coffee drinks and both classic and new cocktails such as one called the Dragonfly with bourbon, lime, simple syrup, watermelon juice and basil. The food menu included small bites like a barbecue burger, bourbon chicken wings and loaded potato skins with bacon, cheddar and sour cream. Basically, it was like the menu at a TGI Friday’s. You could have your food and drinks at the bar or out in the outdoor garden behind the hotel but fronting one of the surrounding streets.
There was a counter there where you could buy sandwiches and pastries.
Finally, though it was not finished by the time of my stay, there was an “innovative Indochina restaurant” called 3 Merchants serving dishes from the region.
Before my stay at the Crowne Plaza Vientiane, I’ll admit I was a little dubious. I have stayed at many of IHG’s other brands, but not at too many Crowne Plazas, so I was curious to see what the experience would be like. Honestly, it was nicer than some InterContinentals I’ve stayed in lately. The room was bright and nicely decorated with a good bed, fast Wi-Fi (once it worked) and nice Elemis amenities. The location was convenient, and the hotel offered several (perhaps overpriced) options for dining and drinking.
Finally, a note on the staff. Everyone at the hotel was young, eager and helpful. They printed out airline tickets for me, hailed tuk tuks and made sure the driver understood exactly where to drop me off, and made restaurant and shopping suggestions. They reflected well not only on this particular hotel but on the Crowne Plaza brand in general.
While you can find cheaper accommodations in the city, and perhaps might want a hotel that is more specifically Laotian in character (other than those elevator murals), the Crowne Plaza Vientiane was a great choice for my needs, and I’d certainly stay here again if the rates continue to stay as low as they were when I booked.
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