Mercure Vientiane – A Review By Punam Mohandas
The Mercure Vientiane – earlier the Novotel – enjoys an enviable location in the heart of Vientiane, the Laotian capital. It was the first branded four-star international hotel to be established in Laos.
The 172-key hotel has adapted a lot of local art and culture into its décor, with heavy drapes, wooden furniture, and the woven bed runners and furnishings. The lobby is small and functional but there is rather a lovely grand staircase with beautifully designed wrought iron railings that leads to the upper floors. It is also a pleasure to see that all the staff here wear the local dress with its unique woven embroidery.
Room categories at the Mercure Vientiane are divided as follows: Standard, Superior, Executive, Junior suite, Executive suite and the Presidential suite. The room size is fairly large for a Mercure, and adequately furnished with tea/coffee maker, minibar, in-room safe, TV and so on. Four complimentary bottles of water are provided per day. The bathroom amenities are all in-house branded and are common to Mercure hotels across Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. While the Junior suite is actually one big room, differently-shaped and with the living room furniture occupying one end of it, the Executive suites have separate living and bedroom spaces. The Presidential suite has an extremely spacious bathroom, with silver-plated bathroom accessories.
F&B options are limited to the one restaurant – Le Café – a 100-cover outlet serving local as well as Asian and international cuisine. There is also a poolside bar. The Executive Lounge has daily Happy Hours from 5-7pm with a complimentary selection of beverages and finger food on offer. There are also two computer work stations here for guest use (complimentary.)
Housekeeping is efficient and prompt. The F&B service on the staff side could do with improvement however, is greatly enhanced by the ever-vigilant F&B manager. Most of the front office and reception staff are courteous and helpful.
Recreational options at Mercure Vientiane include a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, fitness centre and tennis court. Additionally, the hotel has massage rooms and is able to arrange for a masseur / masseuse with a prior appointment. This entire section was renovated about two years ago after the brand shift from Novotel to Mercure. Additionally, shopping requirements are met by two shops on the premises selling local handicrafts. It is also possible to obtain mobile sim cards from these shops; the cost of a sim card is 45,000 kip and the balance top-up is as per your requirement (at the time of going to press, the conversion rate was 1USD =7.500kip approximately.)
Conference facilities are met by a hall that can be partitioned into three smaller rooms; when combined, it has a capacity of 400-pax.
The Mekong river with its promenade and Night Bazaar, is a short walk away from the hotel. US dollars and the local currency, the kip, are widely accepted at the stores. The hotel is extremely close to the airport, just under ten minutes, however, there is no noise disturbance. About ten minutes away by taxi is the Namphu area, known for its coffee cafes and more upscale shopping. Approximately twenty minutes away by taxi is the Pha That Luang, one of the most famous Buddhist Wats (temple) in Laos; en route to this is the Patuxai, modelled along France’s Arc d’ Triomph, but with four gateways instead of two. An hour and a half away from the city centre is the Xieng Khuan or famous Buddha Park, with one of the largest known reclining Buddha statues. Although the sculptures look ancient, they are made of concrete and the park was established in 1958. In terms of distance the Xieng Khuan is only about 25-km away however, the roads are truly pitiable and are little more than rutted tracks. If you’d like to explore the country further, then Vang Vieng is roughly three hours away by car. Luang Prabang is an overnight journey by bus; by air it takes about 35-minutes.
Laos’ Wattay International Airport is served by several flights by Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways and so on. It is possible to travel overland from the east of Thailand (Udon Thani or Nong Khai) , across the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge and the visa on arrival can be procured here (visas come at different charges according to nationality; for Indians, it is USD40 per head.) Please be warned that the bus that takes you across the Thai border into Laos will not wait until you get your visa, so you will have to rely on a local means of transport to get into Vientiane. It is also possible to do the trip by boat across the Mekong; however, the journey takes about two nights with a night halt at one of the villages, and is advised only for the truly adventurous. Construction on a rail line from China to Laos began in 2011.
Tel: +856 21213571
Fax: +856 21213572