Our initial impression of the Sengtawan was really good. Our e-mails were answered promptly and very postively by Mr. Khamphong, the booking procedure was seamless, even when we had to amend our schedule slightly. Our first slight problem came when we landed at Sengtawan airport. Having been assured that we would be met with hotel transport, we had to resort to a taxi in the end. At the hotel we were met with blank stares when we mentioned the matter.
The Sengtawan is situated on the river front roughly a kilometre from the centre of Vientiane. In theory it should have been relatively quiet place. Watch this space! The hotel looks fine from the outside, although it gives a few mixed messages. Difficult to quantify but I began to have some reservation about whether the actual experience of staying there was going to live up to the expectations.
The desk staff were polite but seemed to have difficulty in finding our reservation, even though I had a printout of all correspondence with them. All this, including the airport transfer was sorted out amicably in the end but my nagging doubts persisted and were not dispelled when when we were shown our room. There was nothing really the matter with it except for the lack of a safety deposit box, it just looked and felt rather bland and ordinary which, for the price, was probably what I should have expected. The faint but pervading smell of drains on that first night didn't help. This did go away, or perhaps we just got used to it. I have to say that my son's room, on the other side of the hotel had a much better ambience than ours. Still, nothing tangible to complain about but I was quite glad we were not there for many nights.
I think we got to the bottom of our misgivings when we went up to the bar and restaurant on the top floor, much vaunted for its sunset views. This restaurant, with its sizeable terrace overlooking the Mekong, could be spectacular. The outlook is undeniably impressive and I would imagine the more so in the wet season when the river is in full flow. The restaurant itself, however, is unimpressive, smells of stale cooking oil and there is a quite disgusting strip of soiled red carpet leading through the restaurant to the terrace/balcony, all of which put us off any thought of eating there. The restaurant manager, resplendent in a dark suit ,but wearing flipflops didn't create a great impression either.However, as a spot to enjoy sundowners it is great. Also, the terrace/balcony is a great place to have breakfast, with views of local fisherfolk casting there nets in the Mekong to good account.
Breakfast is just about OK, but they do need to up their game in busy spells to make sure everything is replenished promptly; coffee and fruit ran out one morning.
In mitigation, after the initial debacle with the hotel transport, they bent over backward to make sure it didn't happen again and I began to feel that problems at the front desk were not down to shortcomings with the staff but to our difficulty in communicating with them.
I can't say I rate the Sengtawan very highly, but you get what you pay for and it was comparitively cheap.
To go back to the location. On the opposite bank of the Mekong is Thailand and right opposite the hotel is some sort of Thai nightspot, marked with a searchlight that probes the sky. The noise from this place is incredible; you can actually hear the words the singers are singing! Fortunately the noise dies down soon after midnight but it is disturbing while it lasts.
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