The Ansara was our second choice; our first choice (Khamvongsa) was not available. Our room, #7, was in a corner overlooking the courtyard and therefore it was quiet. Our room was adequate in size and was furnished with a queen bed, desk, chair, low table, porcelain cups, a small electric kettle, complimentary minibar (soft drinks only), foil bags of roasted peanuts, laptop, safe, bathrobes and slippers. The internet connection was quirky; one had to 'fiddle' with the defaults or have the front desk send someone to do it, but once online it was fast and reliable. No problem with the password. The pretty but small bathroom had a shower only. Water pressure and temperature were adequate. The temperature fluctuated during the shower and at the sink; it stayed within the comfort zone in the shower - never too hot or too cold - but the fluctuations were much greater at the sink; if you elected to wash your hair in the sink (the faucet is high and allows this) you should set the mean temperature a little cool to avoid stinging your scalp. The staff were courteous, friendly and helpful. On one morning we tried the breakfast that came with the stay (we limited ourselves to the buffet and declined the offered menus, also complimentary) and found the juices, fruit, milk, fish, cheese, cereal, and croissants to be satisfying. I thought the croissant had a flaky and crispy crust, which was very slightly diminished by staleness in the Vientiane humidity while the inside was light, flaky and very slightly buttery. Overall, I give it a B+. I think (without confirming) that the croissants were made by Le Banneton, and I much preferred to have my breakfast of espresso and croissant at Le Banneton, perhaps because the croissants might be fresher (grade A-, see separate review). I had the espresso twice at the Ansara. Normally I avoid any hotel lobby-located espresso machines and their attendant baristas like a plague, but they used a no nonsense La Pavoni HX espresso machine. Therefore, one day we were delayed from returning to our hotel room because the maids had not finished making up our room (subtle negative point), so we waited in the lobby and I ordered an espresso. The espresso had a thin crema and light body, but these were refreshing and suited to the hot environment (we had just returned from a walk even though the hotel lobby is A/C). The initial taste was mildly lemony but not acidic. Although the body was thin, it had enough chocolaty/roasty flavor to balance the lemony high note. The taste finished with a slight bitterness, also refreshing. The second taste was similar but the chocolate notes became more pronounced. The second cup of espresso that I ordered was to go with our breakfast. The taste had no initial high note, it was the chocolate-roast flavor but it had a nice finish of bitter orange. All-in-all, quite good espresso.
The Ansara is located in the Mixai (Mixay) neighborhood of Vientiane. This seems to be the expat enclave and so it is rife with bars, hotels, guest houses, bars, tour agencies, restaurants, worn-out alcoholic old westerners with their latest Lao girlfriend, motorbike rentals, and bars. It is a two minute walk from the Mekong River, where a large tourist market sets up nightly*. It is right next door to Wat Chan and down the street from Wat Ong Teu. The top twelve restaurants on TripAdvisor are within walking distance (except La Scala, which is near nowhere). Despite being in the center of things, our room was always quiet.
*General Opinion regarding Lao markets: Last century, imperialist countries purchased the affection of their colonials with cheap goods and trinkets. Now the former colonies seem to be getting their revenge. If you prefer to decorate your life with Proof of Travel furnishings, go for it.
General Opinion regarding Getting Around: You can rent a motorbike (despite what the travel sites say) for three times what a pair of bicycles go for and half of what you would pay in Luang Prabang. Paying rock bottom for a 'motosigh' comes with its own caveats: We had to swap our first rental because the rear tire became flat; our second rental did not have working turn signals. The fuel gauge on both bikes did not work; we improvised a dipstick from a piece of trash found on the street. We rode all day on 10,000 Kip worth of gas (about $US 1.25 in 2012). The humid breeze on a motosigh sure beats pedaling in the heat and it expands one's range tenfold. If you are determined to try authentic Lao food (are you sure about this?), your only choices are the 'evening arcade' market or to eat at any Lao restaurant outside of town, away from the tourist areas. Both of these choices require bike or motorbike, since they are beyond walking distance, except if you are staying at the Setha Palace Hotel or a handful of guest houses. See my rant regarding Lao food, if interested. It is appended to every one of my Vientiane restaurant reviews.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Boutique hotel, opened in mid May 2010. 12 "Savvy" rooms, 1 "Suite Affair" of 46 sqm and 1 "Suitest Escape" of 64 sqm. All fares include in room laptop and free WIFI, soft drinks in mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities. ... more less
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