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Settha Palace

At a Glance

    Pros

  • elegant and private
  • gorgeous furnishings
  • beautiful pool garden

    Cons

  • often fully booked
  • no elevator
  • only four standard rooms

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating:  

Settha Palace Review

This colonial landmark has been through many changes: it was built by the French at the turn of the 19th century, converted into a hotel in the 1930s, and expropriated by the communist government in the 1970s. It became a hotel again in the late 1990s. Although it underwent extensive renovations—the marble floors and fixtures are new—the owners have respected the original design. Rooms have high ceilings, hardwood floors, Oriental rugs, and period pieces; the executive suite has a large and comfortable sitting room as well. All rooms have tall windows that overlook lush gardens surrounding a large pool. The lobby, decorated with fine antiques, is adjacent to a small bar and elegant restaurant, La Belle Epoque, which specializes in Lao and French cuisine. City tours are available via the hotel's London taxi, and Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel (not free).

    Hotel Details

  • 29 rooms.
  • Rate includes breakfast.
  • Credit cards accepted.
Updated: 05-31-2013

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating:  
  • Room  
    Décor  
    Service  
    Value  

    We Expected More from a Luxury Hotel

    My spouse and I stayed at the Settha Palace for three nights in mid-February 2013. The French colonial-style hotel, built in the early 1930s, is located in the city center area, within easy walking distance of restaurants, shopping, and sights. In researching possible places to stay, we though the Settha Palace sounded like the best fit for us, but we saw other hotels in our walks around, and many of them looked acceptable, for example, the Lao Plaza Hotel was near the Settha Palace, and would have worked nicely for us. We also considered the Mercure/Novotel and Don Chan Palace, but we found that those two hotels were located a bit too far from town [not walkable].

    It is a 10-minute drive to the Settha Palace Hotel from the Vientiane Wattai International Airport in a vintage classic car (a London taxi); a charge of $11 total is added to your hotel bill to cover the one-way transfer. Generally, when a hotel of this supposed caliber picks us up from the airport, the driver provides a cold bottle of water and a cold cloth, but that nicety was not offered by the Settha Palace. We expected more personal pampering from what was reported to be the best hotel in town.

    An attendant always mans the doors to the Settha Palace, and happily greets you with folded hands and a cheerful “Sabaidee!)” The lobby of the Settha Palace holds a few small tables and chairs, along with a desk/computer for use by the guests. The hotel has a formal indoor bar and restaurant, and casual poolside outdoor bar/restaurant during daytime hours. According to their website, the brick patio in front of the hotel also offers casual dining, but we never saw anyone sitting there, even though the setting seemed serene with a large fountain on the patio. The swimming pool is a lovely relaxing oasis, with attractive landscaping/palm trees and featuring teak lounge chairs with blue cushions and matching blue pool towels. No poolside (chairside) service is offered, which we expected from a hotel of this level.

    The Settha Palace does not have an online booking system, so we had to email the hotel to inquire about availability. We were told that the Deluxe Rooms (for $193 per night) were booked, but that a Junior Suite was available ($250 per night). The most luxurious option is the Executive Suite ($340 per night), which sounded appealing because it had an extra half-bathroom in the living room, but that nightly rate was more than we wanted to spend. (There are many, many guesthouses in Laos where you can stay for as little as $15 per night, depending on your comfort level.) Some of the rooms in the hotel are accessed from outside (some using their own small staircase), and other rooms are accessed from inside the main building.

    The hotel seemed devoid of guests during our entire stay there (despite it being the high season). We saw another couple at the pool one afternoon, and we saw two couples in the restaurant having breakfast, but we never saw anyone in the indoor bar, on the front patio, or walking around the building or grounds.

    Our room (number 216, a Junior Suite) was perfect for us - with a living room and bedroom, we had some space to spread out for our 3-night stay. The living area contained a sofa, two side chairs, and small dining table for four people; however, there was no TV in the living room. (There was an outlet on the wall where it looked like a TV should be placed, though.) The living room and bedroom were separated by louvered folding doors, and the bedroom housed a king-size 4-poster bed, desk and chair, wardrobe, and TV console. Louvered doors weren’t as good as complete doors, because they let some light and sound through, and had to be retracted if the person in the living room needed to use the bathroom even though someone was sleeping in the bedroom. The TV console held the stocked mini-bar (sodas and beers were $3 to $4 each), and the wardrobe held the electronic safe, robes (very, very TINY robes!), and slippers. Complimentary drinking water was provided each day; however, it was in glass bottles that had a paper strip seal over the top, and I was a bit dubious about drinking it. There is no smoking in the rooms (actually, we did not ask, and we did not actually see any signs posted about not smoking, but we just assumed that because we did not see any ashtrays that it was not allowed). Our room had no clock, which we missed; therefore, it was necessary to request a wake-up call from the front desk every day. The rooms have very high ceilings, with windows to match; the windows open, but none of the rooms in this hotel has a balcony (we thought that there were balconies based on some photos that we saw online, but we were mistaken by the camera angle). Bathrooms are a decent size, with separate soaking tub and shower. The shower has no shelf on which to place toiletries, so we had to leave our bottles on the floor, which was a little messy because they ended up floating in the standing water while we showered.

    Our room was always clean, perhaps a little too clean on one particular day. One morning, I had an issue with one of my contact lenses, so I removed it and opened a new packet with a new lens. I put the old lens in the new packet, and placed the packet on the back ledge of the bathtub that abutted the wall. The tub also contained a wider side ledge where we had place our toiletry kits and other items, so there were a good amount of our personal items around the edge of the tub. When we returned from our day of touring, the contact lens packet was completely gone! I probably would not have reused it anyway, but it was the only spare lens that I had, so I did not want to throw it away until we checked out of the hotel the next morning. We can understand how the cleaning person might have accidentally knocked it over and realized that the lens was lost, but to just completely throw it away and hope that we did not notice it seemed wrong!

    No extensive turndown service occurs at the Settha Palace (again, which we expected from the best hotel in town). There was a sort of turndown service, but they literally just turned down the bedcovers and replaced missing toilet paper. In other hotels of this caliber, we find that the turndown services usually place a little linen mat at your bedside, upon which they position slippers, and they set out bottled water and a small sweet treat on the nightstand. Sometimes they even provide a weather forecast for the following day. A full turndown generally includes towel replacement, toiletry replenishment, and trash pick-up, none of which happened at the Settha Palace. (We got that kind of turndown at our next hotel in Luang Prabang, so it is not unheard of in Laos.) The toiletries at the Settha Palace are paltry - one miniature bottle of combination conditioning shampoo and one equally small bottle of shower gel (but no conditioner or body lotion). Annoyingly, we always seemed to be out of toilet tissue - even though there was always a full roll on the dispenser and another on the shelf, by morning, we were always out. (In Laos, a roll of toilet tissue does not hold very much, certainly not like our double or triple rolls in the United States!)

    Breakfast at La Belle Epoque was included in our room rate and featured a buffet of hot and cold items, along with cooked-to-order eggs. We are neither coffee drinkers nor juice drinkers, so usually hotels allow a soft drink substitution as part of the meal, but that was not true at the Settha Palace. We received a bar bill every morning (approximately $6 for two Diet Cokes). On the first morning, we did not have to sign a bill for our drinks (so we actually thought that they might be included as a substitution), so on the second morning, we again left without signing, only to have the waiter ringing the doorbell to our room holding the folio for us to sign. (We felt like we had skipped out without paying the bill!) We viewed the dinner menu at La Belle Epoque, and found the prices quite high ($30+ for an entrée) by Vientiane standards; the restaurant seemed a little more formal than what we wanted, plus we enjoyed exploring the city streets at night in search of a restaurant at which to dine. La Belle Epoque has a private dining room for small functions, and there is a larger banquet facility space near the swimming pool that seemed in frequent use.

    Restaurant and bar choices within walking distance of the Settha Palace are numerous, as are shops and stores selling packaged food and drinks (convenience stores). We shopped daily at the M-Point Mart near the corner of Samsenthai and Pangkham. Be aware that most stores and restaurants do not take credit cards unless your bill totals about $30, and trust us, your bill will almost never be that much - not for happy hour nor even a multi-course dinner! Every morning, in a little dirt alley across from the Settha Palace, are a few food wagons and tables selling prepared meats and vegetables. You can buy food to eat for breakfast or lunch for very reasonable prices (a complete meal for under $5 for two people). It is also a good photo opportunity if you like to see how locals live. There are additional food vendors on many corners, where you can pick up a kebob of meat or a roasted banana for less than $1.

    We enjoyed our stay at the Settha Palace, and think that it is one of the better options in Vientiane at this price and service level, but we would probably investigate staying at the Lao Plaza (although a thoroughly modern hotel, not historical like the Settha) or perhaps the Ansara (with its premium city location, although it doesn’t have a swimming pool).

    by fluffnfold, 3/15/13

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