The Lao Poet opened just before the pandemic in the heart of the old downtown, a short walk to the river and night market. The grand opening was a short-lived celebration because the government response to the pandemic was to completely shut down the borders, thus forcing the hotel to close for more than a year. It reopened shortly before my visit in November (yes, I’m a bit late in posting this). The hotel is owned by the same Laos-born, French-raised hotelier who has operated the popular Satri House in Luang Prabang for years.
The old narrow street above which The Lao Poet rises feels like the gateway to a ghost town. Many of the surrounding buildings remain vacant and dilapidated, including what clearly was, many years ago, a beautiful Buddhist temple. But up and down the main drag nearby, there is lots of construction with signage announcing new modern hotels and banks “coming soon.”
This is not a luxury hotel by western standards. Lao Poet falls squarely into the mid-range boutique hotel category, with plenty of modern comforts. Our room — an Urban Exclusive Classic — is absolutely charming. The beds, swathed in velveteen, are comfortable enough for a two-night escapade. The walls are layered with vintage wood paneling, green paint and a stunning hand-painted mural that extends onto the ceiling. A couple of hand-woven rugs add softness to polished cement floors.
The lobby holds little more than a small front desk and a few leather chairs, but the air-conditioning is cold and the WiFi strong, so I can’t complain. Just off the lobby is the Lao Poet restaurant, which serves traditional Lao cuisine, all of it made from scratch and to order. We sampled just about everything on the menu here and found all of it excellent. The Lao sausage wrapped in lemongrass proved to be a highlight not just of this visit to Vientiane but of our entire three-week trip through Laos, Thailand, Singapore and Japan.
Bottom line: Lao Poet is the perfect encapsulation of time and place in the heart of a old city with a complicated past and now in the early stages of a comeback. The rooms are joyfully quaint and colorful, and the restaurant is outstanding.
Rates from about $100; Henbounnoy Street, Ban Haysoke, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane, Laos; +856-21-253-537 ; laopoethotel.com