I booked Moonlight Champa in Vientiane based on its excellent Trip Advisor ranking of #2 in the whole of Vientiane with a score of nearly 5 out of 5 from 175 reviews.
With such rave guest reviews and after learning from Brad that all rooms have air-con, en-suite bathrooms, free wifi, cable TV and "the comfiest beds in town", I booked a standard double room for $29 USD (230,000 kip or 950 baht) for 5 nights, and rejoiced in the $4 nightly discount we would received for staying longer than 3.
We were off to a good start.
After turning up tired, bemused and bruised off the VIP sleeper bus from Luang Prabang, we were greeted by a "Welcome Jojo + friend" message written on the whiteboard standing at the entrance. Simple, and a nice touch.
A young male member of staff, Noy, was manning the fort, since it was Lao New Year (Pi Mai) and Brad and Isabella were celebrating it in Luang Prabang, while the usual front of house, Mr Lay, was also off work enjoying the holiday.
We were shown to our room, no.302, one of only 3 rooms on the second floor. With towels artfully folded atop a immaculate white duvet, a functioning air conditioning unit, fan AND a hot shower (the only working heating element in Laos for all we knew), we were blissfully happy to collapse in a heap under the covers.
Moonlight Champa was an absolute blessing. Since 'the boy' and I each fell ill at least once during our stay in Vientiane, we were grateful for the wall mounted TV with Fox Movies and modern bathroom, and I'm not ashamed to say that having not looked at a television screen in the best part of 2 months, we gorged ourselves on X-Men: The First Class, X-Men: The Last Stand and something else I now can't remember but which floated my boat at the time.
An unexpected bonus, particularly since we ended up going to the Thai Embassy 3 times (it was closed on our first attempt) was that Moonlight Champa has bicycles that you can take for the day completely free of charge. Yes, free! They were lockable and perfectly rideable, and though helmets weren't provided I felt safe enough cycling around the centre of town.
As if that weren't enough, we were also treated to bagels and bananas in the morning, tea, coffee and crunchy sweet biscuits that were available throughout the day, and there were even chocolate brownies on one occasion. Not to mention, there was a drinking water supply and a fridge full of bottled water, cans of soda and yoghurt for a fair price.
Brad and Isabella, once they'd arrived back from Luang Prabang, couldn't have been more helpful. In fact, all the members of staff were incredibly hospitable and polite, always asking how we were and wishing us a pleasant day or evening. Mr Lay was a font of local knowledge, particularly when it came to what was open over the festive period (basically, everything's closed) and with regards bus schedules. But where Brad and Isabella came into their own was in restaurant recommendations. Clearly into their food, Brad and Isabella had marked and highlighted on a map the best that Vientiane had to offer by way of most genres of eateries, which they then added to throughout our stay as I enquired after a particular dish or style that took our fancy.
Thanks to them, we enjoyed the cheapest good quality French food in town at Le Vendome (steak tartare!), very tasty Belgian fare at Chokdee on the riverfront, bargainous local street treats at the night food market, excellent quality and value Lao steaks, noodles and rice at Veema Cafe round the corner and an authentic Italian set lunch menu at La Gondola.
Alot of people said to me before I left for Laos, "there's nothing to see in Vientiane...it's a bit of a dump" or similar, but I really liked it! It ticked alot of my boxes - easy to get around, good and varied food choices, laid back vibe, few tourists. And of course, probably most crucially, a wonderful place to stay.