It’s been 18 months since we last stayed at Green View Resort on the Nam Ngum reservoir. Within minutes of arriving, it was apparent just how big of a mistake it had been not to return sooner.
Green View was one of the first places in the capital region that we discovered after moving here in 2016. We visited again with Lori’s parents, but other adventures and discoveries beckoned. We returned to this village for my birthday weekend last year, but opted to try nearby Sanctuary Resort, returning there a few months later.
Sanctuary was great for Noe at that age (15 months old—just starting to walk, but still largely oblivious to much of the world around him—and things like sheer drops, sharp rocks, or dangerous creatures). The property had a little sandy beach for him to play in and each bungalow has an enclosed patio. Sanctuary is quite nice, particularly for this part of Laos, but perhaps too “nice” (read: polished and lacking soul) for our tastes.
Conversely, we really liked the unique, relaxed vibe at Green View, and the two French brothers that run the place are awesome. Plus, that view! And, there are only four bungalows at Green View (versus 30? at Sanctuary, right next to each other). And…the food is really amazing here—Laos cuisine on one side of the menu, French on the other.
I really do love this place, and am excited that Noe is now at the age that he’d love it too (without having to worry about him walking off a cliff or not having fun…at least not as much as we did nine months ago). With said, the kid can be pretty easy to please. Give him a shampoo and soap packet to stare at and a comfy bed and he’s happy.
Driving up to Green View we like taking Road 10 via the floating restaurants at Tha Ngon and the Toulakhom Bridge (which, by the way, still hasn’t made it onto Google Maps in the 21 months we’ve lived here—which is fine by us. Keeps the traffic down along the route, I’m sure). Lori does all the driving (I’m not authorized to drive Lori’s work vehicles), and it’s not the easiest of drives, per se, though Lori’s gotten infinitely more comfortable in doing it over the past two years. Most of the route follows a two-lane highway through open range, bustling villages, and over winding mountain passes during the final hour. It takes 3.5 hours on a good day to cover the 80 miles from our house in Vientiane to Green View Resort, door-to-door, provided traffic isn’t bad getting out of town and the weather is fair.
First things first when arriving at our weekend digs—Noe’s bed: Check!
Noe’s sleep gadgetry: Check!
We didn’t used to bother bringing his baby monitor on trips away from home, but discovered in Malaysia this past April how useful it can be. Ironically, we no longer need it at home, but on the road? Absolutely! I even called ahead to request bungalow #1 (the closest bungalow to the outdoor dining area) to ensure that the signal would reach. That way, we could feed Noe and put him down at a reasonable hour, then enjoy a nice dinner together for a couple of hours while Noe happily snoozed 50 meters away.
And in case you were wondering, that other thing on the right is his sound machine—another once critical piece of kit that is rapidly becoming optional.
This is our fifth time staying in and around this particular village, but before this weekend, we’d never stayed here in the middle of rainy season (a.k.a. “Green Season”). As a result, we had no idea just how GREEN Green View could actually get, even in a so-far mild rainy season. The only rain we got during our stay were a couple of big storms in the middle of the night. The weather really couldn’t have been better for this time of year (though definitely the buggiest visit we’ve had).
Noe was beside himself when he spied not one but THREE boats (actually there were more, but he now distinguishes between “barco-boat” and “yak” (i.e. kayak)). “UNO…DOS…TRES. TRES BARCO-BOAT!!!”
Oh, Green View pool. How I’ve missed you. I’ll be seeing YOU in the morning! But now, it’s “Happy Hour” time. Crackers for the boy and fizzy water for the Preggo.
We’re in that phase currently where we sometimes use the soft chair, sometimes don’t. Here we could’ve gotten away with not using it. The bib, however, Noe will need til he’s 30, I’m sure. I still need one from time to time…
The view from the open-air dining area on the hill. That’s Bungalow #1, which gives you some idea of how far our old, second-hand baby monitor signal reaches.
I hate to have to wear shoes and socks while on vacation in the tropics…then again, I hate to wear shoes and socks in the tropics, period. But the mosquitos LOVE my ankles, and were particularly aggressive this evening, which means one thing—storm’s a’brewin’!
After an exceedingly restful night’s sleep (you can see Noe approved), we grab breakfast and head out on a walk.
Noe, by the way, has been awesome since Malaysia in terms of sleep away from home. He’s always been a pretty darn good sleeper, but there’s always been a bit of an adjustment that first night anywhere new. I tend to believe that picking up and moving every one to four days during our two-week trip to Borneo was really good for him in that respect. We’ve spent a weekend over the border in Isan and the weekend here now with good results. He went right down between 7-8p and is up in the morning between 6:30-7:30a, which is pretty typical for his home sleep habits too. And, he no longer cries for us in the morning. He just hangs out in his crib and entertains himself until we come in to get him. Sometimes, it’s hard to get him out of his crib. He really seems to value his alone time in the morning.
We went on a long walk to explore a new road through the village. With overcast skies and a hint of drizzle, it seemed like a really good idea when we left at 9a. That all changed about 15 minutes along the road when the sun popped out and things started to get steamy. Even our UV umbrella was no match for the son this morning. The humidity was brutal. On top of that, it was too muddy for Noe to walk for much of the way, and I’m exclusively carrying him now (Lori’s been too rotund and pregnant since mid-May to do any sort of carrying of anything).
The water buffalo were out in full force during our stay, grazing on the lush, green grass coating the hillsides all around us. Noe, however, was convinced that they were elephants, and kept making the elephant sound and gesture, which annoyed the water buffalos (and to be honest…me after a while) to no end.
Also, here you can see some new construction in the corner of the screen—stilted, concrete bungalows, which can only mean one thing: competition for Green View, Sanctuary (and Nirvana Archipel, which is also in the area but we haven’t yet stayed there).
A little pre-swim reading time back at the bungalow.
And now, the moment Noe’s been waiting for since we got here yesterday:
This kid loves the water. I’m not sure there’s anything he loves more (I’d like to think mommy and daddy, but hard to say…). He loves being on the water, in the water, around the water—I’m convinced he must be half fish.
Doesn’t get much better than this on Father’s Day weekend, or any weekend for that matter.
Shortly after putting Noe down for his nap, the water buffalo made their way up towards the bungalows. It was as if they’d been waiting all morning for the kid making the elephant sounds to disappear until they made their move. “He’s gone now, you guys. Let’s move in!”
After putting Noe down, I returned to the pool for another dip. Lori never left.
Lori and I were in the pool, enjoying some down time, when I looked over towards our bungalow and noticed something appearing to swing from the rafters, then disappear. Hmm, weird. Guess it was nothing. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw it again. I squinted to get a better look in the midday sun and realized it was a fairly large snake moving along the side of our bungalow.
Needless to say I was a tad bit concerned, given that Noe was napping inside, I had no idea whether it was poisonous or not, or how well-sealed the bungalow actually is. These bungalows are pretty darn well sealed, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
Lori, on the other hand, wasn’t so concerned. But I hate snakes. There’s nothing that terrifies me more—I’m like Indiana Jones in that respect, minus the PhD in Archeology and the amazing hat. So, I wasn’t about to let this thing continue to take up residence with us.
I notified the staff, beginning a long game cat-and-mouse (or groundskeeper-and-snake, I should say) for the next several minutes…all while Noe snoozed away in blissful ignorance.
After several attempts, they managed to hook the snake from the rafters with their broom. At that point, I thought that the old groundskeeper might take the snake off into the wood, or toss it over the berm, but no. The old boy was out for blood, proceeding to whack the sh*t out of the green slithery creature. When he was sure the snake was dead, he proceeded to whack it a few more dozen times, as if to send a message to all the other snakes within a 10 km radius. Satisfied with his work, he gave a big smile and a thumbs up, grabbed the bright green carcass and disappeared over the berm with the vanquished snake.
I later discovered it was a Golden Tree Snake, not particularly venomous or dangerous, but just enough to be uncomfortable with the notion of one hanging around your sleeping toddler.
Noe was up a short while later, so we headed back to—you guessed it—the pool!
With the sun low on the horizon, it was time to shower and get ready for dinner…or at least Noe’s dinner.
Noe recently got a book all about FRUIT. He’s obsessed with fruit and loves books, so it seemed like a no-brainer. Just took a little while to find one here in Laos. Not only did we eventually find a second-hand book on fruit, we found one in Spanish, to Lori’s utter excitement.
Engaged in a very serious discussion about fruit.
On our final morning, we awoke to fog and stillness. Noe enjoyed hanging out with daddy and watching the morning activity on the lake while daddy sipped his morning coffee.
Noe and I also enjoyed watching what appeared to be one of the guests, who may have been exchanging work for lodging, build a motorized pontoon boat of sorts out of two of the resort’s lesser used kayaks. I was hoping he’d complete his project before heading out of town, but unfortunately it was not to be.
Ten more minutes of play time before we pack up the crib and hit the road.
We hadn’t been this far up the road since our trip to Vang Vieng with Lori’s brother and fiancee in January—whole different world in the rainy season. What’s also different is the progress they are continuing to make on the high-speed rail that will eventually connect China with Thailand—and Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane with the rest of Southeast Asia. Signs are everywhere, yet still subtle and easily missed if you aren’t looking.
High-capacity power lines are also popping up in support of the new infrastructure. There’s also a six-lane expressway under construction between Vientiane and Vang Vieng, which purports to reduce the current travel time from 4-5 hours to 90 minutes.
The Laos of today will be unrecognizable in a matter of years, at least along these corridors. I can’t even begin to fathom a Laos with freeways, overpasses, rail service, and tourist hordes. Some of the impact will be good for economic development (i.e. benefit wealthy Chinese investors and the Laotian elite), while many communities will be negatively impacted and forever changed. China and Thailand stand to benefit the most from the rail line, while 90% of Laotians in the region stand to suffer economic and social losses that may never be recouped.
But it would be naive to think such changes weren’t bound to happen eventually, even in sleepy ol’ Laos. It is possible to manage this type of progress for the net benefit of all, and many countries around the world have successfully done just that. Time will tell if Laos can do the same.