A few weeks ago, Lori received an email from a friend here in Laos. She had just returned from a weekend away at an amazing and completely unknown place that she wanted to share with a few other expats in the area who might be able to appreciate the unique and hidden getaway. She forwarded along the contact info, as well as a couple photos and information packet about the property, with one stipulation–don’t divulge the location on the blog.
So, in that spirit, all photos have been stripped of GPS and no location info will be provided. I will tell you two things: 1) It’s somewhere in Central Laos, and 2) It’s far from any tourist services or amenities.
The timing for checking out a new and mysterious place couldn’t have been better. This place fell into our laps just as we were planning a visit from some friends coming out from Japan. We first met Doug and Akemi in a small village in the middle of the Thar desert of western India in 2012. We met up again in Washington, DC, but hadn’t managed another meet up until this one (now with a kid each in tow). Lori and I knew that if any of our guests were going to appreciate such a place (and accompanying adventure), it would be Doug and Akemi.
I emailed the mysterious owner (we’ll call him J.) who urged me to move all future communication to Facebook messenger. Over the next week or two, we exchanged info, questions and answers, and he sent a courier to Lori’s office to collect the tariff, which amounted to just over US$40 per night for the 4+ bedroom house on the river. A day or so before we left for our weekend getaway, I asked J. if we needed anything to access the property. Of course, the answer was no. The caretaker will be expecting us and show us to the property.
We turned off the highway and were amazed already at the beautiful mountain scenery–all hidden out of view of the main road. There were a couple makeshift bridges to cross, a winding mountain pass to go over (Noe even got car sick for the first time…), and several waypoints, but we arrived with time to spare before sundown.
We pulled in to the stated location and waited. The rest of the crew went ahead to the house while Noe and I stayed with the car. Five minutes later, the caretaker emerged with a hand cart for our luggage and we were on our way.
In the instructions for accessing the property, it stated that the last several meters of the journey would be covered by boat to the island. We were surprised, then, to have a beautiful newly constructed bridge to greet us instead.
Crossing a small channel to access the island.
We couldn’t believe our good fortune. The house is an amazing property. J’s 3-4 photos do not do the house or surroundings justice, which is just as well for keeping the place under wraps. As the best properties in Laos become increasingly difficult to book, it’s nice to save a couple from the same fate.
The house is funky. As I mentioned, it is a traditional Lao house, moved piece by piece to the island. It’s a large house, and seems to be a mishmash of 2-3 smaller houses attached together. The property is undoubtedly rustic, but with all the basic amenities you’d need (24-hour electricity, running water, fully equipped kitchen, flush toilet and shower room, and enough beds to sleep at least 10 people comfortably under mosquito nets.
In true Lao house fashion, the house is largely open to the elements, so you may get the occasional critter (I inadvertently grabbed a toad while opening a door in the middle of the night to use the bathroom), but the house was otherwise spotless. 3G is spotty (there’s no wifi, thankfully), and no air conditioning, but an abundance of fans.
But perhaps one of the best things about the house is the Lao decor.
I found this spot to be my choice coffee drinking area in the morning.
There isn’t a lot within walking distance in terms of food (though we did find a good local restaurant down the street run by a friendly English-speaking Lao guy). We brought most of our food with us, cooking all our meals for the weekend except one.
Lori, Noe and I slept in this wing of the house (Noe had his own little bug-net surrounded section all to himself (below)).
Doug, Akemi, and their little boy took the rear section of the house, which has two separate rooms with an additional bed outside of the rooms (but inside the house). This back portion was essentially a whole other house. You can see the rear of the main house on the left and the front of the rear house on the right, below.
Two cats came with the house. Fortunately for my allergies, the bug nets and open floor plan kept that from being an issue.
We had read that there was a grill on the property and initially planned to barbecue one night. But simplicity won out this time. Maybe next time.
There’s a large dining table with an upside down boat for one of the benches, facing the river. We never utilized it as it seemed a bit much trouble for our small party to bring our food down here at night. But I can imagine it’s great with a larger group.
There was also a hidden comfy space below the house–the coolest place in the heat of the day. Lori and I got a good nap in here during Noe’s record-breaking 3-hour nap on Saturday.
It appears there was a previous bridge. I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to be here when it met its violent fate.
The island is quite large. We attempted to explore more of it, but were thwarted by gates, aggressive dogs, and lots and lots of bugs. ‘Tis the season for the bugs. Thankfully, they didn’t seem to bother us in the house, even in the outdoor portions. And very few mosquitos, which was a welcome change.
I can’t forget to mention that the house fronts the river, and even has a large bamboo dock for swimming, relaxing, or tying up your boat if you’ve got one.
More to come!