Kamu Lodge: Life in the slow lane

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Travel consultant Charlotte recently visited Kamu Lodge, an ecolodge experience in the beautiful mountains of Northern Laos. Here, she explains why you should consider adding Kamu Lodge to your itinerary – and why she wishes she could have stayed longer!

Located two hours outside of Luang Prabang by boat, the Kamu Lodge Experience is a sustainable accommodation which aims to introduce travellers to the “slow travel” style of exploration – the Lao way!

The lodge is designed to introduce travellers to the Kamu people’s way of life in an unobtrusive and educational manner, and it is five minutes away from a local Kamu village, integrated seamlessly into the natural environment and culture.

Made up of 20 safari tents, this rustic lodge runs entirely on solar power. There is no Wi-Fi or electricity except for the solar-powered lights and honestly, you really don’t miss being shut off from the world for a day. There is so much on offer here that it takes a day before you notice you haven’t checked your messages. Just make sure you arrive with a fully charged cameras as you will be taking lots of photos!

Inside the safari tents
Inside the safari tents

We arrived late in the afternoon – which was incredibly hot – and decided to save the activities for the morning, heading instead for the spa. I use the term “spa” loosely as this is little more than a hut with no walls on the banks of the Mekong, however the girls working there give wonderful local-style massages that I can only describe as someone doing yoga for you! Wearing loose clothing, you will be pushed, pulled and bent until your muscles feel totally rejuvenated from your time travelling.

By this time, it was getting dark so we headed for dinner at a building set in the middle of the lodge’s own rice paddy, which was incredibly atmospheric. Here we were treated to several different fresh local dishes, each as tasty as the next.

Restaurant in the rice paddy
Restaurant in the rice paddy

The next morning started in earnest as we began all the activities the lodge had on offer. Firstly, we were treated to a demonstration of ploughing using the traditional buffalo method. To aid with tourist demonstrations, the lodge keeps its rice paddies going throughout the year, with different areas at different stages so that at all times you can try your hand at each part of the process of rice farming.

Buffalo ploughing
Buffalo ploughing

Next, we tried our hand at rice planting. Taking the younger seedlings that were ready for moving up to the paddies, we waded in to inches thick mud where, with the help of someone who had been doing it for years, were mainly laughed at as we pushed the seedlings in whilst trying to not lose our balance and go in face first.

Several other hands-on demonstrations occurred, with varying levels of success, from trying to cast fishing nets (nothing except rocks), panning for gold (one dust-sized piece) and crossbow archery (bullseye – success!)

Preparing to throw a local fishing net
Preparing to throw a local fishing net

Our final stop of the morning was to visit the local village, which turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for me. Having visited many local villages on my travels through Asia, I had become conditioned to expect the normal response to tourists in more remote parts: villagers pushily trying to sell locally made handicrafts etc. However this did not happen.

Instead, we had the opportunity to explore uninterrupted with our local guide, who explained what we were seeing and helped act as a translator with the friendly locals. We met a gentleman making bricks and discussed his daily activities, talked to young children about their return to school (it was the summer holidays at the time) and spoke to older members of the community about life in the village. As a Kamu village, some of the elders and children did not speak and Lao, so having our guide was invaluable for our time there.

Quiet streets of the Kamu Village
Quiet streets of the Kamu Village

The visits here have been developed with sustainability in mind – the lodge itself employs many people from the village, and for every guest that stays, money is donated to the Village Development Fund. As a result, the Kamu Lodge Experience provided a genuine and authentic experience that seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone we talked to.

After a hearty lunch back at the restaurant, we returned to Luang Prabang by boat, stopping off at the Pak Ou Caves along the way. Overall it was a thoroughly memorable experience, making me wish I had stayed longer!

Great for small kids and big kids alike, an overnight stay at Kamu Lodge can easily be combined with a stay in Luang Prabang. See our Laos Overland: Along the Mekong itinerary for an example – or chat to Charlotte directly to begin planning your own perfect trip.

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