“ Located close to Vientiane, Laos, Rivertime offers visitors to Laos a genuine experience of the Lao countryside, people and culture. „
I arrived excitedly in Laos at Vientiane airport from Hanoi to stay in this Eco-lodge resort just outside the capital. We spotted this place on the hostelworld website but choose to book directly with the resort as getting to the resort is a bit tricky. There is a local bus service which runs daily, However we preferred to arrange with the Eco-lodge to get collected from the airport for a small fee of $10. Arrival at the airport was easy and as with many of the south Asian countries you can get the required visa when you turn up to enter the country. The visa does require a picture, but we forgot that we had packed ours in the main language so got fined a whopping $1!
Anyway after making our way through the easy immigration checks we had a friendly driver waiting for us and he drove us for about half an hour away from the capital to this nature resort. By the time we arrived it was pitch dark, but we had a lovely chat with the owner who showed us to our cabin and advised us to make our way down to the floating restaurant when we were ready
We made our way through the curvy path ways made for the resort to arrive at the first cabin. This was of a great size and had a lovely king size bed waiting for us. There was also ample room to hang clothes and other stuff. Outside the front door was a small table and chairs and to the side of the cabin was a more secluded private garden with again another table to just get away from everything.
The best thing about the room was easily the bathroom. The flooring on this was simply just pebbles and this allowed any water to drain away easily. This came equipped with a shower, WC and sink. The only problem with this was the lack of hot water. However cold showers were surprisingly pleasant. I suppose this was helped by the fact that it was approaching 30oC each day outside and on our stayed it was simply sunny every day.
The room also came with many anti mosquito devices. Obviously this is a problematic area, especially as you are near the river, for these but the room came with many citronella candles for you to light and also had nets to put up at night and despite the obvious problem we never had any problems here.
The floating restaurant
Yeap that's right a floating restaurant! The eco-lodge is on the banks of a river in Laos and our first experience of this river was sat in the restaurant which was really nice. However due to the dark nature of the evening we couldn't see it in its full grand nature until the morning. When we did we realised that the restaurant gave amazing views over the river and to the small village over the other side. The resultant was quite large for its nature and during our stay there were only ever two other people staying with us.
Foods from this restaurant were admittedly always a bit hit and miss. However it was always edible so I suppose I cant complain to much. The menu was extensive and I think this was the reason that the food qualify wasn't always perfect. Rather then ensuring that a few dishes were great it tried to cater to everyone's needs as it offered Thai, Chinese, Western and Vietnamese food. The food was reasonably priced. However I soon realised on the first night that I had stumbled upon one of the nicest lagers I have ever drunk called Beer Laos. This is now owned by Carlsberg and was recently voted the second best beer in the world. This can be enjoyed in small or large bottles. We seemed to order a couple of large ones at regular intervals in the day. Getting on and off the restaurant was tricky whilst we were staying. This was mainly because the river had recently flooded and meant that the bankside that you walked down was still a bit moist. This had small walkways to cross over to the wooden structure of the restaurant. This also had a water feature on the side of it. The staff in the restaurant were really friendly and wanted to learn to speak English while they were happy to teach how to speak Laos.
Breakfast was also served in the restaurant and was always of a better quality then the main menu. I think this was because they were fewer dishes to choose.
Things to do
The resort offers many things to do. On our first day we visited the local village on the other side of the river. We were driven over in a small boat by Gamgurn (the manager of the resort) who guided us round the village showing us the temple, the local witch doctor and the local school. This was something I really enjoyed and to see so many people with big smiles on there faces was refreshing. It turns out the eco lodge has close links with the school and provides many books for them. We also strolled around the village and purchased many items of clothing. These were hand made in the village and we bought them cheaper then in the capital but paid the workers a lot better then they would have received from the local trades dealer. We realised we spent ages around the village as we watched Buddhist monks beats there drums in the evening to inform the village the evening was coming so we crossed back over to the resort.
The second day saw us charter a boat from the resort and we made a couple of hour trip down to another eco resort which had an outdoor steam room. This trip led us to understand the nature of the country more as we passed many fishermen and farming communities using the river as a source of life.
On our next day we rented a couple of bikes and visited another local community and visited another temple where we were greeted by a mad monk who lived on his own for many years. Hiring the bikes was something that was hard as the bikes were in a bad state of repair and my chain came off several times on the short journey. In the evening we had booked to have some traditional Laos massages and these were enjoyed by both myself and my Girlfriend.
The final day saw us visit the capital on the way back to the airport and explore a bigger and far more superior temple. On the final night we enjoyed some local Laos dancing - Well I did until I got dragged up to join in as I'm a really bad dancer!
The room cost $19 per room per night for a double or $9 when booking into the dorm. This resort is quite so generally if you booked the dorm you would be on your own. You do get breakfast included in the price of the double room.
Generally food is reasonably priced, however we found that we could make a trip over to the village on the local ferry service and buy drinks cheaper then in the resort. This included the price of the ferry as well!
Many of the things we did were add ons that cost, the details of these can be found on the website.
This was a great place to stay and offered something that I was looking for on my trip. The surroundings were great and after a week staying in the resort I felt a part of a community which I think says it all about this resort. This was echoed when one morning I was awoken early by the local temple by the Buddhist monks banging the drum to symbol the start of the day and I felt it was time to start mine to.
Further details can be found at http://www.rivertimelaos.com/
This review also appears on Ciao.