Mar 03 2013
Fifty kilometres northeast of Vientiane, a red dusty road winds through farm villages, beneath the boughs of subtropical trees, and ends at a bend in the Nam Ngum River. Here, on an ancient temple site, sits Ban Pako Eco-Resort. While no remnants of the ancient temple are visible, a sense of tranquility instills a timelessness in the place.
The compound is made mostly of wood, bamboo and other natural materials and surrounded by lush greenery. The main bar and restaurant area is perched on the river bank and mostly open air, save a large thatched roof covering the wooden deck. Bungalows are lined up along the riverfront, with views across the Nam Ngum into untamed jungle. Early risers enjoying the morning air may hear the call of gibbons in the forest.
Bungalows are spacious, with hot showers, mosquito nets and porches complete with hammocks overlooking the river. With no window panes and only sliding bamboo doors, there is little protection from mosquitoes, but the bungalows are spaced so that there is a good amount of privacy. Sizes of bungalows range from a double bed to a medium-sized family suite with a partition, to a duplex bungalow with very stylish bathrooms; prices start at 160,000 kip to 295,000 kip for two people, depending on the bungalow and the season. Extra mattresses with mosquito nets are available for the rooms, at 50,000 kip each.
The kitchen offers a range of tasty Lao and Western dishes, with some of the vegetables fresh from the kitchen garden. Prices are a little higher than in the cities, particularly for Western dishes, due to the remote location. The kitchen can be slow, so be sure to order well in advance if you’re punching a time clock. The bar is well-stocked and serves a good variety of drinks at standard prices — around 30,000 kip for a mixed drink. The restaurant charges a corkage fee if you BYO.
Ban Pako offers a serene backdrop for some serious relaxation, as well as a range of activities. Steam yourself in a wooden herbal sauna fuelled by an old-fashioned wood-stove. A 10-minute walk on a jungle trail brings visitors to the sauna, overlooking a small wade-pool designed for an icy-cold dip after your steam. Notify the staff ahead of time if you wish to use the sauna, as they need to get the fire going. Use of the sauna, which seats five to six people, costs 20,000 kip for one to two hours.
Paths lead down to the river, with entry points at either end of a stretch spanning the length of the resort. Tubes are available to rent free of charge, and a boat escort is also available for one to two hours at 30,000 kip per person.
Ban Pako can arrange eco-tour trekking trips that include a boat and a guide for the day at 75,000 kip per person. Temple visits and massages are also on the list of possible activities, and the owner is generally very accommodating toward the interests of his visitors.
How to get here? A house van can pick up guests at Scandinavian bakery at Nam Phu in Vientiane if arranged ahead of time. If you’re coming here under your own steam, see directions on their website; they suggest here that a songthaew can be hired from 150,000 kip, but expect to search long for someone to take you there at this price. With the roads being dusty in the dry season and muddy in the wet, the van is highly recommended.
On the banks of Nam Ngum River, Vientiane
T: (030) 988 4611, (030) 525 7937
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