Sustainable Honeymooning: Kamu Lodge


The traditional Laos way of life—farming, fishing, weaving, dancing, and an existence dependent on the land and the community—is largely a mystery to the 21st-century westerner. We usually catch glimpses of this life on river boat tours or drives between city to city but 30 kilometers up stream from Luang Prabang, there is one village that welcomes visitors to become a part of the community even if just for a day or two. In 2004, AppleTree Hotel Group and the Kamu tribe built a 20-hut lodge adjacent their village so together they could share and preserve this local culture with the creation of Kamu Lodge. Villagers not only gain income from employment at the lodge but a large portion of the proceeds goes directly back into the community in the form of schools, health care, and a micro-financing development fund. Staying at this environmentally- and socially-conscious hotel was enriching on so many levels and it was fun that felt good.

On our boat ride to the Kamu Lodge, we stopped at Pak Ou Caves. The cliff face opens like the mouth of a monster and has a staircase leading right into the limestone jaws. The cave all on its own is impressive but inside there are thousands of antique Buddhist statues tucked into each crevice of the caves interior. Over the centuries pilgrims, even kings, have come here to leave their religious offering to the cave.

We docked at the lodge and were in awe of the steep mountains and sandy beaches framed by natural rock gardens. The location felt a world away from the city where we started.

We were greeted by the Kamu villagers and taken to our luxury tents to freshen up. With their thatch roofs and natural colored canvas walls, they blend into the hillside but when we saw our porch with chic chairs, table and flowers, we had no doubt it would be nice inside. Lovely it was with our beds thoughtfully decorated with bougainvillea petals. Far from roughing it, we took a hot shower (efficiently heated with solar panels) and then had a masseuse meet us for an incredible couples massage.

The entire camp is centered around a working rice paddy with the restaurant and bar hovering above the terraces (top photo). Sitting on the patio, watching the emerald blades blow in the wind, and smelling the fertile earth beneath us as we ate our homegrown rice topped with beef and buffalo curry was a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

After lunch the cultural immersion began with a visit to the adjacent Kamu village to learn about local life. A baby had just been born so the community was out celebrating the birth of their newest member with music and dancing.  The houses here are small thatch dwellings with a single room for cooking and sleeping since most people spend their day in nature or the center of the village with family and friends.

Life’s necessities have always been what the Kamu people can provide for themselves. With just a machete, this elder is shaving down reeds for his wife to make a basket.
Rice is the most important staple of life in Southeast Asia and we were about to learn how to grow it. A farmer motions me to take off my shoes and come into the paddy. I step into the water, the mud squishing between my toes, and he hands me a seedling to plant into the earth. The technique is to corkscrew it into the ground about eight inches apart from the next and in just a few months it will fill into a field of mature rice ready to harvest.

After we learned how to grow our food, we learned to catch it. This stared with a lesson in archery followed by net fishing. While the Kamu aren’t hunting with a crossbow much anymore, fishing is still a daily practice. The technique is to hold the net at the edges, wind up your torso and throw it as far and flat as you can. This is a workout—especially when it can take a dozen tries to catch a fish!

We went to dinner and were surprised with a private table in the paddy! It was magical to dine in the field with the glow of the moon and candlelight. We finished our meal and were invited to a special performance by the village. Sitting around the fire we took in Kamu traditional song and dance for a nightcap to a very special day.

The next morning we had a relaxing morning strolling the river then headed back to the Kamu Lodge’s sister hotel, Villa Maly in Luang Prabang. Villa Maly helped us arrange the 2day/1 night package but there are three-day packages that include hikes and more time to soak up the local culture and environs. Our stay was so lovely, we could have happily stayed longer.

Much love from Kamu Village,
Anne & Mike
Note: Kamu Lodge invited us to be their guests; however, all opinions are our own.

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