Lori and I decided it was time to get back to Rivertime Ecolodge and Resort to expel the bad juju of our last visit and have ourselves a relaxing weekend on the river — and there are few places we found so close to Vientiane better than Rivertime for doing just that.
We spent two days over our long May Day holiday weekend, relaxing at the lodge and exploring the local villages on both banks of the river.
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An hour’s drive north of downtown Vientiane, Rivertime, as its name implies, is an oasis on the Nam Ngum [River]. The ecolodge is run by a friendly Laotian-American/American couple from the U.S. (with the help of their eight children) who recently acquired the property and are in the process of improving it.
Is easy to get to (google it or click on the map in the sidebar) in the wet or dry season, though the last few hundred meters are unsealed and can get a bit muddy after a good rain. We’ve visited both times now in a 4×4 pickup, but saw compact cars get in and out without incident.
Reservations are done the old-fashioned way (which I love) — by contacting the manager, Sam, directly (contact info at rivertime.com) and seeing about availability. Not a lot of places let you do that anymore. Sam is generally very prompt, friendly and accommodating. He even made sure that a crib was placed in our bungalow for Noe. We didn’t end up using it because we brought Noe’s home with us, but it was a nice gesture.
And just to be clear, Sam and his family didn’t ask us to write about his place and we won’t get a commission if you book with them (since booking is done the old-fashioned way). We just like the place and think others would too, but don’t think a lot of travelers and area residents know about it yet.
Each of the bungalows have en suite bathrooms with plumbing (hot shower, sink and flush toilet).
Sam and his family also run a variety of activities for visitors (e.g. visits to Hmong villages, local artisans, kayaking and inner tubing, hikes, etc.) in partnership with people in the local community. We tried to sign up for a boat cruise, but they were in the process of transitioning to a new boat they had just acquired that was waiting to be transported down to the river.
In addition to the handful of rustic, yet moderately equipped, bungalows tucked just under the tree-line, there’s also a large floating barge housing a restaurant and a unique river pool.
Though it was certainly hot enough to try out the river pool, we didn’t get a chance to this time around. Hopefully next time!
The lodge is near a local ferry crossing, which is entertaining (and strangely relaxing) to watch. Laos is filled with these ferry crossings (bridges are few and far between), but we haven’t encountered any as busy and with a nice place to sit and watch. It’s a busy little crossing — obviously a lifeline for this area — but traffic dies off at a reasonable hour.
They serve up some great food at the lodge, but the Rivertime isn’t the only game in town. In addition to a couple of restaurants along the highway (before the dirt road to the lodge), there’s also a good Thai restaurant right next door overlooking the river.
You even get your own little private stilted and thatched dining room with a view!