What can US$50 get you in the Green Season in Laos? Both, much more than you’d expect, and exactly what you’d expect.
This is the Sanctuary Nam Ngum Beach Resort, or simply, Sanctuary as it’s commonly known by around here. It’s a new establishment (only a few years old at most), and about as far from the types of places we typically stay at, but that’s Laos for you.
But, it’s also a testament to doing this sort of thing with a 15-month-old. I think there’d be a good chance we would have opted for the more rustic and established place next door run by a long-time French resident of the area (who incidentally used to own the land that Sanctuary now adorns) if we hadn’t a toddler in tow. Undoubtedly, space, A/C and a wee bit of luxury make the weekend so much more enjoyable with Noe. I’m not saying that he’s a diva…but, yeah, he can be kind of a diva.
Sanctuary is set on a narrow peninsula jutting into the northernmost finger of the huge Nam Ngum Reservoir. It’s actually an island connected to another island by a road tracing a series of dikes. It’s an unusual configuration but one that gives the strong sense that you are on an island rather than a twisting peninsula.
Sanctuary consists of 23 separate bungalows, each facing the water. The larger bungalows (such as ours) front the beach. The smaller ones jut out over the water. We were happy with ours this time but think that if we return, we’ll opt for the ones over the water.
Bungalows here are a cross between industrial sparse and Euro-mod, with a hint of Southeast Asian flare.
In addition to the glass doors that opened out to the front deck, there was also a pair of glass doors that opened out to a bonus area in the bathroom. It seemed like a nice place to put a chair and read a book while it rains, but really, we think the purpose of the design was to let more daylight and cross-vent through.
Our bungalow’s deck was quite large — you could host a dozen people out here. It seems that during the dry season, they put cushions out around the pit in the middle, but no cushions out during our stay as we’re still very much in rainy season.
Both nights, we were excited to discover we had a friend staying with us (outside). After sunset (and Noe’s bedtime), we’d head out back to the deck, and without fail, we’d hear his unmistakable “YAP YAP YAP!” We’d peek out around the corner and, sure enough, he’d be there looking for his dinner.
As mentioned in our last post, the Sanctuary sports one of the few sandy beaches in all of Laos. It’s manmade and not an astonishingly large strand by any measure, but Noe enjoyed it quite a bit, nonetheless.
Also mentioned in our last post, the place has a unique floating pool in the lake, secured to land by a dock and anchors. Sanctuary also offers kayaks and paddle boats for rent, along with boat rides on the lake.
The bottom of the pool is actually a soft liner, anchored to the floating buoys pictured above. It’s a novel sensation, being in water, floating in more water.
All in all, at around fifty bucks a night in “green season” (what the tourism industry here calls rainy season), Sanctuary’s a good deal for the money. But then again, most lodging is a pretty good deal in Laos (but not as good of a deal as what you can often get in Thailand).
The resort offers a good amount of amenities (clean, modern rooms, upscale covered restaurant and bar, large decks with views, floating pool) and a certain degree of luxury for the price. With that said, don’t come expecting a ridiculous deal. This is not a five star resort on a pristine stretch of white sands with concierge service and champagne on arrival. But that sort of place would also feel very out of place on the outskirts of this small village, and honestly, anywhere in Laos. Alternatively, Sanctuary aims to offer an oasis in a tranquil lakeside setting with a lot of comfort and a hint of luxury.
We’ve enjoyed staying at our share of stilted rustic bungalows in rural settings off the beaten path. But we also enjoy a bit of comfort from time to time as well, and Sanctuary offers that.
We couldn’t resist taking a paddle boat out on the lake for an hour. These were some of the nicest paddle boats of seen, as well — complete with four seats and a sun shade. We were free to paddle wherever we could within the hour so long as we stayed away from the infamous Monkey Island. Apparently, there is an island full of territorial monkeys a few hundred meters offshore, and they are no joke. Needless to say, we heeded their advice.
Noe seemed to take to his first paddle boating experience — he took to it quite seriously in fact, even wanting to drive the boat.
Life jackets aren’t really a thing here. We don’t exactly endeavor to be those crazy falang but do concern ourselves with the safety of our child from time to time. Noe’s been enjoying the water so much these past few months that we thought it would be great to get him a floaty suit. We saw a little French boy wearing one at a birthday party and thought it was the coolest thing. So, we searched and searched and finally found one which we brought back with us from our visit to the U.S. We thought Nam Ngum would be just as good a time as any to try it out. Seems the Mister still has growing to do before it becomes useful (and not just completely hilarious), though…
In addition to him having very limited range of motion, we also noticed it was very hot, which is fine when he’s in the water, but not so great when we’re, say, on a paddle boat for an hour. Sure, we could have thrown him into the lake every now and then to cool off, but that kind of would have defeated the purpose.
On our way back from our weekend, we stopped at a roadside eatery on the way out of town that we had been wanting to try. It’s a rickety affair, jutting over a small, murky inlet — exactly what we had hoped for. The food was quite good as well.
Coming back into Vientiane after a long and enjoyable weekend at the lake, we made our quarterly stop at every foreigner’s favorite Thai supermarket. In addition to stocking up on a few things we can’t find elsewhere, we thought Noe would get a kick out of getting ride the shopping carts like usual. Seems this particular Sunday, he was just too dogged tired to take pleasure in such idle activities. Not surprising, he slept like a log for the next couple of nights. We all did.