The best travel experiences are when you can truly immerse yourself in a new culture…and they are often the hardest to come by. So how can you gain access into fascinating far-flung communities without relying on chance encounters or an Abercrombie & Kent price tag? Well in Laos, the answer is Kamu Lodge. Thirty kilometers up stream from Luang Prabang, this 20-hut lodge was built in conjunction with the neighboring Kamu tribe as a way to preserve and honor their traditional way of life—farming the land, fishing the rivers, and crafting everything by hand—by inviting guest to be apart of it. By teaching their trades and sharing traditions with guests, villagers not only gain income by working 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. Of all the accommodations we stayed at during our honeymoon around the world, Kamu Lodge was easily one of the most enriching.
Our boat went full steam up the Mekong river along the limestone cliffs and docked on the sandy beaches of Kamu Lodge. The location felt a world away from the city where we started.
The local villagers escorted us to our villas made of thatch roofs, canvas walls, and traditional furniture. Our beds were thoughtfully decorated with bougainvillea petals and the bathroom was beautifully done and fully equipped. Far from roughing it, we took a hot shower (heated with solar) and then met the masseuse for an incredible couples massage.
The entire camp is centered around a working rice paddy with the restaurant and bar weaved into the terraces. Sitting on the patio, watching the emerald blades blow in the wind, and smelling the fertile earth beneath us, as we savored our homegrown rice with buffalo curry, was a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
After lunch, we took our first visit to the adjacent village to learn about local life. A baby had just been born so the community was 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. Not much more is needed since most people spend their days in nature or the center of the village with family and friends.
Rice is the most important staple of life in Southeast Asia and we were about to learn how to grow it. A farmer motioned 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 previous plan 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 how to catch it. This stared with a lesson archery followed by net fishing. While most Kamu aren’t hunting with a crossbow 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 dozens of 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 traditional song and dance for a nightcap to a very special day.
The next morning we took a relaxing morning stroll along the shore and village, before heading back to Luang Prabang. Kamu Lodge has 2-day or 3-day packaged that include meals, activities, hikes and ample time to soak up the local culture and environs. No matter how long you stay, you’ll return with a an experience you won’t soon forget.
Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog HoneyTrek.com and Trip Coaches or those looking to extensively travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @HoneyTrek.
Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.