Welcome to the jungle

Yesterday I travelled about thirty kilometres north from Vientiane to the Nam Ngum river to stay at an eco-lodge called Rivertime Resort. Here, “resort” seems to mean any accommodation outside of a major town. This resort consists of half a dozen self-contained single-room lodges, several dormitory-style lodges with shared facilities, two “restaurants” and a couple of other buildings.

Although that list of structures might have you imagining a fairly substantial installation, everything is built into the forest and river’s edge and feels very natural. There is a small staff, but they are very informal – uniforms would feel very out of place here. The overall feel is much closer to that of a camping ground than a hotel, albeit one from which the forest has not actually been cleared. There are only a couple of other guests, who come and go each day. The constant heat and humidity forces every action to be slower than usual, but now and then a cool breeze floats down the river and makes the atmosphere quite comfortable.

Lunch was eaten late, floating on the river – the girls working here seem willing to try to cook anything, but I stuck to dishes that at least sound local: a thin red curry, fried morning glory (a thin green plant a little like the stalk of Vietnamese mint) and sticky rice. Sticky rice seems to be the staple here, but it is harder and drier than such that I’ve had in other places.

Shortly after six o’clock I walked back down to the river looking for a beautiful sunset, but again the solid cloud cover meant that the sun only appeared briefly before ducking below the horizon. The clouds, though, became more interesting as they were now lit from beneath and an array of shapes previously hidden became visible. I can’t show any photos from my camera here, and it seemed unlikely that my phone would capture anything worth sharing.

After dinner, there was nothing to do but fix the mosquito nets and wonder how I was going to sleep with the regular thudding of ripe fruit crashing down onto the wooden roof of the lodge. The ground around the lodge is littered with rotting fruit – the smell is not unpleasant, very much like ripe or dried apricot.

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