I had heard that the Muang La hot spring was nicely done, but didn’t realize what it really had to offer until I made my own visit. My first visit was actually a failed one because I did not heed the directions on the website that the resort only accepts advanced bookings of two nights or more. This is truly an exclusive experience and is made so by providing service to overnight guests only. It is quite obvious why a two-night minimum is so essential once you’re there. The experience captures what is so special about the Lao PDR—a do-not-rush culture and warm hospitality set within a breathtaking river landscape. One might say that this is the type of place where meditation comes naturally.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Muang La Resort has some good secrets on sustainability:
- The hot spring has been left open to the local public for bathing. This is a very nice community-oriented touch, as it is quite often the case with such resorts that locals are kept out. For the guests, there are private elevated tubs in addition to the public spring, which are filled every night and lit by candlelight in a very romantic setting overlooking the trees and river below.
- The food is quite the highlight, with special attention made to using local ingredients, colors and presentation. My favorite was the sorbet made with organic dragon fruit. The chefs are local women from the village and ensure that all dishes have an authentic flavor.
- The staff are all local except for one foreign intern who helps with welcoming and coordinating groups. Local staff are able to manage most everything with very little backup from the managers—a key element for any remote, community-oriented lodge.
- My favorite activity was simply hanging out and soaking in the landscape. The experience was not over-burdened by adventure activities, equipment, or itineraries. It was about appreciating nature, rather than using it as a playground. The lodge provides a variety of spaces to do this, with my favorite being the tower on the island. Here one can watch the sun set over the rushing river with a beverage in hand, which can be ordered by simply using the tower’s special telephone that has a direct line to the bartender!