The experiences that we propose are all those unforgettable moments, spent in the heart of the Laotian villages, which will remain engraved in your memories. You are invited to share the picturesque life of the villagers for a whole day or a few hours, and try some local specialities, ranging from unusual encounters, through various handicrafts, local dishes or drinks.
All activities are subject to availability and seasonality.
Laap or larb is a pillar of Lao cuisine and is considered by some as the unofficial national dish of Laos. Its variations are numerous, and it can be made with fish, meat, tofu, vegetables but also locusts, tiny freshwater shrimps or red ants!
It can be served raw or cooked, according to personal taste. Each ingredient is minced very finely or ground in a mortar and pestle. It’s fun to watch a busy kitchen with the muffled noise of the mortar and the powerful smell of roasted chillies. Fresh herbs, lime, roasted and crushed rice powder, chillies, and various sauces are integrated into laap and give it a rich, fresh and powerful flavour. Gourmets will be delighted by this extraordinary discovery. Like most dishes, laap is served in the middle of the table and shared between diners, who enjoy it with fresh vegetables and sticky rice presented in a woven rattan basket.
During this class, let your senses transport you on an unforgettable culinary journey. Lao cuisine is complex and requires patience, it also reflects the relaxed pace of Lao life, punctuated by the unexpected.
You could easily spend an entire day picking, picking, washing, chopping, pounding and grilling the many foods and condiments used to make meals of exceptional richness. In our Sala on the banks of the Mekong, our chefs will guide you through the different stages of preparation of laap, from the selection of the freshest food to the tasting of this favourite dish.
Estimated time: 1h30
Note: Please let us know in advance if your have any dietary preferences for food allergies
There are two traditional alcohols in Laos: “Lao Lao” or rice alcohol and rice wine in jars, “Lao Hai”. Rice alcohol is very popular, and you will notice it hanging in plastic bags in stalls along the roads. Inexpensive and very powerful, it is typically served at weddings, baci ceremonies, or other village gatherings, and he is particularly appreciated older people who consider it a cure for all ills.
The preparation of rice alcohol is usually done before dawn, after the villagers are woken by the crowing of roosters. It is at this time of the day, when the freshness of the night has not yet been dispersed by the first rays of the sun, that the alcohol is best distilled. The traditional preparation is often passed on from generation to generation. During your trip to Laos, explore a new experience as you are welcomed by a local family with their warm smiles and enjoy the privilege of sharing their daily life. Everyone participates in the family economy according to their skills: production of coconut oil, carpentry, sewing or agriculture are some examples.
During this unforgettable experience, your host will lead you through the different stages of Lao Lao preparation: cooking sticky rice, cleaning the surplus starch, the fermentation process using leavening agents, then evaporation in traditional distiller on a powerful wood fire. You will have breakfast prepared by our chefs while enjoying the pastel coloured sunrise over the rice fields with the magnificent mountains providing a wonderful backdrop. Before our departure, you will be invited to enjoy a glass of Lao Lao freshly distilled and you will receive a small bottle as a souvenir. Lao people often change the recipe depending on their preference using medicinal herbs or fresh fruits such as mango, pineapple, passion fruit, banana, coconut etc. and a little cane sugar. Use your imagination to decide on how your want to finish your Lao Lao” which will taste better after a month of waiting.
Estimated time: Around 3 hours
Note: The ideal is to start the activity at dawn, like the villagers, between 5am and 6am and see the sun rise on the rice fields enjoying your breakfast. It is always possible to organize the activity later in the morning. A bottle of “Lao Lao” is given as a souvenir of your experience. The activity is not possible if it is raining
Making rice baskets or “kathip khao”, is an economic activity that adds to the income of village families across Laos. Sticky rice “khao niao” is traditionally served in these pretty woven baskets whose size can vary from a small individual basket to huge baskets used by the vendors of sticky rice in markets and along roadsides.
The sophisticated weaving technique requires patience and know-how and can take hours. The craftsman begins by cutting long rattan leaves which must then be soaked in water. Bamboo slats are used to create a frame to support the rattan and also for the lid of the rice basket. Then starts the meticulous work of braiding, folding, and sewing the rattan to finish the rice baskets.
In the shade of a house on stilts, you will enjoy the discovery of this traditional handicraft and the time spent with the Lao people in their wonderful countryside. Take breaks during your weaving to interact with the villagers who are sure to be curious and welcoming and will have fun watching your efforts. If you manage to string together a few words of Lao, they will be even more enthusiastic.
At the end of the activity, you can bring your rice basket with you, and if you wish, you can buy some extra ones from the villagers as a souvenir that symbolizes Laos particularly well Laos. You can also ask our chefs about cooking sticky rice when you get back to the hotel if you want to try to cook on your return home. If not, then simply us your basket(s) as a novel storage place for jewelry or pens for example.
Estimated time: 4-6 hours
In Champasak, verdant rice fields are everywhere, and you will see them in each village and between each mountain. The rice fields are dotted with villagers wearing their typical triangular hats, bending over patiently planting rice barefoot.
Rice is the staple food of Laos and, in addition to being served at every meal, serves as a base for the preparation of noodles, desserts, and drinks of all kinds. Its culture however remains a mystery for many travellers, a mystery that you will have the opportunity to unravel during this afternoon of discovery. It is interesting to note that “to eat” translates in Lao to “khin khao” whose literal translation is “eating rice”, and that a meal without rice is only “kin lin”, or “play eating”.
The rice crop takes about 6 months, and different stages can be observed depending on the season. In the more mountainous areas of Laos, farmers still practice so-called slash & burn rice farming, with land whose natural irrigation is subject to rainfall. Irrigated rice cultivation is therefore favored both for its yield and for the stability it offers to rice farmers, but it is nonetheless an exercise demanding hard work in this region where farming is still almost entirely manual. Thanks to an ingenious irrigation system bringing water from the Mekong to the rice fields, the villagers of Champasak produce the rice several times a year, with a short fallow period. This gives this town the breathtaking visual appeal of a hinterland of green shades nestled between the mountains and the Mekong.
For this activity, you will meet farmers in the beautiful village of Ban Phaphin, and they will explain each step, from the selection of rice grains, the ploughing of fields, through to the harvest using a sickle. If you wish and the season allows, you will be invited to lend a hand, and the farmers will teach you how to handle traditional instruments and plant rice shoots one at a time. In addition to better understanding this traditional farming method, it is by doing it yourself that you will discover an activity creates admiration of Lao farmers determination and patience make up for the lack of modern technologies.
Estimated time: 3 hours
Note: The activity is available throughout the year but sharing the rice planting is only possible in May & December and the harvest in October & March.
During this cooking class, you will discover one of the many uses of sticky rice in Laos. The seeds called “khao mao” are those that have not yet matured and are harvested from young rice shoots. They are appreciated for their fragrance, nutritional quality and elasticity.
As you will notice during your holiday, Lao cuisine requires a lot of patience and so symbolises the relaxed, unhurried nature of the Lao people. You participate in the preparation of the traditional “khao mao” in the kitchen of a village family, between the crackling fire and to the rhythm of mortar & pestle and machetes. The green rice seeds are first soaked in water for several hours before being steamed in a rattan basket rattan, and then roasted in a wok by mixing continuously for over an hour. Once roasted, the young seeds are allowed to cool and then crushed patiently with the mortar & pestle to separate them from their husks. The green rice is then bamboo sifted with a delicate hand to separate it from the peels and dust. This last step is repeated several times until the green rice is completely cleaned.
Once the preparation is complete, you can taste the fresh and exquisite green rice with the Lao family who welcomed you and you will enjoy a special and friendly moment of exchanges and laughter that will leave you with many happy memories. The green rice can also be fried or incorporated into different desserts such as coconut milk or mixed with sugar and red peas.
Estimated time: 3 hours
Note: The activity is not possible if it is raining
What could be better than time on the mystical Mekong river or the lake in Champasak to savour the soothing tranquility of southern Laos? Let your mind and the lush nature of Southeast Asia become one with the world’s second largest ecosystem and one of the largest rivers in the world. Depending on your preferred stle of fishing, you can go head-to-head with a boatman, or accompanied by a local guide discover the traditional fishing technique using a hand-woven nylon net.
The Mekong is a river whose source lies in the Tibetan plateau of China, irrigates Myanmar, and winds between Thailand and Laos, where it forms part of the border. It continues on into Cambodia where an exceptional phenomenon of current reversal occurs during some tides at Lake Ton Le Sap before crossing Vietnam and after 2,000 kilometres ending in the South China Sea. Despite the poer and majesty of the river, its ecosystem is fragile. The many hydroelectric dam projects endanger certain endemic species and the industrial, pesticide and unfiltered water discharges pollute its extraordinary natural diversity, which is nevertheless an essential resource for the millions of villagers living along its banks.
Traditional family fishing as you discover in Champasak is an integral part of a sustainable river balance. At the end of the day, when the sun gets sweeter and the landscapes take on splendid golden hues, the fishermen gather peacefully at the places where the river is low, the water flow fast and where there are numerous fish. For a few hours, you will learn to recognize the different fish that the Lao have many ways to cook.
Your guide will show you the art of throwing the wide net in the water and you can try the experience for yourself: expect to hear soft bursts of laughter at your lack of beginner dexterity. Soak up the joy of life that colours all parts of Lao life and this enchanting moment where time seems to stop.
Estimated time: As long as you wish
Note: We can accommodate this activity according to the time you would like to spend, and we can arrange lunch on the boat. Plan to protect yourself from the sun (hat, glasses, loose clothing and coveralls, sunscreen). If you wish, ask our staff about a barbecue of fresh fish when you return from fishing!
The lake dries at the end of the dry season and river fishing is subject to weather and river conditions.
For a few hours, embark on a traditional wooden boat enjoying the soothing rhythm of the water and enjoy the flamboyant colours of the sky at the end of the day on the Mekong. Navigating this mystical river is an inescapable experience in Laos, and this magical moment, where the powerful heat of the tropics gives way to the sweetness of the night, will leave you with an unforgettable memory. The Mekong River, an emblem of SE Asia and a watercourse of massive, powerful and soothing water, conjures up a majestic spectacle between the sumptuous mountains, the rice paddies flecked with water buffaloes, the sound of the gong of the temples, the fishermen in their canoes, and the dancing lights of the town.
You will enjoy a bottle of chilled champagne and delicate appetizers prepared by our chefs as you are cradled in the oscillating shades of the sun as it disappears below the horizon. This intimate moment is ideal for a romantic getaway or for an unforgettable memory with friends.
Estimated time: 2 hours
Learning how the traditional wooden narrow boats are made will interest all visitors but especially DIY enthusiasts and is also an opportunity to spend time in one of the beautiful, local villages: Ban Hai. This unspoilt village sits between the Mekong, rice fields and bamboo forests and is a haven of tranquility. The construction of canoes is passed on from generation to generation and the technique demands absolute precision to allow the boat to cross the powerful currents of the Mekong in the rainy season and navigate between the rocks during the dry season.
To reach the construction workshop in Ban Hai, you cycle through lush rice fields. Your host will show you his passion for canoes, the choice of wood and the various materials used, the construction process with traditional tools, through to the maintenance and repair of these beautiful boats. Be inspired by the passion, energy and resilience of these Mekong fishermen. In addition, the warmth of the welcome of the Lao villagers is matched only by the breathtaking beauty of the landscape.
Estimated time: 3 hours
Note: You can combine this discovery with our other boat activities such as fishing with the villagers or the sunset on the Mekong, to fully experience traditional Laotian canoes.
The picturesque village of Ban Hai nestled between impressive mountains, green rice fields and bamboo forests, is just 4 km from our hotel.
You will cycle to take full advantage of this pedestrian village that has the special charm of being marbled with narrow alleys winding between its traditional houses, its beautiful bridges over the river and surrounding fields.
In Ban Hai, time seems to have stopped and you will be lulled by the laughter of children playing in this unspoilt village. Enjoy the particularly touching and warm face of the Lao villagers, illuminated the powerful sun of the region. For a few hours, you wander through the streets of Ban Hai to immerse ourselves in the slow and sweet life of the village, you cross the lush rice paddies and follow the mountain of Phou Kao, which overlooks the famous pre-Angkor site of Wat Phou.
Estimated time: 4-6 hours
Note: Remember to protect yourself from the sun with a hat or cap, sunglasses and sunscreen. When visiting traditional villages, consider wearing loose and comfortable clothing that covers your knees, shoulders and cleavage.
“Let evil spirits leave and good spirits enter”
In Lao, animist beliefs are still held and part of their beliefs is that the human body is composed of 32 spirits or “khouan” that protect the different parts of the body and your soul. However, these spirits are volatile and can be tempted away from the body to be replaced by harmful spirits that can cause spiritual and physical ailments. A Baci Ceremony invites the good spirits back to the body and encourages them to stay. An altar of banana leaves is decorated with flowers and other offerings and a candle is placed on top. Strands of cotton are strung from the altar and the candle is lit as monks or a village elder intone mantras as the participants sit with the hands together in front of their hearts. Once the mantras have been recited, the candle is blown out and the participants tie strands of cotton around each other’s wrists to keep the good spirits in the body.
These ceremonies are held during important events in life such as when moving to a new home, weddings or engagements, , to protect the newborn and the young mother at birth, after an accident or to cure a disease that persists, at a birthday, the opening of a business or before a trip. It is also customary to receive a bracelet or “phouk khaen” from a monk during a visit to the temple. The bracelet is kept around the wrist for at least three days.
Although Laos is almost entirely Buddhist today, animism or belief in the spirit world is still present and the Baci Ceremony reflects these beliefs. You will see many other offerings related to spirits such as offerings and prayers that are made at small spirit houses near the entrance to people’s homes.
Estimated time: 1h30
Often a taboo subject and with so little known, sufferers of leprosy are stigmatized even though it still affects thousands of people around the world. In Laos itself, new cases of this chronic disease are identified each year, but care is difficult to find, and victims are often ostracized for fear of contamination. However, leprosy is treatable, and patients can heal permanently. Our hotel had the privilege of meeting a German doctor, Hubert, who dedicates his life to travelling to local villages to look for symptoms of the disease.
Hubert has set up treatment centres in several villages throughout southern Laos. Patients receive support, care and respect with a view to their reintegration into society, but often the want to stay in the villages where a close-knit community has been created.
Your visit to these places of care and life takes place over a full day and you have the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the local countryside between each hamlet. All the profits go to the development of villages for leprosy patients in Laos and you will be able to help with the construction of the facilities or to enjoy the laughter of the children during a game of football. Our host, Hubert, will answer all your questions about this little-known disease, and show you the different methods he uses to diagnose new cases, the treatments and methods that are used to slow the progress of the disease.
Estimated time: Full day (around 8-9 hours)
Note: The villagers you will meet are not infectious and no specific protection is needed. Plan comfortable shoes for walks in the different villages you will discover. If you would like to contribute more to this remarkable initiative, do not hesitate to talk directly with Hubert or our employees to donate to the Leprosy Relief Project.