Crossing the border into the rural but scenic countryside of Southern Laos from Thailand, one would normally not expect to find anything more than paddy fields, farm animals and the odd village. Compared to the northern part of this landlocked country, fewer tourists venture all the way here despite the presence of several attractions, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about a resort in these parts that many have raved about – I first knew about it through a fellow traveler who stayed there some years back. During my short visit to Laos, I finally got to witness what all the buzz was about.
The River Resort is a serene sanctuary located between Pakse, the largest town in the south and Vat Phou, the prime attraction this side of Laos. This makes the resort an excellent base for exploring the Vat Phou temple and for excursions to the Bolaven Plateau and Si Phan Don. I got here by hiring a songthaew from the bus station in Pakse where I was dropped off from my bus ride from Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand.
a rainbow over the mekong, as seen from my terrace
Those who have traveled around Laos and Cambodia would know how dusty the roads often are. It was simply remarkable how this all-too-familiar scene changed the moment I stepped into the resort. All of a sudden, butterflies were fluttering around me and I was surrounded by well-manicured gardens and lush greenery. The general manager – Kitkosol came out to introduce himself and a staff member gave me my welcome drink – a lime concoction. After a simple registration procedure, I was shown to my room.
The resort boasts of 10 villas containing 2 rooms each, for a total capacity of just 20 rooms. They gave me a riverside room with some unbeatable views of the Mekong River. My sleeping quarters featured a light Indochinese motif, with lots of tasteful furnishings made of bamboo. At 34 square meters, it was spacious for its price point and included lots of seating space – both indoor and outdoor. The setting was just perfect to feel the cool riverside breeze outside. A hammock by the terrace would have been perfect!
Nonetheless, it was also wonderful to relax inside the room whenever it got too hot during the day. Despite being in the countryside, the resort featured essential modern creature comforts such as a flat-screen TV with international channels and WIFI.
The bathroom was of the modern semi-open type with no separation between the washbasin and the bedroom. In keeping with its more upscale proposition, there were 2 washbasins with plenty of toiletries. A unique feature of the resort is the inclusion of not 1 but 2 shower areas – for indoor and outdoor!
The infinity pool made me feel like I was swimming on the river!
Aside from the riverside rooms, another much talked about element of the resort is the infinity pool overlooking the Mekong. The management couldn’t have thought of any better place to put it. At certain angles, it actually gives one the illusion of swimming ON the river. Even though the resort was fully booked during my stay, I never had to find myself competing for space to use the pool. I hang around there for two afternoons and practically had the entire pool to myself the whole time while everyone was out on tours.
sunset river cruise
My stay came with a short cruise down the Mekong. I boarded the resort’s boat which departed from the private pier. Depending on the time of day, guests have the option to choose between a sheltered and topless boat. Since it had just rained a few minutes ago, we took the topless boat in order to get an unobstructed view of life around the river. We had some drinks and canapes as we observed the serenity of the Mekong at sunset.
There are actually quite a few notable attractions by the river, including a rock formation shaped like a turtle and even sandy beaches. We docked and explored one of the islands. It had fine desert-like sand. I even glimpsed upon some enterprising locals extracting some of the sand to sell!
crispy noodle salad
I had all my meals in the resort during my 2-night stay so I was able to sample a wide array of their offerings. The menu has an extensive western selection which is great but I recommend trying out some of the local dishes. The preparation is actually more reminiscent of fusion cuisine which is easier for the first-timer’s palate. I particularly liked the succulent and flavorful River Fish with Tangerine Sauce. It made for a delightful meal especially when paired with steamed rice that had been grown within the resort grounds. The dessert selection was notable as well. The cakes are must-tries and so are the homemade sorbets.
The breakfast which comes with the stay is likewise served in the restaurant. It is of the ala-carte buffet type made up of western and Indochinese staples that can be ordered as much as guests desired.
This is hands down the best hotel in Southern Laos. Given how the property has also cleverly taken advantage of its unique riverside location, I wouldn’t be surprised if The River Resort Champasak also ranks among the Top 10 best hotels in the entire country. This property proves that being in a landlocked country does not necessarily equate to depriving oneself of an authentic resort experience. It is definitely more worthwhile to stay here than in characterless Pakse.
The room overlooking the Mekong is a definite plus and I highly recommend paying a few dollars more for it. Staying here with the majestic view greeting me at all times of the day gave me a deeply relaxing feeling which was most welcome after days of tiring temple exploration. I almost didn’t want to leave.
The River Resort Champasak
Ban Phaphinnoy, 14A Muang Champasak
Champasak Province, Laos
I was hosted by The River Resort Champasak. However, all opinions are my own.