After treading old ground in Savannakhet, Pakse and Don Det we headed to Tad Lo to try somewhere new in Laos and, once we found it down a long dark road from the bus stop, were quickly charmed by the place. Or at least we were when the sun rose the next day.
I’m not sure why we chose Green Garden as our pick for where to stay in Tad Lo. I’d stopped by the gates of a temple for a smoke and a where the fuck is it? moment while Deirdre went off unencumbered by our bags to search for the village. It was literally around the corner so she checked out each guest house before deciding on Green Garden. I suspect this was largely based on price but Green Garden turned out to be a delight, and for much more than its low cost.
For 30,000kip a night we bought ourselves a bed with a mosquito net, four wood and rattan walls that fell well short of the high ceiling and some shelving suspended by string. The bathrooms were down some steps and along some stones. Once again Laos hated on sinks (what’s the deal, Laos?) An outside standpipe and the ground instead stood in for hand and teeth cleaning.
It doesn’t sound much but the wood looked to be good quality and I got the sense that someone had put some thought into what they were trying to do. This turned out to be the case. The architecture is inspired by a traditional house of the Katou, an ethnic group in southern Laos.
New hope-to-be owner Ariel has made a few concessions to the back to basics, giving us a fan and turning on a wifi hotspot that worked until the credit got used up – about 20 minutes once everyone jumped on it.
Wooden chairs movable with the aid of a fork lift truck and an intermediate level hammock completed the set up. This required a little thought to getting in and out of without tumbling over the side of the raised terrace, but everyone else managed fine without having to belly flop onto the decking.
Our room was one end of four but the terrace layout that made life less comfortable in Don Det wasn’t a bother here. In fact, it was quite the opposite. All the guests at Green Garden were happy to share washing lines, kindly put up by Em, the long term resident artist and heavy chairmaker, and crash in the hammocks not outside their own rooms.
A feature of many of the guest houses in Tad Lo is the evening family dinner, where guests gather around one large table to share a meal. The sharing vibe extended to beers, motorbike lifts, picking up supplies in the shops, and cooking, and we and the small number of other guests settled into a routine of hanging out at the guest house, playing with Ariel’s adopted kids and the boisterous dogs, pottering around the village and swimming by the falls.
The easy going personality of Ariel helps to make this place what it is but that could mean this review might be out of date if he didn’t get the money together to buy the place.
We stayed here a week, always saying we will go tomorrow but continuing to add days to our original plans. With more time left on our visas we could easily have stayed longer and noticed two young French travellers, Anina and Tiphanie, were following a similar rhythm. Without checking their Facebook page – where a video of life at Green Garden can be viewed – I could easily suspect they are still there.
Those passing through on shorter visits were made to feel welcome and the laissez faire attitude extended to all the animals in the vicinity – pigs, cows and chickens, and other dogs – who took turns in wandering through the property.
Green Garden Guesthouse, Ban Saen Vang (Tad Lo), Bolaven Plateau.
Tel: +856 2095961138