No one would assume that only a few kilometers outside of Laos’ capital Vientiane, a beautiful countryside with forests, rivers and rich in agriculture could be enjoyed.
The Ngum River flows from the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang province southwards.
In Vientiane province the River streams into the Nam Ngum Dam. Nam Ngum Reservoir was the Lao PDR's first hydro power dam. The dam was financed with the assistance from ten countries, under the auspices of the United Nations. It was constructed and completed in 1971 by a Japanese firm. The dam generates most of the power used in the capital, Vientiane. The government of Lao PDR looks to hydro power development as the primary source of income for the country in the future.
Nam Ngum River continues its way to the Laotian capital and finally releases its waters into the Mekong River.
Following the high way number 10 out of Vientiane towards north, near Ban Tha Ngon a bridge crosses the Nam Ngum River. Several floating restaurants reside at the river banks below the bridge and offer their fresh fish and other Laotian specialties. One can dine and enjoy a boat ride on the same time. Some of these swimming tables are even equipped with a Karaoke sound machine much to the pleasure of its customers. Fish is just excellent here and it is a must to try one.
The area offers lots of activities. Boat rides on the Nam Ngum, small village temples can be observed, and fish farming and other agricultural activities can be seen. There is a small museum with an exhibit about Laotian dresses and costumes. The nearby Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort, Golf & Casino offers an 18-hole course in a picturesque landscape. The casino attracts with its 60 table games - the largest amount in all of Southeast Asia - , and 150 gaming machines. The casino floor is open 24 hours a day.
Until recently there were only a few options to stay overnight and none to stay in style.
But with the new River View resort, that has now changed. The River View Resort resides only a few minutes’ drive from Tha Ngon Bridge and directly on the river banks of the picturesque Nam Num River. The resort offers two categories of room, 7 Garden rooms and 7 Riverside rooms. All rooms are fully equipped with wide screen plasma televisions, Internet, luxury bath rooms and comfortable living rooms.
The Riverside rooms allow the guests to enjoy overlooking the serene landscape of the Nam Ngum River from a private balcony. It is a true relaxation to enjoy a glass of red wine on the balcony after a bath and a relaxing treatment in the Jacuzzi. I was surprised by the quality of the wine, a Peruvian Tabernero Gran Tinto, a Merlot.
The River View Resort offers its clients a yacht, speed boats and Jet Ski rental. They also have some bicycles and ATV’s in their car park to explore the surrounding area.
By coincidence the last weekend was also Boun Ok Phansa (end of the three-month fast and retreat' of the monks), where the Lao people set their krathongs (small floating devices made from banana trunks and leaves, skillfully decorated with flowers, and equipped with candles and incense sticks) adrift in all Rivers to pay respect to the ancient (Naga) river spirits… I got a very charming and touching experience of the Nam Ngum – a great weekend retreat from the bustle of Vientiane.