Back in 2004, I was assigned to build a resort in Northern Laos on the banks of the Mekong River. This eco-lodge with safari tents, thatched roof, and an individual solar panel to produce electricity in each room was the first of its kind in Laos. I had to live in a split bamboo house for about six months before opening to welcome the first group of 20 clients. It was the most memorable experience in Asia as I had to work in cooperation with an ethnic minority (Kamu village) located next to the resort. We had to build a restaurant in the middle of the rice paddy for the lunch spot, another restaurant with a view on the Mekong River, train the staff, and get the 20 tents ready in only four months.
The Kamu minority are animist and believe in the spirit of nature. I had to do meetings with the village in the local school to explain what we would need to build and the purpose of this lodge. We developed activities for the clients like planting rice in the paddies, gold panning, trekking, and discovering traditional medicine made with local herbs, roots, and rice alcohol. This last option was the favorite one for the clients.
I always had to come up with new ideas for special groups (incentives) like archery contests and it was fun. During a trek with some clients we met some Lao people with three elephants carrying wood logs to a local boat on the Mekong River. It was unexpected and a great experience for the clients. I’ll always remember it.