La Folie Lodge

Dong Daeng Island, Champasak, Laos Book from

Secluded Mekong island lodge near Champasak, set in the shadow of a Khmer spiritual mountain and opposite Wat Phou temple
The isolated La Folie Lodge sits on Don Daeng, an island slumbering in the Mekong River, a short hop from Champasak in southern Laos. Owned by a French count, the lodge and its 26 stilted wooden bungalows plus a separate 2-bedroomed villa nestle among a lush tropical garden that's tended by the efficient manager, who once managed a private estate in Berkshire.

La Folie pivots around its restaurant, which is dotted with carved elephants and looks out onto the inviting royal-blue pool. Sit with a cold drink and enjoy the tranquil sunset and mesmerising skyline, particularly the natural linga-topped mountain, Linga Parvata. Beneath this auspicious spot, the pre-Angkorian Khmer kings chose to build the magnificent Wat Phou temple. This Unesco World Heritage Site of stepped ruins complete with carved asparas and shivas, sprinkled by holy water and shrouded in the falling flowers of frangipani, is a beautiful spot. And you couldn't be better placed to visit; La Folie is just a short boat and tuk-tuk ride away. After a trip to the ruins, borrow one of the hotel's bicycles and tour around the 10km-long Don Daeng, past paddies, wats and baby buffaloes.

Highs

  • The double-hull catamaran boat ride from the mainland over to the lodge; you sit on wicker chairs and hold parasols
  • Lovely light rooms face the river and the quaint town of Champasak, with bright Lao textiles, blackout curtains and private balconies
  • Small island setting allows glimpses into rural Mekong life
  • Egrets and swallows dancing off the surface of the sparkling pool - a rarity in Laos
  • Helpful bicycle map, plus markers on the island which help guests to visit the highlights, including the ruined Tomo temple

Lows

  • We've had reports that service is sometimes patchy as not all staff are fluent in English, but we found everyone very friendly and helpful
  • The restaurant is expensive for Laos, and there are no real alternatives on the island
  • The sound proofing (or lack of) between rooms means you can converse with your neighbours through the walls if you desire
  • The fuse box above your bed means you go to sleep (or not) to the hum of electricity
  • Power points are badly positioned in the room

Best time to go

Weatherwise the best time to go is between November and March, however during this time the river is low and a 800m sandbank forms on the main tributary of the river, so getting about by boat is trickier. In the rainy season (July-October) riverine life will be easier to see. The Wat Phou festival takes place on the full moon of the third lunar month. In high season, there is a Full moon festival every month at Wat Phou with traditional music and a candle spectacle. La Folie offers a special night boat service on this occasion.

Our top tips

  • La Folie attracts an older clientele and occasional groups, but some young couples stay, too.
  • Because of the effort of getting here, stay at least 2 nights
  • It is disrespectful to bare too much flesh in Laos; long-sleeved shirts will also protect from sunburn

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Island Resort
  • 25
  • Restaurant + bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Residence

Rooms

There are 13 stilted wooden bungalows threaded through the flower beds and well-tended gardens of the lodge. Each houses 2 identical rooms, most of them Superiors which face west across the main tributary of the Mekong, and have a private balcony with two chairs. The 2 Standard rooms face onto the garden and are thus considerably cheaper.

Rooms are spacious with polished wooden floors, fresh flowers and Lao silk textiles attractively draped on the beds (doubles or twins). Continuing the pachyderm theme, the wardrobe has 2 small elephant-head knobs. Lamps provide soft lighting and there are 2 small chairs, a desk and a table in the corner of rooms. Unexpectedly, the legs of the wooden corner table are carved in the shape of human feet. Old black and white European prints adorn the walls.

Ensuite bathrooms feature useful bamboo ladders for towels and loo rolls, plus a welcome supply of soaps, shampoos and bundles of fluffy white towels. You also get a hairdryer, and gushing hot water in a corner shower unit.

For those seeking a more upscale accommodation experience, you'd be advised to book the spacious 2-bedroomed neo-colonial The Residence, which has a stylish lounge area with kitchenette and honesty bar. French windows open out onto a wide veranda which overlooks the Mekong River. Additional amenities include an LCD TV and DVD player, CD player and air-con (there are a collection of DVDs to choose from). The Residence also benefits from full housekeeping services plus a security guard on patrol at night.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The majestic open-sided restaurant has superb views over the pool deck and river. It offers 2 set evening menus plus an a la carte selection - both Western and Lao - these change every day. With 3 platters on the set menu we went for this option, as a single a la carte dish costs nearly as much (we felt the charges a little pricey when elsewhere one can order the same dishes for one third of the cost, but all produce is brought over by boat daily).

A so-called 'afternoon snacks menu' starts at 2pm, but it's actually more like lunch. There's an eclectic choice - spaghetti with tomato sauce, pork fillet in mustard sauce and beef tenderloin with juniper berries. The pisaladiere topped with anchovies, black olive and onion strands was suitably salty; the tomato salad with viniagrette was tart. The best option is the tilapia fish fillet accompanied by lime jus and green onion.

After dinner, sip a cocktail or glass of wine at the bar or retire to the open-sided lounge and chill out with books and magazines. Filtered water is freely available at all meals.

Breakfast (included in the rates) is a hearty affair, ideal for those going on a bike ride: expect eggs, fruit salad, bread and a tasty plum jam. A limited breakfast service can be arranged in The Residence as its kitchenette is set up with microwave, coffee machine, kettle, toaster, pots, plates and cutlery - in short, everything needed to make breakfast or light snacks. It also has an honesty bar.

Those in The Residence can make light meals and snacks in their basic kitchenette, there's a small supermarket a short bike ride away.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Recline by the pool with a cocktail in-hand, especially at sunset for the warm pink skies above Linga Parvata mountain
  • Boat over to Champasak then take a tuk-tuk to the UNESCO site of Wat Phou. Visit the pre-Angkorian ruins with their original Siva temple and remarkable carvings early in the morning to avoid the crowds and beat the sun; the site is steaming by 9am
  • Cycle to the village of Ban Dan Thip and hire a boat, then cross to the temple of Tomo, a 6th-century ruin buried and disintegrating in forest and littered with naga carvings
  • Explore Don Daeng island itself on foot or by hotel bicycle (you get given a helpful map detailing cycle paths and local villages) through shrubby landscape and rice paddies, catching glimpses of birds and waving at friendly locals (bring a hat, there's not much shade on the cycle paths). In the dry season (Nov-March), a large sand beach is exposed in the Mekong river just off the island, perfect for sunbathing
  • La Folie organises traditional ceremonies (baci) to commemorate Laotian celebrations; explore local villages to discover more about local customs and traditions such as sacrificing buffaloes

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Children are welcome, thought this feels more like an adult's retreat as there's not much for little ones to do. One child under the age of 5 is free of charge when staying in parents' bed. Baby cots and extra beds are available for a supplement.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

We'd recommend The Residence which has 2 double or twin rooms and can fit an extra bed or baby cot, it also has a basic kitchenette (microwave, coffee/tea making, and a toaster). Both the Standard and Superior Rooms can fit an extra bed or baby cot, too.

Kids Activities on site:

There are children’s bikes and board games available.

Kids Activities nearby:

Kids will enjoy walking in the nearby village and seeing farm animals.

Families Should Know:

The pool is deep and not fenced off.

Kid Friendly: Superior

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for La Folie Lodge