The Eco Bungalow
Slow down your pace of travel and stay awhile
The Eco Bungalow is a perfect balance between relaxation and an interactive cultural experience. Here you can live among the locals, learn about Hmong culture and gain a new respect for nature.
About Long Lao Mai village
Nestled among limestone mountains and sweeping valleys, Long Lao Mai is a Hmong community 40 kilometers south of Luang Prabang. Established over 30 years ago, the village is a subtle blend of modern and traditional, with wooden and thatch homes next to new structures built with cement. The nearly 600 people living in Long Lao Mai are farmers and you’ll find them tending to their rice, sesame and vegetable fields all year long.
Community-based tourism in action
The Eco Bungalow was built by student volunteers from Fair Trek’s partner, World Volunteer. The project’s concept was designed as a sustainable, income-generating initiative for the community. Construction was funded by the volunteers and private donors but the Eco Bungalow is fully owned and managed by the village.
As most villagers are subsistence farmers, they will now have supplemental income from your visit in the form of:
- Accommodation fees from the Eco Bungalow
- Service fees (cleaning, maintenance, cooking meals) distributed directly to those villagers carrying out those services
- Communal village fund from guests’ program fee
So far, the supplemental income generated by the initiative has helped villagers purchase mosquito nets, bedding, clothing, school materials and cover costs to travel to the city. It has also created invaluable experience for villagers and tourists engaging in cultural exchange.
We will continue to provide hospitality training and business development advice to villagers so that they are equipped with the tools to manage the operations of the Bungalow. Soon, the community will be prepared to take full ownership of the Bungalow’s long term development.
This program allows you to spend some time in the village to connect with the local community and experience Laos’ untouched natural environment. You can trek through Laos’ steep mountains and tropical jungles to Long Lao Mai and spend a few days in the Eco Bungalow.
For a truly experiential and memorable experience, get to know the villagers during your stay. Here are some tips on how you can get involved:
- Learn a few words in the local language
- Take a walk around the village and explore the diverse flora and fauna.
- Learn how to stitch a Hmong textile or other locally-made handicraft.
- Ask your tour guide to tell you more about how the Bungalow was built with clay.
The Hmong are the fourth largest ethnic group in Laos and live in the mountains throughout Laos. It is believed that the Hmong lived in China for thousands of years before migrating to Laos in the 1800s.
Various subgroups make up the Hmong ethnic group, including Hmong Der (White Hmong), Mong Njua (Green Hmong, often mistakenly called Blue Hmong), Hmong Krua Ba (Striped Sleeves Hmong), Mong Leng and Hmong Du (Black Hmong). These subgroups are so named because of the differences in color of traditional attire. For example, on special occasions, women of the White Hmong subgroup wore white skirts and women of the Green Hmong subgroup wore blue skirts.
The Hmong believe in animism, the idea that objects and phenomena, such as the home and nature, have spirits. For example, one of the most important spiritual symbols is the spirit door of one’s house. Honoring the spirit door by only using it on special occasions maintains the general well-being of the household.
This spiritual belief system reflects Hmong people’s relationship with nature, society and their community. Occurrences such as illness and death are thought to be the works of nature spirits intentionally causing harm. Thus, the role of the shaman is an integral part of animism. They communicate with the spiritual and human worlds and practice rituals to maintain the balance between both worlds.
A member of the Mia-Yao or Hmong-Mien language family, the Hmong oral language is vibrant and expressive, resulting in a trove of playful proverbs and folktales.
A written system for the Hmong language officially came into practice in 1952, but the Hmong tradition of storytelling is still very much alive. Listen to this popular folktale portrayed by Long Lao Mai village’s resident storyteller.