No Watches at Dreamtime

Dreamtime is a special place. Anywhere that has that name, and deserves that name, would be.

When Simo asked me if I would like to check out a place some people he met in Southern Laos had highly recommended – a chill Eco retreat in the forest just outside Vientiane, with wooden bungalows and without electricity, whose reputation was spreading just by word of mouth amongst travelers – I didn’t hesitate in my response: yes absolutely.

My mind instantly remembered the fantastic times I’d had at Poste Rojo just outside Granada in Nicaragua and Casa Elemento just outside Minca in Colombia. Other remote places that I had been told about by travelers. I loved those places so I had high hopes for Dreamtime. It exceeded those hopes.

We took local transport to get there, which is basically sitting in the back of a pick up truck on benches with open sides and a roof, packed with people, a random assortment of stuff, and one live chicken. Getting to these places is always part of the fun. It dropped us off in the town of Ban Hom (hamlet would be more accurate), right in front of a dirt road with a small green sign: DREAMTIME.

So we walked. For 2.5 km in already hot sun we walked and talked, spotting DREAMTIME signs along the way that reassured us we were going in the right direction. We finally reached the gate and in just a few more meters we were greeted by smiling faces on what we would come to know as “the Platform.” We had arrived.

Let me describe the Platform. It literally is a wooden platform raised a few steps off the ground and it is where we spent most of our time. It’s covered with cushions for lounging and the more you look around the more you discover: a ukulele, didgeridoos, juggling balls, a hula hoop, scrabble, poi spinning practice balls, a library, and, the most important part, the magically refilling jar. At any time of day anyone staying at Dreamtime might be hanging out here playing a game of cards, reading a book, or abiding by the retreat’s motto: Sit Down, Shut Up, Look at the Trees. It’s the ultimate chill space. It’s also where all the meals are served.

The food! The food is fantastic. Papaya salad, perfectly spicy. Spaghetti Bolognese, a perfect saucy and meaty combination. Muesli with fruit and homemade yogurt, perfectly fresh and tasty. But the two standout dishes I can barely talk about without salivating: the burger and the chocolate crepes. The homemade burger is actually buffalo meat, and its juiciness and flavor have earned it a spot on my top burgers of all time list. The chocolate crepes are a stack of thin crepes with a side of melted Belgian chocolate. I repeat: melted Belgian chocolate. This was my final meal at Dreamtime and I scraped the chocolate bowl clean.

Dinner at Dreamtime is served just after dark, and since there’s no electricity we ate by candlelight. It was lovely. All the guests and the owners came together on the Platform to dine and converse. This time of day had a real familial feeling.

All of this would not work if it wasn’t for Mike and Michelle. Dreamtime was Mike’s vision. 8 years ago he found this piece of land in Laos and turned it into what it is today. 4 years ago Michelle came to visit and she never left. Now they’re happily married and the best hosts I’ve encountered. They made us feel at home, and I thank them for their hospitality, friendship, and for sharing such a special place with the world.

I don’t know where to go from here; how to describe my Dreamtime experience and what it meant to me. Vaguely, for now, I suppose.

We went to Dreamtime for 1 day. We stayed for 3. And even then I wasn’t ready to leave. It was like we’d escaped from the rest of the world, living simply in the forest without modern conveniences, and I didn’t miss them at all. Days were spent reading, meditating, chatting with other guests, or playing games. I chilled in a hammock for a while one afternoon. Strolled down the dried up riverbed. I’d love to see this place in the wet season when the river is actually a river. One morning we went for a walk around the property to see all the bungalows; there are seven and they all have a unique design. One on stilts, one two-story one made with bottles, two you have to cross the river to get to, one with a lovely front porch, one unfortunately under repair due to an insane past guest, and Mike and Michelle’s deluxe bungalow home, complete with less than a week old kittens. Playing with kittens is anther way to pass the time. Cocaine took a liking to me and spent a lot of time on my lap; Mike tried to convince me to take her but the last thing I need is another living thing to take care of. Myself is enough. And yes the kitten’s name is Cocaine, and her siblings are Opium and ‘Shroom. It happened by chance.

The pace of life is different at Dreamtime. It got me back to base instincts: wake up when it’s sunny, eat when you’re hungry, go to sleep when it’s dark. It got me to take off my watch. Conventional time doesn’t matter at Dreamtime.

The kind of people who are attracted to and like a place like Dreamtime are a particular type that I can only hope to be a part of. Most have traveled near and far and have a unique perspective on life. Conversation was interesting and flowed easily. I learned a lot about them and myself.

I hope one day to go back to Dreamtime. I hope I can return more like the traveler I almost became while I was there. No plans, no stress, no watch. Just me, the forest, and serenity.

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