Source: Vietnam Traveller Magazine, May and June 2015 Issue
Camping for many can be one of those getaways that sounds great in theory. Getting in touch with nature, cooking over a roaring fire and first-fighting bears are fantastic and all until you get some weird rash from a poisonous plant, realize you have no idea how to make fire and discover that bears are really rather large. While it may seem to some that camping with mattress and air conditioning is cheating, it is also undeniably a far cosier experience, and fortunately for you Asia is replete with opportunities to sleep in the wilderness without needing to forage for berries and wipe with leaves.
KAMU LODGE – LAOS
One of the biggest problems with king sized mattresses is that they aren't particularly suited for safari, a drawback they share with full en-suite bathrooms. Happily, someone else has taken care of this problem at Kamu Lodge allowing you extra room to pack the insect repellent. Solar panels take care of the electricity and hot, private showers will reenergise after a long day of relaxing on your own veranda taking in the majesty of the Mekong.
Despite the comfort, this is an experience berefit of WiFi and television, which is certainly more in line with the traditional camping experience, even if the tents are decidedly turbo-charged. This is slow paced living, even in comparison to the other locations on our list, with a real sense of assimilation into local life. Fruits, vegetables and meat sourced from local farmers lend the true flavour of Laos to your lunch and dinner, with western style breakfasts available to ease you into the day.
Check in with the local villagers, take part in tending the rice fields, go panning for gold, indulge in a traditional massage or trek through the forest. Life may be far less frenetic here, but there's enough here to keep you on your toes that your gigantic mattress will be a welcome sight come day's end.
Getting there: Kamu Lodge is a couple of hours from Luang Prabang. Transport arrangements can be made with the establishment.
Price: One night at the lodge will run to about VND2,6,00,000 per person, with different pack ages available for different lengths of stay.
HINK TOK RIVER CAMP – THAI LAND
Hintok River Camp is located on Hellfire Pass, a huge stone chasm carved out by British and Australian prisoners of war using primitive and limited tools. Hundreds died to enable new supply lines to be built via rail, and the site is the centre of many ANZAC day celebrations honouring veterans from Australia and New Zealand. Today, the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum tells the story of many past tragedies in the region and stands as a monument to those who lost their lives.
Accordingly, the area has become popular for those keen on history, with the added bonus that it is extremely beautiful. Located in Kanchanaburi in Thailand's west, the camp is surrounded by jungle and sits beside the River Kwai, a remote and scenic spot ideal for pitching a tent. Which, of course, you don't need to, as Hintok River Camp already has that emphatically covered. Spacious canvas tents offer hot water, private bathrooms and air conditioning, as well as other amenities akin to hotel style accommodation.
Numerous activities are on offer for those not up for wiling away the days in a deck chair. Natural wonders like Lawa Cave, various waterfalls and the aforementioned River Kwai are ripe for exploring. Canoeing, elephant riding, mountain biking and cultural landmarks will keep anyone busy for even an extended stay.
Getting there: A range of transport is available to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok, including trains and buses. Transfer is available from Suvarnabhumi Airport, although you will need to pay quite steeply for the convenience.
Price: Rates can vary with discounts sometimes on offer for advance bookings or a minimum stay of three nights. Currently a three night stay will run to around VND4,000,000 with breakfast and campfire BBQ dinner included.
RIVERS FLOATING LODGE – CAMBODIA
Love or loathe the 'comfort' aspect of high end camping, but some of these proprietors sure know how to pick a location. You may hear plenty of boasts about sites being on the river, but very rarely is this a literal statement. The huge and decadent tents at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge (www. ecolodges.asia/index.php) are fully furnished and include flat screen televisions and huge windows that allow panoramic views of some of the best that nature has to offer.
The Tatai River runs through a rainforest featuring a relative abundance of rare and spectacular species. Leopards, elephants, tigers and rhinos of exotic breeds call this neck of the woods home, as well as the Siamese Crocodile which is critically endangered in the wild. The river itself can be braved in the dry season for a dip, and a guide can lead you on a kayaking expedition deep into the heart of the jungle to give you a chance to catch a glimpse of some of these creatures along with the hundreds of bird species native to the region. The river is indeed the heart of the experience. Evening cruises and fishing with the locals are popular pastimes, although the number one attraction here really is just soaking in your surrounds with the added benefit of a few creature comforts.
Getting there: 4 Rivers Floating Lodge sits in Tatai, right on the Thai border and roughly halfway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Perhaps your best bet is to navigate to the nearby city of Koh Kong, easily enough done by bus from Phnom Penh at a reasonable rate. Expect at least a five hour journey. From there, it's only a short trip by taxi to Tatai, under half an hour. The lodge is only accessible by boat, which leaves the dock at 2pm and 5pm every day.
Price: Double rooms with breakfast are available for around VND5,500,000 during the high season, which runs from July to October (excluding September). Additional packages are on offer for a fuller experience.
AMANWANA – INDONESIA
The more eagle eyed among us may have noticed a reluctance on our behalf to use the buzzword that is glamping, a sort of catch all term encompassing anything from taking a coffee machine out bush to staying in a resort with a vaguely pointy roof. Amanwana does its best to epitomise the term, with wooden floors and bath tubs a far cry from picnic rugs and a sponge crudely tied to a stick.
You are free to choose between beach views or a jungle setting to suit the type of experience you're after. The island of Moyo boasts an abundance of dive sites and other aquatic activities such as snorkel ling, fishing and kayaking, while treks into the island's interior offer opportunities to spot wild deer and macaque monkeys. A full spa offering a range of therapies, treatments and massages will sooth you in the unlikely event that any stress hasn't already been eased by the general congeniality of your accommodation and its setting.
Getting there: Flights are available from Bali as well as the neighbouring islands of Lombok and Sumbawa, with a number of ferries also connecting the islands. Should you really wish to push the ideals of camping to breaking point helicopter transfers can be arranged.
Price: This is not one for travellers on a budget. Standard rates for two people per night run to about VND31,000,000.
BLUEWATER SUMILON – THE PHILIPPINES
Locked in a heated debate with your loved one about what kind of holiday to take? They want to sip on a cocktail with their toes in some clear blue water while you crave something a little more rugged, sleeping under the stars with only a thin piece of material between you and the elements? Bluewater Sumilon is the ultimate compromise, offering comfortable camping in a resort atmosphere.
Sitting on one of the islands in the famous cluster situated in Cebu province, this is a true high end camping experience. While the tents are perhaps less extravagant in size and amenities than others we've named in this issue, the surrounds are the true drawcard, offering a range of holiday possibilities. Golfers can check out the nearby nine hole course, nature enthusiasts can go whale watching, explorers can go trekking and romantics can lay down a picnic blanket on the beach. As is to be expected on an island in the Philip pines the water is perfect and ripe for diving, with plenty of snorkeling also available.
Getting there: Sumilon Island is a short boat trip off the south east of Cebu Island, which itself is easily accessible via other nearby islands. Flights into Cebu City are regularly scheduled from Manila.
Price: A Camping package that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as boat transfers for two adults and a child comes to VND4,000,000. Check the website for more packages and permutations.