Hill tribe women with their bamboo stalks in their hands

April is usually a month that we look into the improvements and the renovation of our lodges. Time and time again, we explore different ways of using bamboo. It is such an elegant and strong plant that truly needs to be recognized. It is used throughout our lodges in the construction, decorations and tools. Not only is it sustainable, it is also amazingly versatile, beautiful and strong. It’s a plant worth celebrating.

(Above) Bamboo chairs on a bamboo balcony at Lisu Lodge.
(Bottom) Bamboo windows in guest cottage at Lanjia Lodge.

Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth and it abundant in Asia. It can grow up to 250 cm (98 in) in a day. Some of the largest timber bamboo can grow over 30 m (98 ft.) tall, and be as large as 15–20 cm (5.9–7.9 in) in diameter. At Lisu Lodge and Lanjia Lodge, we use various techniques to create furniture and building finishes such as wall panels, railings, ceilings, walkways, flooring, chairs, tables, mirrors and room accessories. Bamboos used for construction have to be harvested when the culms (individual branch) reach its greatest strength which is the time when the sap (containing sugar) is at its lowest, as high sugar content increases the rate of pest infestation. Usually at the end of the dry season and about 2 or 3 years into its natural life cycle (5-7years), the clums are cut and immersed in water for 2 or 3 weeks. They are then left to dry another 2 or 3 weeks before they are used.

Looking back, many cultures and countries use bamboo extensively, creating their own distinctive designs and patterns. From our experiences with the hill tribe, we can easily identify their ethnic designs that are not so refined but rather rustic. In the past, the hill tribes lived a nomadic life in remote areas. Their buildings and things were built for temporary shelter or usage. This way of living made them develop a skill to harvest the bamboo and exploit their usage to the fullest. They have developed the techniques that enable them to break down the bamboo to get the desired effects.

Although the shoots of the bamboo contain a toxin that produces cyanide in the gut, proper processing makes them edible. They are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths, fermented with salt to use in salad, sauté with meats and chili and much more. Bamboo stalks are also used as a container for cooking. For example, in remote areas of Thailand, people fill a bamboo stalk with rice, vegetable or meats and roast it in the fire. The bamboo gives a very special flavor to the food. It is a perfect food for trekkers. Many of our guests on the trekking programs enjoy this type of cookout.

What we love about the bamboo is its sustainability, beauty and versatility. Artists have tried to capture its allure, strength and grace through paintings, carving, poetry and photography. Visit any of our lodges to discover the magnificence of the bamboo in nature and the spirit of this unique plant.