Day 12: The day got off to a lazy start – breakfast on the terrace, lots of coffee and a chunk of time spent plotting and planning our next moves.
Having no time constraints is the best feeling ever – usually when travelling for holidays we’re wrapped within 14 day time blocks, and working out how much we can possibly squeeze in. The only time constraints now are based on how long visa regulations allow us to stay in each country. For Laos it’s 30 days, giving us heaps of time to explore the north, which is where our main interest lies. Perhaps we’ll come back and do the south another time.
We were originally planning to cycle today, however only one shop in the town does mountain bikes (necessary for the dirt roads we wanted to explore), and they were closed when we wandered past – so we decided to go walking instead.
Before setting off, we popped into a tour agent to book our boat to Muong Ngoi tomorrow. Muong Ngoi is a very small town, an hour upriver from Nong Khiaw and only accessible by boat.
The guy in the tour agent sold us two tickets. He explained the boat is scheduled to leave at 11am tomorrow, however the boat man ‘likes to get going a bit early’ so best be there at 10.30am. Good to know.
Then we took off on our walk eastwards along a dirt road, to check out a couple of Khmu and Hmong ethnic villages. The walk was a 14km round trip, initially along the side of the Nam Ou river. The road twisted and turned with some decent hills, great scenery, yappy dogs, lots of water buffalo, and kids walking home from school.
The two villages were really interesting and well worth the long hot dusty walk. As we wandered through the first one, we spotted a lady weaving cloth outside her house. We took a photo, and gave her a kangaroo key ring in return – she smiled and bowed, then called her daughter who shrieked with happiness and waved at us as we walked on through the village. Small warm moments. Around the corner a very old man was sifting rice, and throughout the village families were sitting in the sun eating, chatting and drinking – everyone calling out ‘Sabaidee’ as we walked past.
The second village was smaller, but had an impressive monastery in the centre, with monks’ orange robes hung out to dry in the sun. A few cheeky kids ran after us calling ‘Kip, Kip’ (the local currency – and their way of asking for money).
Then we started the return walk back to Nong Khiaw. Thankfully a few clouds appeared, offering some welcome shade along the way. We bought cold drinks in the town, then headed home to shower and recover before dinner.
For tonight’s dinner we went to Deen’s, the same Indian restaurant we tried out a couple of days ago – the food was too good not to return. Chicken Bhuna, and Chicken Korma with rice and flat nan bread – sensational. As we ate, the family chanted and sang prayers in a room at the back of the building while the sun set over the mountains, the sky taking on changing hues of pink, purple and red.
Then a walk back through the town to our guesthouse – it was fun watching kids out playing and families having dinner along the way. Even the local hairdresser was busy – apparently you get to lie down here for the hair wash bit. It’s a wonderful little town and we’re very glad we got to visit during low season (despite the heat) – we suspect high season would be a very different story.
Tomorrow we catch the boat to Muang Ngoi. We just need to remember the boat man ‘likes to get going a bit early’.