Day 13: We woke to the sound of cockerels crowing, and the Laos national anthem drifting through the village. After a leisurely breakfast, we packed up again and walked in to town to catch the boat to Muang Ngoi, an hour’s boat trip upriver from Nong Khiaw.
We arrived at the boat 30 mins before it was due to depart – as mentioned in yesterday’s post we were told the boatman ‘likes to get away a bit early’, and there’s only one daily boat so better safe than sorry.
The shoddy wooden boat looked like it had a capacity of around 12-15 people – but in true Lao style, the boatman managed to cram in over 30. Every time we thought we were at capacity, another few people would arrive and he’d shout at everyone to move up and make room. Thank goodness the trip was only an hour, as our bums and legs quickly went numb from the low hard wooden benches and lack of room to move our feet.
The trip was incredibly scenic as we puttered past jungle-like forests and stunning limestone karsts, passing only one other boat on the way – presumably the return daily boat from Muong Ngoi to Nong Khiaw.
Once we got to Muong Ngoi, we had a quick wade through the river to the concrete jetty, then up the steps to our guesthouse.
Our accommodation is billed as a ‘riverfront bungalow’ – it could also be aptly named a ‘shed by the river’. It’s completely functional, with a comfortable bed, balcony, two hammocks and a mosquito net – just a little on the basic side.
The bathroom has big chunks missing in the wall, which will doubtless be an easy entry point for all sorts of bugs. When we were buying stuff in preparation for our travels, one travel checklist said a long piece of thin rope is a must. We bought one, unsure what we would be using it for – turns out it came in pretty handy today to tie the bathroom door to a coat hook to keep it closed (and hopefully keep bugs out of the bedroom!)
We spent the afternoon having some downtime, swinging in the hammocks and reading our books, with water buffalo trampling through the greenery below the balcony, and sinking into the river to cool off.
Late afternoon we headed out to explore a little and have an early dinner. The town is small, comprising a single dirt road with shops, restaurants and accommodation either side. There are no ATMs, only patchy wifi and up to 6 or 7 years ago there was no electricity either. It’s pretty cool to stay in such a basic and fairly remote place. At one end of the town there’s a monastery (wat) which we wandered around for a bit – a young monk came and said hello, but unfortunately language barriers didn’t get us past exchanging names.
We had Lao food for dinner – Khao Soi, and chicken with ginger. Jim also gave Lao tea a go – really good green tea with chunks of forest floating on top. Then we stopped at another cafe for coffee and more tea, before heading back to the shed to write today’s blog post and have an early night.
And so to bed (the electric has gone out three times already tonight, so we’ve been writing in the dark, and keeping torches handy). Tomorrow we’re planning an early breakfast, then hiking to some caves and local villages.