Peace and quiet

Nong Khiaw Travel Blog

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Rice paddies, from the cave
Buses from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw run at half eight and ten in the morning. "Bastard early-rising Lao," I complained in my diary. I was going to have to get used to early rising later on in this trip.

I was aiming for Muang Ngoi Neua, a little village that had been highly recommended to me by a couple of people on the Thorntree, but I didn't get there today. A minibus took me to Nong Khiaw, from which you can get boats up the river to Muang Ngoi - there's no road to the place - but when I arrived I couldn't be arsed getting straight on a boat.
Northern Lao countryside
Instead I went for a curry at yet another Indian restaurant, and gradually made the decision to stay in Nong Khiaw for the night. The peaceful atmosphere of the place was hard to resist.

Took a room in a little guesthouse with a magnificent view of the river, then went for a walk. The sealed, one-and-a-half-lane road down which I was walking was Laos' National Route 1, but traffic would pass me no more than every few minutes. The road was level, winding between impossibly sheer green mountains. Eighty-five percent of the country's terrain is mountainous. A sign pointed off the road towards "history and nature", and I followed it across a rickety wooden bridge and along narrow raised paths between flooded rice paddies, until I reached Tham Pha Thok.

Early in the Vietnam War, a treaty was signed by the US, China, Vietnam and others guaranteeing Lao neutrality and banning foreign military personnel from the country.
A rather rickety set of steps leads up to Tham Pha Thok
All signatories then proceeded to ignore the treaty and stuffed Laos full of combat troops, military advisers and bomber pilots wearing jeans and cowboy hats. A payload of bombs was dropped somewhere in the country every eight minutes for nine years; in terms of bombs dropped per head of population, Laos is the most heavily bombed nation in the history of the world. Tham Pha Thok is a dark, damp cave with an uneven floor, in which locals used to shelter during air-raids. Me, I climbed to an opening in the rock and took some nice pictures of the surrounding countryside, then walked back to town.

Back in my guesthouse, I settled on the balcony to watch the sun go down. The guy in the room next to me was sitting on his balcony, smoking a spliff. He'd been on the same kayaking trip as me two days ago; at the time it had completely passed me by that the reason his kayak was always two hundred yards behind the rest of us was that he was getting high rather than paddling. I'm such an idiot sometimes. Anyway. He was American, but he'd studied in Leicester (off all places) and picked up the deeply disconcerting habit of calling people 'mate'. Talked to him for a while; fried veg and fish for dinner (cos the restaurant had no meat); bed.
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Rice paddies, from the cave
Rice paddies, from the cave
Northern Lao countryside
Northern Lao countryside
A rather rickety set of steps lead…
A rather rickety set of steps lea…
It costs a few thousand kip to cro…
It costs a few thousand kip to cr…
Nong Khiaw
photo by: Riz7