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Nong Khiaw Travel Blog

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Near Ban Na

Today Kam Pha takes us on a easy day walk from Muang Ngoi to the village of Ban Na.  His first idea was to catch the boat downstream and walk up to a viewpoint but I pointed out to him that we both had heavy packs and a steep climb would be beyond us. 

The walk to Ban Na first goes past the village caves about 45 minutes from the river.  The main cave has a large chamber and a passage that goes deep into the hillside.  The cave was used by the villagers as shelter during the Indochina war and Kam Pha points out the bomb craters outside and the rubble in the cave entrance caused by bomb hits to the cave entrance.  Beyond the cave the valley opens out into farmland where both cows and buffalo graze.

Kam Pha and UXO danger
   After we cross the next stream there is a "Danger UXO" sign.  After a further 10 minutes walk we come across a UXO team at work clearing the unexploded ordanance.  Kam stops to talk to a couple of members of the team while we have drinks and watch the work.   While we wait we are joined by the lead clearance engineer, who is German (ironically from Dresden) and is the supervisor for all UXO work in northern Laos.  He explains the work the team are doing, how they find the bombs and how they diispose of them.   After a few minutes we move back to a safe distance so the team can detonate a small cluster bomb and laugh as the UXO team chase the cows and buffalo away from the explosion area.
Boom!
  The cluster bombs are small but still potentially deadly and are the type of bomb the team normally find. That afternoon we hear them detonate four more. 

Though we had come here to see the countryside and meet the local people,  I find the UXO work fascinating and a very good and real reminder of the troubled recent history of the country.  In Ban Na we see further evidence of the war. Old cluster bomb casings are literally everywhere and have been used for the construction of houses and bridges; one we see used a flowerpot!

In Ban Na the women and childern sit in the shade underneath one of the large houses.  Kam introduces us and shows us around the village. We sample the local Lao Lao whisky and one of the older women invites us into her house and offers us food; riverweed, worms, bamboo and sticky rice.

The cave near Muang Ngoi
  Julie politely declines but I have some and it is remarkably tasty.  For our lunch Kam Pha takes us to a "restaurant" and brings out barbequed chicken and barbequed rat.  Julie is not impressed with the ideas of rat but we should not have been worried as our "real" lunch of noodles turns up a few minutes later. 

Back in Muang Ngoi we end the day sitting on the guest house balcony overlooking the river and watch the sunset.  This is a tranquil place and I could easily stay longer, but tomorrow we are back to Luang Prabang so we can learn to cook Lao style.

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Near Ban Na
Near Ban Na
Kam Pha and UXO danger
Kam Pha and UXO danger
Boom!
Boom!
The cave near Muang Ngoi
The cave near Muang Ngoi
Ban Na
Ban Na
Near Ban Na
Near Ban Na
Julie trying Lao Lao
Julie trying Lao Lao
Relics from the war
Relics from the war
Rat or Chicken?
Rat or Chicken?
Nong Khiaw
photo by: Riz7