Muang Ngoi - Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang Travel Blog

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One of those damn roosters in Muang Ngoi. ;-)

"Took a boat Sunday, down by the sea
It just felt so nice, you and me.
We didn't have a problem or a care,
And all around was silence, everywhere."

Downstream - Supertramp

In a town like Muang Ngoi it's almost impossible to sleep any later than six o'clock. At this time the sun has come up and there's some many roosters in town that the cacophony is almost deafening. Still, we managed to squeeze out some extra minutes of sleep and after breakfast at 7 - consisting of, you guessed it, French bread and eggs - our boat left town downstream, back to Nong Khiaw. The scenery was quite different this early in the morning, with lovely hazy mists hanging around the mountains.

Morning mist over Muang Ngoi.

It took much less time to go downstream and 45 minutes later we climbed the stairs of the boat landing at Nong Khiaw. A few minutes later our van and driver appeared and we left southwards for Luang Prabang. Along the way we made a couple of stops. The first one was at a school where Keo was seemingly sponsoring some orphans. One of the teachers was kind enough to show us how the girls learned to weave and sew and how the boys were busy doing carpeting. Mieke gave a bag of kids clothing to the teacher to distribute among the kids that needed it most. All of the kids actually slept at a dormitory located on the school grounds and only got to see their parents - most of whom lived in remote villages - a couple of times a year.

Weaving class.

Our second stop was at the house of Keo's aunt and uncle, the latter of whom was the chief of a village. Inside the house the same Beerloa posters with beautiful Lao girls that you see everywhere across Laos could be found, while from the other wall pictures of communists bigwigs like Marx and Lenin looked at them seriously.
At noon we arrived at Ban Pak Ou where we once again had a delicious lunch, before crossing the river to the Pak Ou caves. These caves, located in a limestone cliff and also known as Buddha Caves, are filled with 4.000 (mostly small) Buddha statues. From the 8th century the people already worshipped forest spirits here, but later it got filled with all of these little Buddha's. The 222 steps towards the Upper Cave (Tham Phum) were quite a challenging in the hot weather.

Donating clothing.
This is the deeper of the two caves and torches were required to see the 1.500 statues here. The lower cave, Tham Ting, holds the other 2.500 statues and has a lot of natural light flowing in. Torch or no torch the sight is surreal with all these tiny Buddha's in all sorts and forms everywhere. Seemingly, during festivals people continue to bring new statues and there's even two spots where their own Buddha's can be ritually washed during these occasions.

A full sized slowboat (which felt pretty decadent for the five of us) would bring us downstream to Luang Prabang in about an hour. Along the way we visited Ban Xang Hoi, a village that used to produce whiskey jars but is now mostly known for the production of lao-lao whiskey. It was quite the tourist trap since I only spotted two iron drums in which the strong stuff was distilled.

Sewing class.
The rest of the town was filled with lots and lots of souvenir stalls. Still, when going back on the slowboat we had added three bottles of different flavors of lao-lao and several souvenirs to our backpacks. ;-) We also bought Keo a new bag since his old one was falling apart.
The rest of the boat trip across the Mekong (which had merged with the Nam Ou at Ban Pak Ou) was extremely relaxed. So relaxed that I must have dozed off for a while.

Arriving at Luang Prabang we docked at the stairs that used to be the gate to the old royal capital. On the top our driver was waiting for us, ready to take us to the hotel. We'd stay in Luang Prabang for three nights, an excellent time to sort out our luggage and get our laundry done. But of course ... not before celebrating our arrival with a cold Beerlao !
This evening we walked across the night market, which consists of countless souvenir stalls and exceptionally kind and reserved vendors.

Carpenting class.
Quite a relief from the normal pushy attitude you'll so often find in the Middle East and Asia. I have to say that I really, really like the Lao. They are one of the kindest people I've met in Asia and very laid-back. As the French said during their colonial era, 'Vietnamese grow rise, Cambodians watch it grow and Lao listen to it grow'. The phrase 'baw pen nyang', having a wide range of meanings from 'okay' to 'no problem, don't worry about it', is one of the most used expressions here. And indeed, I've find myself using it more and more often myself, together with the other Lao words I've picked up last week. What's more, I love smiling to everybody the whole day. Wheras at home people would look at you with a gaze saying 'what the f*ck do you want from me', here in Laos everybody smiles back.
Excellent view of the Nam Ou river.
Even if you don't buy their merchandise.

We had dinner at the Tum Tum Cheng restaurant that came recommended by the Lonely Planet. Seemingly this was one of the best places in town to eat. It also must have been one of the most pricey ones since we ended up paying twice the amount we've done on average so far. The food was excellent though and even at these prices we paid no more than 11 Euro per person. Back at the hotel we skipped the regular last beer or bit of liquor since tomorrow would start very, very early. Want to know why ? Check out tomorrow's blog.

Koos_H says:
Nice stories and pics Ed. I will have to check your blog more often the coming weeks! Keep an eye on my old man for me (especially with the Lao Lao i guess ;)
But it really looks like you guys are having a good time! Enjoy!
Posted on: Nov 16, 2009
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One of those damn roosters in Muan…
One of those damn roosters in Mua…
Morning mist over Muang Ngoi.
Morning mist over Muang Ngoi.
Weaving class.
Weaving class.
Donating clothing.
Donating clothing.
Sewing class.
Sewing class.
Carpenting class.
Carpenting class.
Excellent view of the Nam Ou river.
Excellent view of the Nam Ou river.
Local transport.
Local transport.
Excellent view of the Nam Ou river.
Excellent view of the Nam Ou river.
Lunch at Ban Pak Ou.
Lunch at Ban Pak Ou.
Boat on the Mekong.
Boat on the Mekong.
Our luxorious slowboat.
Our luxorious slowboat.
Entry of Pak Ous Upper Cave.
Entry of Pak Ou's Upper Cave.
Pak Ous Upper Cave.
Pak Ou's Upper Cave.
Pak Ous Upper Cave, where people …
Pak Ou's Upper Cave, where people…
Pak Ous Upper Cave.
Pak Ou's Upper Cave.
Pak Ous Lower Cave.
Pak Ou's Lower Cave.
Pak Ous Upper Cave.
Pak Ou's Upper Cave.
Pak Ous Upper Cave.
Pak Ou's Upper Cave.
Pak Ous Upper Cave.
Pak Ou's Upper Cave.
Pak Ous Upper Cave.
Pak Ou's Upper Cave.
Pak Ous Upper Cave.
Pak Ou's Upper Cave.
Back to the boat.
Back to the boat.
Making lao-lao whiskey at Ban Xang…
Making lao-lao whiskey at Ban Xan…
The easiest way to make Paul happy…
The easiest way to make Paul happ…
Local lady at Ban Xang Hoi.
Local lady at Ban Xang Hoi.
Slowboat on the Mekong.
Slowboat on the Mekong.
Saying goodbye to our first driver.
Saying goodbye to our first driver.
Luang Prabang
photo by: oxangu2