Udomxai - Nong Khiaw - Muang Noi
Muang Ngoi Travel Blog› entry 8 of 27 › view all entries
"Gonna ride across the river, deep and wide,
Ride across the river to the other side."
Ride across the river - Dire Straits
After the obligatory breakfast of French bread and eggs we pulled out of dull Udomxai at 8 o'clock. Today's destination was Muang Ngoi Neua, a quiet little backpackers town on the Nam Ou river, not far from Nong Khiaw. I'd read many good things about this relaxed place and it was a shame I couldn't plan an extra day or two at this village without dropping some other good stuff. Still, one afternoon and night at Muang Ngoi seemed like a nice diversion from the bigger towns that would follow.
Keo had bought us some delicious khao laam, bamboo sticks stuffed with sweetened sticky rice and coconut. You'd peel the bamboo of and than chew away on the remaining inside. This was definitely something we needed to buy more often!
Along the way to Nong Khiaw we made a short stop at the village of Ban Songcha, one of the many settlements of the Hmong tribe. Hmong have spread out across south-east Asia and I'd seen them before in Chang Mai (Thailand) and Sapa (Vietnam). Unlike Sapa the Hmong have stopped wearing their traditional clothing in this area, which makes them slightly harder to keep apart from the other tribes if you're not an expert. We walked through the town, which as always was crowded by freely roaming dogs, pigs and chickens and saw some Hmong women working on their typical beautiful embroidering.
Before we left we visited the town's school, where the elder kids were playing katan, a sort of foot volleybal. The younger ones started in amazement at these four giant 'falang' (foreigners) that were taking their pictures.
Close to noon we arrived in Nong Khiaw, nicely situated at the Nam Ou river. We had a lunch of fish soup, rice and steamed fish here while I uploaded the pictures of the last couple of days on the Internet PC of the restaurant. We took a boat upstream towards Muang Ngoi, an amazingly relaxed journey with beautiful views of the spikey mountains on both sides, green river banks and bathing kids and buffalo. Halfway to our destination we made a short stop at a town of 150 families where Keo had been several times before.
Around three o'clock our boat pulled into Muang Ngoi, which turned out to be exactly the idyllic spot I had expected it to be. Sure, there were many tourists here but the reason for that could be easily understood. Located on the river, perched between the mountains and without any roads connecting it to the outside world this is as relaxed as the world gets. We were brought to our nice, well maintained bungalows and half an hour later Keo picked us up for some afternoon fun. There's several caves in the area and after passing Muang Ngoi's main street, flanked by restaurants and tiny shops, we took a left and moved inland. Before long we were walking through bits of jungle and past nice rice fields, always with those beautiful mountains as a backdrop.
Time for some relaxing. We took a Beerlao at a small bar at the other side of the stream and nibbled on the remaining khao laam. Although the stream was shallow at this pot Mieke and I had brought our swimming gear and didn't let this opportunity to cool down and wash off today's sweat (it was a hot day) pass by. At 17:30 we headed back, arriving just in time before it got dark.
This evening we had dinner with Keo at the Ning Ning restaurant. We maintained our good habit of ordering several dishes and sharing them among the five of us.