Udomxai - Nong Khiaw - Muang Noi

Muang Ngoi Travel Blog

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Visiting Ban Songcha.

"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.

Ad trying the mill at Ban Songcha.

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.

Hmong woman at Ban Songcha.
One had even made an amazing necktie. A shame that I'm not a tie man. ;-)
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.

Ban Songcha.
One of the kind women welcomed us to her (quite luxurious, compared to what we'd seen before) house and brought us some oranges that were grown in this town.

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.

Visiting Ban Songcha.
Half an hour and 5 km later we arrived at the Tham Kang cave and a lovely mountain stream, We first explored the pitch-black insides of the cave with our torches. This obviously wasn't a place to run out of batteries, like my head torch did. Fortunately the five of us had enough torches with us. ;-)

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.

Ban Songcha.
Springrolls, fried rice and noodles, sweet and sour fish and barbeques beef, all very tasty. Paul ordered a bottle of lao-lao whiskey and got sillier by the minute. ;-) At ten o'clock most of the generators go down and a blanket of darkness descended over Muang Ngoi, making the bright stars all the more visible. We shared a last can of Beerlao on the balcony of our bungalow, sharing stories by candlelight. What a little piece of heaven this place is, it's a shame we need to leave tomorrow.

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Visiting Ban Songcha.
Visiting Ban Songcha.
Ad trying the mill at Ban Songcha.
Ad trying the mill at Ban Songcha.
Hmong woman at Ban Songcha.
Hmong woman at Ban Songcha.
Ban Songcha.
Ban Songcha.
Visiting Ban Songcha.
Visiting Ban Songcha.
Ban Songcha.
Ban Songcha.
Creepy spider at Ban Songcha.
Creepy spider at Ban Songcha.
Ban Songcha school.
Ban Songcha school.
Kids playing katan.
Kids playing katan.
Little Hmong girl at Ban Songcha.
Little Hmong girl at Ban Songcha.
Kids at Ban Songcha.
Kids at Ban Songcha.
Our luxorious van !
Our luxorious van !
Khao laam.
Khao laam.
Paul at Nong Khiaw.
Paul at Nong Khiaw.
Nong Khiaw.
Nong Khiaw.
Typical Asian shop.
Typical Asian shop.
Taking the boat up the Nam Ou.
Taking the boat up the Nam Ou.
On the boat to Muang Ngoi.
On the boat to Muang Ngoi.
On the Nam Ou river.
On the Nam Ou river.
Nam Ou river.
Nam Ou river.
On a local home.
On a local home.
On the Nam Ou river.
On the Nam Ou river.
Water buffalo.
Water buffalo.
Arriving at Muang Ngoi.
Arriving at Muang Ngoi.
Our bungalows at Muang Ngoi.
Our bungalows at Muang Ngoi.
Muang Ngoi main street.
Muang Ngoi 'main street'.
Exploring the Tham Kang cave.
Exploring the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Exploting the Tham Kang cave.
Surroundings of Muang Ngoi.
Surroundings of Muang Ngoi.
Surroundings of Muang Ngoi.
Surroundings of Muang Ngoi.
Surroundings of Muang Ngoi.
Surroundings of Muang Ngoi.
Time to cool down !
Time to cool down !
Surroundings of Muang Ngoi.
Surroundings of Muang Ngoi.
This is sooooo good !
This is sooooo good !
The last beer by candlelight.
The last beer by candlelight.
Muang Ngoi Hostels review
Spacious bungalows
The bungalows have well maintained spacious bedrooms and bathrooms and insect screens in the doors and windows. Electricity is available until 10 o'cl… read entire review
Muang Ngoi
photo by: edsander