Amazingly the Nong Khiaw bus was only 30 minutes late and remarkably smooth, and I connected with a boat to Muang Ngoi Neua very quickly as well. The latter is a river village, isolated but for the river, with no roads, electricity, telephones or internet cafes! But it was beautiful and I stayed 3 nights in the end in a cabin literally on the riverbank, for about 45p a night. There were 4 cabins in the guesthouse but mine was numbered 6, one night we asked Mama why this was and she explained that the other two are probably in Cambodia or Vietnam by now, since the wet season has sent them on their way down the Mekong! You walk from one end of the village to the other in five minutes and quickly get to know the other 15 or so travellers in town at any one time. I mostly hung out with the Italian brother and sister and German guy that arrived on the same boat as me.
One day we hiked to a cave, an adventure in itself as you’re nearly up to your knees in mud at some points. Nice cave though, you wade in above your waist to a point where it gets too deep and you can only look back in to the gloomy distance with your torchlight. Beyond this was a second cave down an even worse path, myself and Pascal tried to find it in vein, Pascal losing a shoe in the mud for a while. He found it, only later to let it float off down the river. On the path you meet locals from other nearby villages carrying veg and produce – these paths are their ONLY way to get around! Next day we chartered a boat to a point on the river where you then trek for an hour through beautiful scenery to a cascaded waterfall, lovely to sit in for 5 minutes before you freeze your nads off.
Other than that it was very much a chilling place, enjoying Mama’s cooking (she has a menu but there’s not much need – the only meat they have depends on which animal they killed that day) and Beerlao aplenty. This was necessary to try and stay asleep beyond 4:30 am when the pigs, cockerels, cats on heat etc. start realising that day is going to break, but was not really successful. Yesterday I headed back to Luang Prabang, another fairly easy journey except this time it was in the back of a sometimes rammed pickup truck (with the obligatory chickens and ducks under your feet). Today’s been lazy, just checking out the palace here and a couple of the Wats up on a hill overlooking town.
I’ve booked a flight to Chiang Mai with Lao Aviation on Sunday, lucky it goes that day as my Laos visa expires then. In the travel agent whilst waiting I idly watch the film playing on the PC of the bloke serving me. He catches me looking and says he enjoys a good blockbuster. I mention Hollywood and he asks me what it means – he’s heard of it but no idea what it actually is. I explained to him that it was a region of LA where the film studios are and lots of stars live, etc. etc. He was fascinated by this and it brings home what a different planet people live on out here really.
Tomorrow I’m aiming to find some waterfalls a little way out of town and then hit the fabulous night markets here, it’s about time to start buying useless presents for people. Any special requests should be filed before tomorrow 🙂