Saturday, June 11, 2011

Muang Ngoi Neua

This will be the last blog post about the Lao trip that I did ages ago! I'm sure you must be as bored reading about it as I am writing about it, so one last town (village?) to talk about that is Muang Ngoi Neua. I don't know about you, but I find these Lao place names impossible to remember tongue twisters!

Anyway, the whole riverside place consists of one street and is accessible only by boat, from Luang Prabang (which would take hours) or from Nong Khiaw (20000 kip, 1 hour). I wasn't even planning to go to this place until one other traveler I met on the song theaw from LuangPrabang to Nongkhiaw kept raving on and on about the insane gorgeousness of the boat ride. So of course I had to get here after hearing all that!

Them men in orange always get the front seat
I can't say for sure about the boat from Luang Prabang, but from Nong Khiaw there were 2 trips in the morning. They were supposed to leave one hour apart, but since this is Laos, both boats ended up leaving roughly 15minutes apart, about an hour later than the scheduled time for the 2nd boat. Moral of the story? In Laos don't bother rushing to get the boat (or anything at all) on time. It will leave late anyway.

Family of buffaloes chilling on the banks
Muang Ngoi is one of those places who seem to exist just for the dust covered tourist in search of the "real Laos" but that's alright in this case, because although touristy, the place is lovely and I loved it! Small, but interesting and lively. Do note that cellphone reception is next to zero (at least that's how it was when I was there) and there is only one place offering (insanely expensive and slow) internet. The restaurant with internet is easy to find but internet is only available at night because the generator isn't started up during the day.

On the way there
As for budget places to stay, they are all budget except for one fancy place to your immediate left at the boat landing. Most of them are doubles and cost 40000 kip per night, basic stuff with shared cold shower.

I stayed at Phonsavanh Guesthouse and if you are reading this looking for a place to stay in Muang Ngoi, I wouldn't recommend it. The stray dogs seem to congregate in front of this building every night and howl like they are possessed, the bathroom was very filthy, the rooms don't have much of a view, the flimsy bamboo walls mean that you can hear that couple two rooms away as though they are in bed with you. For the same price, you can get much better value accommodation and if you're lucky, one with a good view so speculate, people, speculate! Don't be lazy like I was and settle for the first cheap room you see.

Lovely Penny from Phonsavanh will approach you the moment you step off the boat into Muang Ngoi. Penny's a delightful host and the food is really good (buffet for 15000 kip), so go there for dinner. Just don't sleep there.

As always in less developed countries, bring your torches! The road is dark at night with no lights except for the occasional restaurant/GH.

Primary school on the left plus a huge field for the kids to play on

strong little girl!
There are a two caves a nice walk from Muang Ngoi. The trail is straightforward and well marked, about 5-6km one way if I remember correctly. The larger cave was alright, nothing jaw dropping but suitably large and well kept to justify the entrance fee, the smaller one further up was hardly a cave. (Or may be I missed it somehow and mistook a crack in the rock for the smaller cave? We'll never know.) Whatever it is, it's a nice walk. You can keep walking along the trail to get to tribal villages, but I couldn't as it was getting too late in the evening.

Trail (path?) to the caves

Shameless camwhoring after much walking, "Where the hell are these bloody caves?!"

Finally here!
 Also be forewarned that this place is also full of psycho roosters on steroids who start screaming their lungs out at 4 am, so no chances of sleeping in. Bring earplugs, please.

All in all, Muang Ngoi is a nice place. Chilled out, pretty scenery, good for a few days, might get a little bit boring after a while.

Bridge over shallow waters

So that's it. From now on I'll shut up about Lao PDR and stop boring you with minutiae on how pretty it is and how I dislike the food but love the coffee and blah blah blah...

until the next trip, of course!

This July :)

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