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Published: August 26th 2012
After spending a week relaxing in the lovely Luang Prabang(LP) the adventurer inside of me wanted to see some real Laos. It was difficult to drag myself away though; LP seems to get into your blood like some sort of weird process of town to human osmosis. It must be something they put in the Beer Laos. Osmosis, bloody hell, I haven’t thought of that word since a-level biology, maybe Beer Laos stimulates brain activity too?! Best get another one in….
Anyway, because we were too scared to get the bus ‘up north’ we decided to take the eight hour slow boat. On the morning we set off I was quickly thinking we had made the wrong leaving decision to leave, as once again on the day we travelled the rain was belting down. After getting soaked just walking to the pier, I suddenly realised that I still had the key to the hotel room in my pocket and had to run back – I’ll tell you this for free, there is definitely no cool way of running in flip-flops in the rain! I reckon I must have looked like a cross between a pissed Forest Gump and a sober
Tina Turner. The morning was not going well, but as we boarded the rickety looking vessel I was still excited about doing some proper exploring. As the boat set sail, I noticed a distinct lack of life jackets and as our captain made sure the five nervous passengers (us two and three other fellow brave western travellers) sat either side of the boat to stop it from tipping over. I quickly reassured Jane it was fine and told her it would be a lovely relaxing journey once the rain stopped. Surprising it was, even though the rain just seemed to get heavier and heavier, the scenery was amazing, there were massive limestone mountains that were covered in foliage, locals were fishing in the river and I even saw four Kingfisher on the riverbank as we headed upstream. The river current was quite strong in places and our captain had to avoid some massive floating trees coming our way but it was really quite exciting. Jane was so excited she fell asleep for two hours, she loves a nap that girl.
Eventually, with very numb bums, we arrived in Nong Kiaew. Nong Kiaew is a small village on the Nam
Song River and most people use it as a stopover before they head upstream to the more remote Muang Ngoi. We had read that it’s actually quite a nice place and planned to stay a few days. We found a guesthouse which had river views and hammocks for only four quid a night and were looking forward to hopefully getting a bit of sunshine the next day. After a sleepless night because ‘something’ was in the roof (I told Jane it wasn’t a rat but I’m pretty sure it was) we once again awoke to rain and low lying cloud. This just wasn’t fun, everything was soaked through and anytime you walked anywhere you got covered in mud. I was starting to miss the comforts of LP. I manned up and told Jane that I wanted to move upstream in Muang Ngoi where I hoped our luck would improve.
After hopping on another dodgy looking boat, an hour later we arrived in Muang Ngoi and the sun was shining! Yeah, it worked. Muang Ngoi is a small village only accessible by boat, with one road about 400 metres long, no cars and no electricity. We had read about a
guesthouse called Niktas, which was supposed to be the best in the village because it was rat free. We walked off the boat and the lovely owner was already there to greet us and escorted us the hundred metres down the one mud road to a group of about eight riverside huts all with amazing views and hammocks. After she told us it was three quid a night we were in heaven. We enjoyed the most amazing afternoon, reading, admiring the view of the river and napping in our hammocks. Just as I thought we’d had finally found utopia and the sun was setting behind the mountains it all started to go wrong again. I was suddenly awoken from my slumber by the owner showing a group of German, vest wearing, morons every other guesthouse she had available for rent. They quickly checked in and instantly utopia had turned into a moron hell hole. We were surrounded from all sides with no means of escape by very loud, marijuana smoking, beer drinking morons who seemed to be saying ‘schiesse’ a lot. I needed a beer and quick. I walked all the way down the one road and quickly established that
The view from the hut with the roof rat.
the village had run dry of beer and I would have to wait until the floating Tesco boat came the next day with a fresh batch! I couldn’t even drink to numb the pain. Later that evening when they started playing the worst kind of music ever created by man or beast, Jane had to restrain me from starting WWIII (The theme from Dads Army was even playing in mind…’who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler’). At this point I think the heavens had also had enough of the terrible music and somehow knew I am really a lover and not a fighter, as the most amazing thunder and lightning storm started. All I could hear was the relaxing sound of very fat rain hitting our tin roof and the boom of thunder echoing around the mountains. This made me calm down and I started to relax a little,was that until the tin roof started leaking and raindrops were now bouncing off my forehead. I told Jane that I was getting wet but she was once again happily napping like a cat. The storm lasted all night and at five in the morning and I just couldn’t believe
The bridge over the Nam Song River
Looking upstream towards Muang Ngoi
the rain could be so heavy and constant. Maybe it was sleep deprivation or maybe in was moron related anger, but for some reason I started to panic. I was convinced we were about to get washed away into the Nam Song River. I got up, donned my rain jacket, grabbed the torch, packed my rucksack, and prepared for the worst. As soon as it was daylight I headed off to the pier to book us onto the earliest boat was back to LP. As it turned out we could only get a boat back to Nong Kiaew and would have to get a connecting boat back from there. The nightmare continued when we arrived in Nong Kiaew as there we no boats going downstream to LP that day so we had to get the dreaded bus. I could tell by Jane’s face that she wasn’t happy about this but I just wanted to be back to LP, where the sun shines like a golden nugget in sky, the Beer Laos flows like water and the foot long sandwiches are eighty pence! The bus back that afternoon was actually a very pleasant three hour drive and when we arrived in
Just one street - no cars, no electricity, no beer!
LP I felt like I’d returned back to a second home. We quickly marched back to the same guesthouse house, booked ourselves into the same room that were in the previous week and cracked open a Beer Laos to celebrate.
Don’t get me wrong, Muang Ngoi was lovely and if the morons and the rain would have stayed away I reckon we could have been there for quite a while. We do not regret going there as it was an amazing experience; we just wish all the vest wearing morons would stay in Vang Vieng and not ruin the beauty for the rest of us.
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