Day 37 - Muang Ngoi, North East Laos

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February 23rd 2018
Published: February 23rd 2018
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What a storm last night. It raged on throughout the night with long growls of thunder and cracks of lightning. Paula says it was a very long night, Leo was enthralled. Big difference of opinion, clearly!

Packed early, popped along to restaurant for breakfast. Lots of fellow guests looking a bit damp and in need of a good, hot breakfast, which is exactly what we got. Maybe the best breakfast yet on this trip, and we've had some good ones over the last few weeks. We have a ten minute walk to the ferry terminal for our 10.30am trip north east this morning, so ask housekeeping for a couple of large plastic bags to cover our backpacks, as the rain is starting to drizzle again, and it's likely we will get wet. With our tickets pre-bought we expect an easy passage to Muang Ngoi.

All the travel information describes it as a leisurely 60 minute peaceful cruise amongst spectacular mountain scenery. Well of course the reality can be very different. This could be all that the travel books promise, as it is definitely spectacular, and could be leisurely.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The fact is that you are actually buying a ticket from a cooperative booking agency, who then allocate the passengers to several narrow motorised boats. These boats have four car type proper seats, then behind these, crude wooden benches along each side of the boat. In our case it docked, took on 4 locals with large packages who take the comfortable seats, before moving berth so that other boats could dock, load up to the gunnels then leave, before our boat re berths, then load 16 of us patiently waiting passengers like sardines on the benches, face to face, knees in groins, in our case, we get the extreme rear spaces, next to the marine diesel engine, pushed up against all the back packs and other luggage, which push against us, falling, which we have to prop up for the entire trip!

Thinking we were about to leave the jetty, we sigh with relief, only to wait a further 15 minutes for yet more people who are distributed forward and aft. Our final departure time is now after eleven. Okay, this is Laos time. When we finally sail, it takes indeed just an hour, just as well because we all arrive with cramps and aches and pains. This could have been a great experience if better organized and less crowded. We will investigate a private long boat for the return trip on Sunday.

Rant over, we have the best accommodation in town, views to die for, great clean bright room, overlooking the river. We are feeling great.

In a year or so from now, these remote Jungle villages will be spoilt, as the road from Nong Khiaw has already been cut into the side of the river, but is still only a dirt track fit for tractors and off roaders but it's the first step. For now, these villages are pretty well unspoilt and not too commercialised.

The main street of Muang Ngoi is like a ploughed field, with rock added for a little stability, but as it nestles in the surrounding jungle and mountains it is truly magical. Not an inch of tarmac or neon light anywhere!

We do our normal exploring of the village and it doesn't take long, but due to the recent rain we do need to navigate the mud and puddles. The only footwear we envisage using for the next two days and nights are our walking boots, nothing else will get us safely around. The shack-like shops here have spent munitions and bomb casings, as flower planters and decorations, courtesy of the good old U.S.A. indicating particularly heavy bombing in this area.

We walk out of the village, heading for a signposted view point but the rumble of distant thunder turns us back. Tomorrow is set to be hot and sunny so decide to leave trekking until then. We go back to the village, lunch at a riverside restaurant, good food great views, with a wafting aroma of cannabis curtesy of a couple of hippies sitting close by. This village has quite a few new age hippies but they are friendly and not really any problem.

The strange thing about traveling is that you meet like-minded travelers, make friends, move on, meet them again, and before you realise it, you are sharing stories, drinks, dinners, transportation etc. That is exactly what happened today. Yesterday we were hailed by a couple from the UK , Alan and Julie who we previously shared a tour of the Bolaven Plateau with. Brief chat, said our goodbyes, this morning they too decided to travel to Muang Ngoi and we share the same cramped space on board the boat. They are lucky to grab the last room at our Ning Ning Guest House. Bizarrely, this means all six of us (Our Canadian pals having arrived here yesterday) are sharing the same floor.

This evening, boots on and torch at the ready, we brave the main street and enjoy a tasty Indian meal, cooked by an Indian Chef, best naan bread and veg curry, chicken biryani and pakora dish we've had in many a few months, and with two soda and lime drinks, we get change from £8, which is crazy.

Back to our guest house for a night cap and finish the blog, the weather noticeable warmer and looking forward to trekking tomorrow.

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