Mastering the art of doing nothing

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July 19th 2015
Published: September 26th 2015
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Nong Khiaw

After a total of 4 days trekking in the last week we were more than ready to take a much slower pace. Instead of heading further north as initally planned we decided to head south. We were going to 2 riverside villages known for their beautiful scenery and atmospheric but slow paced village life.

Getting out of town by local means was not as easy as we initially thought. The tuk tuks work together with the local tour agencies often refusing to take people to the bus station without a pre-purchased ticket. Not wanting the hassle we purchased our bus tickets via a tour agency on the main road which included the tuk tuk ride to the out of town bus station.

Our supposedly 6 hour journey to the mid-way town of Pak Mong took nearly 8 hours hrs but was made much easier as we got speaking to a lovely american/german couple (Sandra and Brian). This made the hours much more bearable, sharing stories about our lives back home. Plus we even received an invitation to couch surf with them when in America if we ever reach Athens that is.

Once we arrived in Pak mong we said our goodbyes to the couple (as they were staying on to Luang Prabang) and hired a local minibus taking 50 minutes to Nong kiaw. We chose this option after a 1 hour wait for the local bus to fill up at Pak Mong station, unfortunately we were the only ones heading to this village.

Arriving in Nong Kiaw, we immediately smiled at each other and even chuckled to ourselves a little. ..

We chose the prefect relaxation gateway.

This town was so beautiful. It was surrounded by the most lush mountains towering right over the village which was split by the very powerful river than ran through it. The sleepy town was made up of small wooden shacks and cabins with different degrees of red to orange tinned roofs, many of those on the riverside perched high off the ground on stilts.

To top it off we bagged ourselves a riverfront cabin with a hammock and the most scenic views over the river. Chris immediately jumped in our hammock and uttered that life could not get better any than this.

He spoke too soon.

As soon as the last word
was spoken his hammock snapped and he fell to the wooden balcony floor. After ascertaining he was unhurt, there was a lot of laughter between us both. Maybe we should just be more humble in future and not say a word.

I'd like to say we were the perfect travellers here in Nong Kiaw exploring the nearby local villages either on foot, bike or engaging in the activities/excursions on offer here. Such excursions included trekking, boat trips to waterfalls and adrenlin fuelled kayaking.

Nope not us. We completly relaxed.

Swinging in our hammocks for 2 full days was just what we needed. We read, we caught up on blogs which included sorting out way too many photographs taken in China, often with a Laos beer in hand and some reggae music oozing out of our laptop. This felt good... real good.

As we lay there, we often watched with much interest as the fishermen came by in their long narrow boats to spots in the river right next to our cabin. This proved to be be a lovely past time watching the fisherman checking their nets, shaded from the sun with their woven pointed hats, sometimes bagging a catch or moving on if nothing was found.

It was not difficult to appreciate the views here, as we sat back we would admire the beautiful misty mountains as a backdrop to the immense river. For us this was 5 star, you may argue with us in favour of a lovely resort tucked away somewhere, but for us it will be moments like this we'll remember.

We did venture out for a few hours a day generally for food or just to explore the town. Once on our balcony we heard music coming from the other side of the river. We tried to find out where this was coming from, whether it was some sort of celebration but just concluded it was someone on their karaoke as we found nothing. Apart from locals going from A to B this was pretty much a really laid back town.

We did consider a hike to a viewpoint taking around 2 hours but overheard someone saying that due to the rains and the steepness of the climb; it was a dangerous combination and after having our fair share of dangerous encounters we happily gave this a miss. Instead we relaxed and only went out to eat. The food here was mainly western, Thai or Indian with the indian resturants being the most popular.

After we had our fill we moved onto the next riverside town to see another riverside village. Mong Ngoi (see next blog)

This village could be reached via a motorised long tail narrow boat. That came equippeed with 6 comfortable chairs and 2 long uncomfortable wooden benches. Being at the front we bagged ourselves the comfy chairs and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the enormity of the river. This was a nice scenic ride not only for the beautiful karst mountains we passed by but watching the local life surrounding the river unfold.

We passed a man in the river itself as he held on to his boat before diving underneath, a naked man and his son bathing in the river, a couple of young boys paddling with furious energy, 2 women searching the banks next to the river for something. This along with many other similar scenes.

It made us appreciate the river for much more than its beautiful curves, powerful current and scenic surroundings. For the local people their lives were dependent on it for food, bathing, washing, transportation. It was their livelihood and this really struck a cord with us.

An unsettling afterthought was that with the introduction of damns being built (without local consultation) many villages like these will have to change their lifestyles.

This was something we came across several times and made us feel saddened for the loss of the people of Laos; reading about the corrupt government making decisions to benefit themselves and not the people. All possible through the lack of competition among government leaders.

Such deals were evident in the appearance of a new road structure being built, causing many delays. Ee did experience these delays when travelling from Luang nam tha to Nong Kiaw. During these delays we noticed the trucks had chinese writing etched onto the side of them.

After some research we found that the government had agreed for chinese companies to build a road infrastructure across country. And some of the roads they were building very good. Not wide very wide but far more comfortable than the usual not paved roads.

However, building roads for Laos did not come without a catch. These companies were allowed to log here and with logging being outlawed in China they had free roam in Laos.

Also many of these roads were built with no consideration of the local villages they affected. It was so sad to hear that this beautiful country was changing so quickly and not to benefit it residents.

Some of these chinese companies were ruthless, not caring who they step on, on the way. This is something we had came across several times. To name a few; the terrible conditions caused by sulphur mining at Mount Ijen all in the name of beauty, Indonesia and the illegal capture of dolphins in the Philippines. All possible outside of China through the exchange of money and exploitation of local standards and economies.

Nong Kiaw; Nam houn

Luang Nam Tha to Pak Mong- 100k kip 8 hrs (including delays)
Pak Mong-Nong Kiaw (80k after much negotiation 50 minutes).
Nong kiaw to Mong Noi (25k boat ride 1.5 hrs)

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 27


The only sunset we caught hereThe only sunset we caught here
The only sunset we caught here

Rest of the time it was always cloudy.

26th September 2015

Stunning! :)
27th September 2015

Thank you
26th September 2015

I read recently that the Chinese, in addition to building roads...
are building a high speed rail link from Kunming to Singapore. They are also building roads and rail through Burma to the Bay of Bengal and all over Central Asia. And a canal across the narrowest place on the Thai peninsula. And then there's Africa...
27th September 2015

in addition..
Wow we never knew about the railroad they are planning to build or their presence in some countries within Africa. I had to look both issues up. China has a lot of spare money and this is having an inpact on soo many countries. I don't know why I am soo surprised but I always am.
27th September 2015

The art of doing nothing... it's not as easy as it looks!
How lovely that you could have down time in such a relaxing place, and I agree with you on your definition of '5 star'! Did that pup adopt you guys? I love it when local pups do that :)
27th September 2015

Looks easier than it is
Lol. I agree. Doing nothing is usually very difficult for me. Not at this point of the trip we both were exhausted and did barely anything. Although I guess thats a bit of a lie as we caught up with blogs and sorted out pictures. Dammit. Nearly though. Yes that pup adopted us. Came on our balcony every day to say hello and relaxed with us. Made us miss our own at home. 😕

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