Muang Ngoy is about an hour from Nong Khiaw by boat. We were planning to take the boat at 11AM, but after the adventure I had getting to Nong Khiaw, I didn’t want to take any risks and arrived at the boat ramp well in time. We were hanging out with the other tourists, that slowly started filling up the stairs leading to the boats. Before we could board, a few boats coming from Muang Ngoy dropped off their passengers. Then a man shouted something that sounded like Muang Ngoy and we all got up. Turned out he was shouting something else, but eventually filled up the boat with passengers for Muang Ngoy anyway. We waited for the next boat, since this one looked like it was going to be filled beyond capacity. It didn’t matter. The next boat was also packed and we ended up squeezed like we were little packages. The boats just weren’t practical. There were six really comfortable seats that took up half the passenger space. In the other half were 17 people and some luggage. After an hour I had gotten very comfortable with my fellow passengers and my knees squeaked as I got up to get off the boat. My friend and I were greeted by a bunch of people offering rooms. We checked out a few of them and decided to take one close to the river and boat landing.
Muang Ngoy was even prettier than Nong Khiaw. We had been warned by a local, with a tour company in Nong Khiaw, not to come here. He said the character had gone with the finishing of the new road, internet and 24H power. He was right in a way. This wasn’t the Muang Ngoy described in my guidebook. Every guesthouse advertised with wifi and hot showers and there was a road connection to the town now. However, this didn’t change the peaceful for the worse in my opinion. The scenery was still gorgeous and serene. The road with all the guest houses and restaurants was a dirt road with chickens and ducks running around. Life was going at a slow pace and you immediately calmed down. That afternoon we went for a stroll through the village, having lunch at a restaurant with river views. It took a while for lunch to come out, but it was simply delicious. At the end of the day we went to the viewpoint and cave. After climbing to one cave I’d seen enough and skipped the second cave, instead going straight for the viewpoint. The climb up there was pretty tough. It was steep and you needed ladders and the use of your hands. At the end were a few spiky rocks. You had to place your bum carefully to be fairly comfortable. The view over the Nam Ou river was worth it though.
At night our guesthouse had problems with the water pump. I was washing my hair, a head full of shampoo, when the water stopped. It didn’t just get cold, it just stopped entirely. I used my precious drinking water to finish the job. The water turned on and off all night and into the morning. We tried to have drinks at a restaurant on the corner, but the cocktails took 45 minutes to come and by then we were ready for some food. I gulped down my drink and we went in search of a better place to be. The power in town was very weak that night. Lights were flickering everywhere, until they just gave up. Therefore I have no clue what restaurant we chose, but candles were lit, the food was great, and the waiter was probably the nicest person I’d met thus far in Laos.
For the next day we had arranged a trip on the river. We just weren’t ready to leave this place yet. After breakfast we showed up at the place where we’d booked, only the guy that sold the trip to us was nowhere to be found. His family, that really didn’t speak English, was running around trying to organize something for us. Then I received a phone. It was our ‘friend’ asking if I wanted to book a tour. I reminded him we had already booked and paid it the previous day and then he finally remembered. The phone was passed back and one of the men standing around got some instructions. We followed him to the water. He had to hire a kayak and put it on a boat. The boat was filled with gasoline and we were ready to go. It took a while until the motor finally started. I thought we were going to drift to Nong Khiaw, but then it kicked in and we were off to the north. After about 35 minutes we arrived at the weaving village. This was a small village with bamboo houses on both sides of the dirt street. Every house had some scarfs on display. We made the round through the village, saying hello and checking out all the merchandise of the women who were eager to sell. There were so many of them. Who was I supposed to buy from? I bought two scarfs from the first lady that talked to us.
Now the second part of our trip started, kayaking back to Muang Ngoy. We were not great at it yet. We were basically twirling down the river, doubling our kilometers going from side to side. Eventually we got a bit better though. At times boats passed us, with passengers waving at us or giving us the thumbs up. At times it was just us. Our boatman stayed close and checked in on us regularly though. At one point we stopped and just listened. There was nothing out here. All we heard were the sounds of the forest and our own breathing. What a magical place! I thought we had to kayak for 3 hours, so I was surprised when I saw a telephone tower. Wait a minute. We were already approaching Muang Ngoy! We had intended to go for a swim somewhere, but close to the town, the water didn’t look very inviting. Instead I chose the shower and enjoyed a fruit shake in town. We finished the day we delicious Indian food. Muang Ngoy might be modernizing, but it certainly didn’t disappoint!