A busy day in Nong Khiaw

On our last morning in Muang Ngoy we had a buffet breakfast on a corner restaurant, with pancakes, waffels, banana pastries, tea, fruit, muesli and lots more. It was a really a feast. After eating way too much we walked down to the boat ramp and waited for the ferries to leave. Some people were already climbing on the boats even though they weren’t sure which boat would go to Nong Khiaw. They just wanted the best seats for themselves. We waited like good obedient people and climbed in a boat when the boatmen arrived. In the end two boats ended up going to Nong Khiaw. Ours was really packed! I tried to sit more comfortably than the way here, but I just didn’t have enough space. We were asked to squish together more and more and then it turned out the other boat barely had any people on it! I hate it when the rude people win. But we did arrive a lot quicker than the way here, going downstream this time.

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Beautiful Nong Khiaw seen from the bridge

We chose to stay in a room in the hostel, since it was one of the options that was closer to the bus station the next day. The bed was super comfortable, but the hostel was a bit strange. The man running it was an odd person to say the least. There were rules everywhere and at the same time it seemed like anything was possible. As long as you stuck to the rules I guess. We decided to rent bicycles to ride out to a cave and a waterfall, passing some small villages. The guy at the bike shop said the road was quite hilly, so we opted for the mountainbikes. He was right. I was still not feeling well and had no energy. It was tough! And the way was only about 7km. We first passed the cave, where we got off our bike and paid a lady to enter the cave and watch over the bikes (we didn’t have locks). We crossed a bamboo bridge over a small river, walked through a nice looking restaurant and a field to get to the cave. As soon as we started climbing up the stairs, a local started to follow us, probably looking for a tip. I wasn’t interested in a guide, so I just ignored him and we went our own way. The cave wasn’t very big or impressive. It was more the scenery and the history that made it interesting. This cave was used by villagers during the second Indochina war.

As we continued we saw some amazing views and a couple of villages. At the last village was a waterfall. Well… what goes for a waterfall here anyway. It was more a small bump where the water indeed fell for about half a meter. We stopped for a break despite the disappointing falls and watched the local boys in the river. Really young boys were spearfishing with a big mask on their face and no clothes on. Some children came to us asking for pens. We didn’t have any and made them happy with a cookie instead. Then we biked the long way back, which was a bit easier. We tried to go down a dirt road, but it was so hilly and with so many stones, bumps and grooves, that I had a little breakdown and we turned around.

Instead of being more active, we went to the popular Alex restaurant. You do need a bunch of patience, since an old woman was holding the fort by herself. She took the orders, did the cooking and brought out the food, so we were lucky to get into the restaurant right before a lot more people arrived. Being next in line for food and drinks, it didn’t take too long. I did already finish my meal of potato salad before my friend even got his. I didn’t mind it took a while. The food was great.

We were stuffed, but we wanted to climb up to the Phadeng Peak viewpoint. It’s a 1,5 hour climb up and it’s supposed to be great for sunset. So we started climbing. It wasn’t easy. It was pretty much constantly going uphill and at times there were ropes to help you out. It didn’t flatten until right at the top. The heat didn’t help either. There were times where we were almost prepared to give up but we kept pushing through. I was incredibly happy when I reached the sign that said ‘5 minutes’. It took us just over an hour to reach the top. Sweaty and exhausted we climbed up the last few rocks, reaching a hut where some French people gave us an encouraging smile. We took some photos and joined them on a bench. We soon started talking and even though we were really early for the sunset we chatted the time away and stayed until the sun disappeared behind the mountains. It got a bit busier and there were even some monks coming up to see the view. I wasn’t sure about the way down in the dark, but there were enough people to make me feel safe. We were all helping each other out. It was 7PM by the time we were back in the village, so we had a shower and a late dinner of Lao curry with spring rolls. After that it didn’t take me long to fall asleep.

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