After an hour’s boat ride from Nong Khiaw on the Nam Ou River and rewarding my eyes with a spectacular view of the universe’s incredible creations, the boat docked on the coast of the sleepy little town located in the northern part of Laos- Muang Ngoi Neua, set in the midst of the white limestone rocks of the mountains.
Women ushered people from the boat pier to show their guesthouses.
The average price quoted by many was 60,000 kip (7.5$), however, two of them quoted a little higher price 80,000 kip (10$), as they were the only two to offer the WIFI facility in that village.
Muang Ngoi Neua is a hideaway from the bustling cities of Laos like Luang Prabang or the capital city Vientiane or even Vang Vieng, flooded with backpackers. Muang Ngoi Neua is usually referred to as a place where people take a vacation from their vacation. So I certainly recommend staying offline and enjoying what Muang Ngoi Neua has to offer.
After taking a little walk with my heavily packed backpack, I finally settled in “Aloune Mai Guest House”. “Aloune Mai” is located at a stone throw away distance from the boat pier offering river facing rooms with hammocks outside each room. I was certainly astounded to get a room for 50,000kip (6$) per night with a splendid view of the Nam Ou River.
There is one main road which is a dirt road. The road is too narrow for a vehicle to pass comfortably. It runs parallel to the Nam Ou river, and a few paths split off perpendicular to the road. The only main road has several restaurants, guesthouses and shops. At the north end of the street lolls a beautiful Buddhist temple – Wat Okad.
The village comes to life early in the morning, as most of the villagers are fishermen who embark on their boats for fishing before the dawn.
Locals in the village live their life mostly outside their house, women cook the well-known sticky rice or Noodle Soups, some even have small stalls where locals and tourists can savour their food, men skillfully saw woods or knit a Lave or a Cast type fishing nets. Often you would hear “Sabaidi” the Lao way of greeting when you walk around.
Just with a walk of 3 minutes from the main road behind the Lao owned Indian restaurant on the way to the Tham Pha Kaew caves is the only school in the village, “the school is managed by 3 teachers from the same village” says Mr.Non Phang one of the teachers.
There are many incredible treks and trails around Muang Ngoi Neua. I decided to take a 30 minutes’ walk along another dirt road to explore the Tham Pha Kaew cave, passing a toll-booth you have to pay a 10,000 Kip per ticket, Using my mobile’s flash as a flashlight, I started venturing into few meters in the massive cave.
Tham Pha Kaew along with the Tham Kang cave was used as bomb shelters during the Vietnam-war era. Every 10 days there is a regional market where tribal villagers come to trade.
As the sun starts nudging over the top of the mountain, the day in the village starts coming to a complete end, at 9 pm people unwind to their bed and the restaurants and shops pull down the shutter, darkness lies like a blanket over the entire area.