Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nong Khiaw/ Muang Ngoi, Laos

Jess and I arranged for a minivan to pick us up from our hotel at 8:30 am. After 3 days in Luang Prabang we decided to travel north to Nong Khiaw (60,000 kip/3.5 hrs), where we would take a boat further north to Muang Ngoi (20,000 kip/45 min). Jess woke up early to see the monk alms giving and, since she used my watch for its alarm clock, I was depending on her to be MY alarm clock when she got back.

When I woke up, however, I noticed Jess wasn't in the room, so I walked over to her bed to check my watch to see what time it was.

"Oh, crap!" I yelled, as it was already 8:20. And it wasn't but 2 seconds later that I heard someone running up the stairs, huffing and puffing.

Jess opened and dashed through the door. "Sorry, I totally lost track of time!" Jessica said, while gasping for air.

Luckily I'd packed everything the previous night and only had to brush my teeth. However, we'd forgotten that the minivan was going to pick us up at 8:30... on Laos time. Which meant after we grabbed our things, ran downstairs and out of our hotel we ended up waiting around for a half hour before the minivan picked us up. Punctuality in Southeast Asia doesn't exist.

Nong Khiaw was a small, quiet town with beautiful scenery. Immediately upon arriving, we purchased our boat ticket for Muang Ngoi and went searching for food, as we had an hour to spare. As we were on the prowl looking for something to eat, a woman darted out of a restaurant, jumped into my arms and gave me a big hug.

It was Tiziana!

I'd met Tiziana when visiting Lod Cave, just outside of Pai, Thailand. So Jess and I had lunch with her and the group of people she was traveling with. Unfortunately, Tiziana and I had conflicting schedules so our reunion was short lived.

After lunch, Jess and I headed back to the boat. The previous night I received unsettling news that the boat we were about to embark on sunk a few days ago.

And I was told that if I had any valuable belongings, i.e. electronics, that I should place them into a waterproof bag or container of some kind--something that I didn't have.

Supposedly, this is something that occurs once a year, so, I mean, statistically speaking I had nothing to worry about, right?

It took about 45 minutes to reach Muang Ngoi. It was a fairly smooth and scenic ride.

Speaking of which: Muang Ngoi was beautiful. It's an extremely small village nestled in between gorgeous limestone mountains overlooking the Nam Ou river, which locals from the village still use to wash cloths and bathe in. I have to say, I was a bit surprised how primitive it was. I mean, I'd just arrived from a city with loads of tourists, boutique shops and restaurants. And Muang Ngoi had just one road, a dirt one, and electricity until 10 pm. There wasn't much to do but relax and enjoy the scenery. There are some villages and a cave that can be reached by foot in an hour or two. Oh yeah, you won't find any motorized vehicles here either. You feel like you've gone back in time when you visit Muang Ngoi.

Jessica and I found a bungalow for 50,000 kip (25,000 kip each/per night) and for the next two nights we pretty much lounged around and did nothing. Seriously. Nothing. Eh, but it was nice. Jess realized, however, that she needed to leave for Cambodia earlier than she'd expected, so we both left together. I traveled back to Luang Prabang for one night where I hung out with friends I'd met during my travels. I also bought a bus ticket for Phonsavan (100,000 kip) for the following morning, a nice launching point to see the mysterious Plain of Jars.

Next Stop: Phonsavan


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