|Headed north to Nong Khiaw by mini-bus for 4 hours - longer than expected since the driver forgot 30 Km into our trip that he was meant to pick up his mother in Luang Prabang. The added bonus to this is we got to visit her house (and use her bathroom) when we dropped her off at her village.
After the bus ride, we jumped in a long boat for a 2 hour ride up the river to Muang Ngoi. The boat was supposed to leave at 2pm, but since there were not enough passengers we waited until 3:30pm when a busload of fresh tourists arrived. We later found out that the boat captains take it in turns to haul passengers up-river so they try and jam as many people into the boats as possible when it is their turn. It turned out that we had too much weight in our boat (no surprise to those of us crammed aboard witnessing how the boat was sinking to near-water-line levels with each additional passenger and bag of cement)and 20 minutes into the trip we had to wave down another boat and offload some passengers and luggage so we would be able to get up through the rapids. The boat drivers somehow managed to judge how much weight needed to be shed to avoid capsizing. And, even though progress was very slow through the rapids, we arrived dry.
Muang Ngoi is a very small village on the Nam Ou river with just one dirt road, no electricity and is the most basic place we've visited so far.
We found a guesthouse at the end of the village and located somewhere to eat - which became our regular since the food was excellent, especially considering the setting and location. The restaurant, called "Dan's", had 3 tables which were outside in the cold night. The fact that we were willing to wait upwards of an hour each night in the chilling cold for our meals is a testament to just how good the food was! At night, the temperatures dropped down to 8-9C - we needed all the limited warm clothing we had to try to stay warm.
On our first day, we got up early and rented a boat and guide with some Dutch folks to head up river for a visit to some villages and a hike over the hill which divided them. Beautiful ride up the river with early morning mist around the towering peaks.
and a good hike with great views of the river. Stopped for lunch on a sandbank in the Nam Ou river and headed back. Spent our final day hiking through rice paddies with lots of cows and buffalo around.
Returned on the third day by minibus to Luang Prabang for a few more days of relaxation. On the minibus, we were lucky to have seats as several passengers paid for seats, but had to sit on the floor since it was oversold. This of course, was exacerbated by the fact that the driver still continued to try to pick up additional locals as we drove out of town. Luckily, the only taker was a teenage boy who seemed happy to stand the entire trip.