We all started the day with some noodle soup from one of the street stalls just next door to Neet’s store, and some banana fritters (a whole banana coated in dough and deep fried which cooks the banana to make it all sweet and gooey) to go from another stall a bit further along.
It was a beautiful morning for paddling : after the rain a couple of days ago, the cloud had now lifted reasonably early, so by the time we began our voyage, the sun was shining its bright little face down upon us.
Not long after setting off, we discovered a small hole in the bottom of the boat. A little piece of tissue seemed to hold back the majority of the water but i still had to bail a little more frequently than i’d anticipated!
It was a beautiful picture aboard ship : Meesha at the front, shirtless, with his T-shirt tied around his head like a pirate ; me stripped down to my bikini in an attempt to catch some rays whilst frequently interchanging between paddling (probably very unprofessionally!) and bailing ; and James (also shirless with his hairy chest on display!) acting the real captain of the ship at the stern, shouting orders of “draw!” and “river left!” or “river right!” The comedy element was highlighted even further by the fact that, in a neat little line on a raised platform in the middle of the boat, were our few surviving banana fritters (the rest were a little soggy after our first rapids encounter) drying in the sun.
The few sets of rapids we passed through were brilliant fun (mainly due to the fact that i had two very competent captains aboard my ship), but for the majority of our 3 hour journey back to Nong Khiaw, the river was calm and peaceful, with not a single other boat in sight.
Half the way back, to give the old arms a bit of a rest, we pulled the boat ashore at a small beach, took some silly photographs, went for a refreshing swim, and fed the remaining banana fritters to whatever fish lay below the partially cloudy surface of the river.
For the final kilometre or so, we stopped paddling and just floated downstream in the sunshine, savouring the experience just a little while longer.
Once back in Nong Khiaw we all checked into the Bookshop Guesrhouse right on the river (not entirely sure of its name but on the sign outside it simply read “Bookshop. Guesthouse.” )
We got chatting to a South African girl, Heida, who was sitting out on the balcony next to Meesha’s bamboo hut. The four of us went for a very late lunch and then got some take out beer Lao and all congregated on Heida’s balcony. Several hours and several beer Lao later, the congregation had moved drunkenly down to the veranda and Heida was asleep on the floor!
Final thoughts on Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi
Nong Khiaw is a stunning place but Muang Ngoi feels like a slightly truer slice of Lao village life. Although it attracts slightly more tourists than Nong Khiaw, this does not detract at all from the beauty and authenticity of this sleepy little village tucked away in the mountains.
Photo is of James (not looking very happy about the whole ordeal!) and i and our trusty paddle boat that got us safely downstream from Muang Ngoi to Nong Khiaw.