One of the best travel experiences I’ve had so far is the wonderful village hopping experience in Laos. It was really fun and the memories of it are still fresh in my mind.
My travel buddy, Alex and I went to a few local villages located in some of the country’s remotest areas. We stopped by a village called Nong Khiaw which I considered as a very touristy village.
Exploring Nong Khiaw Village
Initially Alex and I wanted to go to another village which was farther from it. But it was almost dusk when we arrived. Alex isn’t a fan of touristy places. But I managed to convince him to make the stop. After all, we were quite sure that there should be plenty of nice places to explore.
When I say “nice”, I am basically referring to the nature. Although Alex’s foot was still injured (after we had an unfortunate fall near the Laos-Vietnam border), he was really excited about the limestone mountains that were all around the village. I was excited too. Before we got here, we climbed some beautiful ones in Vieng Xai. You can read more about it at Exploring Laos: 5 Unforgettable Moments On the Road
We went looking for a cheap place to spend the night. As expected, the guesthouses were all quite pricey. It took us about 15-20 minutes to find the one that suited our budget. In the end, we got ourselves a nice room for two nights at the Bamboo Paradise Guesthouse.
Not long after we checked into the guesthouse of our choice, we went out for a quick exploration. We went to a nearby river to sit and relax. There was a local man bathing happily in the river. I wished I could do the same. Maybe next time.
It was nice to unwind in the nature. The village seemed very quiet and peaceful. It was definitely different than how I had expected it to be. Apparently, the main attraction of the village is its hiking tour. So most of the travellers there were still outside, doing hiking. At night when they were all back from their activities, the village became more “alive”.
We didn’t do much at Nong Khiaw Village. Nevertheless, we still thought that it was a nice place and we had fun there. There was a nice restaurant that served plenty of cheap dishes. You can enjoy a bowl of curry (with rice) for as low as 40,000kip. How I wished I can tell you the name of the restaurant. The problem is, I don’t know what its name is. But what I know is it was somewhere at the corner of the street, right after the village’s main bridge.
As we were about to leave Nong Khiaw, we came across a French girl who was also staying in the same guesthouse as we did. Alex started a conversation with her and after sometime, he told me that she told him that there was a nice village not very far from where we were.
After further discussions, Alex and I decided to go to Muang Ngoi Village by a local boat. I said to myself “Gosh, this better be good.”
We brought our bike with us. Transferring it into the boat was not an easy task. But thanks to some helpful travellers around us, the task got slightly easier. We were a little bit disappointed for not able to stop the flow of the petrol from our bike’s petrol tank. We lose a lot of petrol when the bike was laid down on the boat. Well, we still managed to save some of it in a water bottle. I had to drink all the water from water bottle that I just bought to make space for our petrol.
The boat journey from Nong Khiaw to Muang Ngoi was not a short one. On our way to the village, we saw some buffaloes swimming in the river. Later our boat stopped working and we waited patiently for it to get fixed. The trip took longer than an hour. Some of the passengers were feeling disgruntled already. Well, there was nothing much that can be done other than staying calm and hoping that the situation will get better.
We survived. Of course we did! My first impression about Muang Ngoi — what a beautiful place. There were limestones everywhere. The guesthouses were mostly pleasant looking. In terms of hotel pricing, I’d say they’re affordable.
Exploring Muang Ngoi Village
After we checked into our guesthouse, we walked around while sipping on a cold, refreshing beverage. Oh, we made it on time to catch the sunset too. We relaxed on the stairs near the pier.
We then walked around the village to see what else it had to offer. We got to a small temple where we saw a few monks praying and some stray dogs lying down on the ground. Oh, we saw this funny sign too!
The next day, we woke up early to start our full-day exploration. We were so excited about it. We left our helmets behind, thinking that as long as we weren’t in the city, there will be no police to come and fine us. Haha.
We came across a beautiful cave called the Thang Kham Cave. According to the locals, it was previously a hideaway for war survivors. Many local families took shelter in the cave. It wasn’t a big cave. But it was big enough to make someone loses his or her way if not careful. Some blogs also mentioned about the same thing.
Later we went to an open field where we saw a herd of buffaloes. They were so adorable! Then we rode further until we reached a dirt road. That was the beginning of our adventure of the day. STEEP DIRT ROAD.
Discovering new places and people
After that, we came across a river and rode across it. Our shoes were totally wet. But it didn’t bother us. We rode to wherever we liked. Nothing was planned. We were just exploring…freely.
We arrived at a small village whose name we weren’t sure about. One thing for sure — the local villagers were nice, warm and welcoming. Apparently, there was a guesthouse there. We saw some other travellers too and waved at them.
As we walked further, we stumbled upon a cute brown puppy. It was following us the whole time. Alex and I gave it a name. We named it Fonzy. Later we had to say goodbye to Fonzy. We thought of taking it with us, but we decided not to. What will happen to Fonzy at the end of our trip? As much as we wanted to take it with us, we did what was best for it. Fonzy ran after us as we rode away. 🙁
As we went even further, we bumped into two French travellers who were on their way to the next village. Just like us, they were out there looking for adventures too. The French girl showed us the location of the village (which was 3 hours away) she and her friend were looking for on Google Maps. She was not even sure if such a village actually exists. So that was somewhat an adventure for them.
They invited us to join them too. If we did, we will definitely reach there before them. That was not our plan though. Alex was up for it, but I was not. When we were halfway through our journey back to Muang Ngoi, I changed my mind. I decided to go to the village where the French travellers were heading to. I thought it would be a fun thing to do. We saw some local kids on the road too. They waved and smiled happily at us.
When we arrived at the village, we learned that there was nothing much to see there. We can’t even find a proper restaurant to dine in. But we had instant noodles and boiled eggs for lunch at a local sundry shop.
After lunch, we headed back to Muang Ngoi. We met the French travellers again. They decided to stay at a village which was not far from the village they wanted to go to. They paid just 10,000kip per night in a local’s house. That was indeed cheap.
We got back to Muang Ngoi before dawn. After we took a short rest at our guesthouse, we headed out again for beers and sunset by the river. 🙂