Looking for a place to relax in a bungalow and put our feet up in hammocks we made our way towards Muang Ngoi – a small quiet town that is accessible only by boat and has only 4 hours of electricity each evening. The surrounding area is lush with jungle, tall mountains, and waterfalls that you can enjoy all by yourself.
To get to Muang Ngoi we took a very slow long boat from Nong Kiew that splashed through rapids and weaved between large rocks exposed by low water levels. Upon arriving to town we sought out a cheap river front bungalow and we were right at home. The town is very small and full of happy looking dogs and countless chicken and ducks with their tiny peeping babies trailing behind. Electricity was (usually) available from six to ten in the evening and often you would wander into a bar in the afternoon only to wait around and never be served or see any employees. It was a very sleepy town, that is until the all-you-can-eat-buffet opened at six and the street was busy with hungry backpackers.
With little to do in town we explored the surrounding area. A forty five minute walk away from town by road was a large cave, quite different than any we have seen before. Inside the entrance was a small stream but no well-beaten pathway. With our headlamps donned we entered the cave and climbed over rocks, slipped down boulders, and followed deeper into the cave. I really enjoyed having to forge our own way, there were occasionally painted arrows to guide you, but finding our own route along the various rock shapes in the dimly flashlight lit cave was exciting.
Another day was spent visiting a local waterfall. We hired a small narrow longboat to take us 30 minutes down the river to another town and the driver impressed us with his ability to steer the boat while constantly bailing water. With very vague directions we started to follow the trail but were soon disorientated as there were half a dozen trails splitting from the town that went up mountains, through rice paddies and along the stream. Confident in our navigation we carried on until our trail came upon a farmer’s field where a man and woman stopped what they were doing in the field and starred, then laughed. Not a good sign. We approached them and asked if this was the way to the waterfall which evoked more laughter. For a small fee the farmer offered to take us to the waterfall himself and we were happy for the guidance. With a little backtracking and a lot more twists and turns we found ourselves in the most beautiful lush jungle following a stream lined with vines and mossy rocks.
After what seemed like an eternity in the heat we made it to the waterfall where tall, clear, cool water cascaded over the rocks and into a perfect swimming pool. We plunged in and rinsed the sweat off in the flowing water while beers cooled in the shallower edges. Entirely secluded we had the whole waterfall to ourselves and brought our body temperatures back to normal. We shared a beer with our guide who sat at a distance while we swam, and although he spoke no English he was very friendly and smiled widely. There were small bees in the area that seemed to be attracted to our sweaty clothes and as we swam their numbers increased to the point of annoyance. We decided it was time to pack up and head back, and it was clear that our guide thought we were crazy for staying as long as we did.
Our last evening was spent like every other evening, reading in the hammock by candlelight or writing in the protection of the bug-net. Our time in Laos is sadly almost up and I’m very happy to have spent some of it here relaxing and soaking up the view.