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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Nong Khiaw

28th – 29th November

We mentioned earlier that a popular way to travel in Laos is by riverboat, the most famous of which is the cruise down the Mekong. A lesser known and equally stunning trip is to travel down the xxxx river from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang.

We travelled via Udomxai to Nong Khiaw with the intention of taking this trip downstream, as well as the opportunity to spend a few post-trekking days relaxing by the river. Nong Khiaw and it’s neighbour, Muang Ngoi Neua, one hour up river and completely void of vehicles are the ideal places to do this. We stayed overnight in Nong Khiaw at the Riverside bungalows, watching the sunset and enjoying some Beer Lao with Jo and Guy and another couple we’d met, aussies Jonny and Ally. There wasn’t a lot to do in Nong Khiaw other than watch the world go by. The scenery is completely out of this world, but when the sun drops behind the limestone karsts around 4.30pm the temperature suddenly plummets and you’re left wondering how to keep warm!

We took refuge in what looked like a warm café. I think we were fooled by the posh glass doors, the cosy leather sofas and candlelit ambience. Oh how wrong we were… the place had no side walls and even our hot chocolates were cold by the time the cups touched our lips! The saving grace was the best piece of cheesecake ever !

The following day there were two boats scheduled to Muang Ngoi Neua. We took the later 2 o’clock boat and spent most of the morning waiting for the warmth of the late rising sun to thaw out, before exploring a nearby cave. The cave was interesting enough but we spent more time on the journey home where we stopped at some neglected lily ponds watching dragonflies, Ady camera glued to eye, after the elusive “money” shot!

In hindsight we probably should have taken the earlier, quieter boat. A boat normally used to ferry 8 people was packed with 22 well fed westerners and their big backpacks, each the size of an average Laoation alone! Unsurprisingly the waterline rose alarmingly close to the top of the boat! As soon as we moved there was seepage. The seepage turned into a trickle… how long would we stay afloat!? It was a tense journey and we were all fearing for our cameras, laptops and bags, if not ourselves!

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