Greetings from Luang Prabang.
The past 2 weeks have been awesome! After leaving Nuang Khoi I went by boat up the Nam Ou river to Muang Ngoi. This place is high up the to do list for tourists, but still managed to remain some sort of peace and tranquility. This is due to the fact that it can only be reached by boat and that generator powered electricity is only available from 6:00pm to 10:00pm.
The owner of the guesthouse where I stayed (his name is Joy) is a doctor and former employee of the government, but he decided it was “too much work” and he preferred “LoSo” (“Low Society” as opposed to “HiSo”) anyway. So he opened this guesthouse. He was a great person who invited all of his guests for dinner one day (prepared by his wonderful wife). This evening ended with all of us being drunk from too much “Lao Lao” and lots of laughter. Lao Lao is the national drink, a kind of whisky made locally from rice.
If you ever end up in Muang Ngoi I can highly recommend his place. It may not have the comforts of some other places around, but the view on the river is amazing and, most importantly, the family (also his 2 kids) is really awesome. The place is called “Suan Phao Bungalows”.
Later I stayed 3 days in a small village called “Banna”, which is a 2 hours walk away from Muang Ngoi. This place was as far out as I wanted to go: No cars, limited electricity, great views. Although a few travellers come through here on a daily walk, I was one of only three foreigners who stayed in one of the bungalows over night (for 1 Euro a day). I was right on time for the rice harvest and was allowed to come with the locals, who showed me how they worked. I helped for about one hour, resulting in bruises on my hands and lots of great photos. Exactly the kind of experience I was looking for: Leaving the tourist bubble and get a little feel for everyday life of rural Laotians.
Needless to say: The hygene in such a place is not on a level my stomach is used to, so now I have diarrea for the past week. But I was expecting this to happen. This is the price we Europeans have to pay for experiences like this. And I’m happy to pay this price.
All in all I stayed about 10 days in this area, which means that I wont have to time to explore other areas of Laos because my visa is only valid for 30 days.
After Muang Ngoi I went further up the Nam Ou by boat to Phongsali which took me 2 days. Beautiful. Also: I was finally getting “off the beaten track”. There was only one other foreigner with me, the rest of the passengers were locals. This kind of travelling I really enjoy the most. People were loading the (small) boat with all kinds of stuff and getting off and small villages in between. When you travel like this, again, you get a real look into the daily lifes of the Laotians, even if it’s only a surface look.
Phongsali itself was not very remarkable, so (after getting some laundry done) I ventured on my first bus trip in Laos back to Luang Prabang. Of course, the bus broke down 2 hours before our destination, making it a 17 hours journey. We arrived at 2:30 in the morning. Luckily, I met some nice people on the bus who knew a good guesthouse (my hotel where I stayed first was not good). It’s very expensive (30$), but this is easily the best hotelroom I stayed ever in (anywhere). Nice to give yourself such a treat for a few days after going simple. In about 2 days I will head to Cambodia, which will take me a few days