Probably one of the highlights (if not the highlight) of my trip in Laos is the time I spent in two very small and remote villages located in Northern Laos – Muang Ngoi and Huay Bo. We just actually got out of the villages today after spending 3 days in Muang Ngoi and 8 days in Huay Bo.
We first spent a couple of days in Muang Ngoi, a small village along the Nam Ou River. We’ve heard about Muang Ngoi through some backpacker friends who told us about the beauty and remoteness of the village and they suggested that “we have to stay there”.
It’s interesting how backpackers in South East Asia are constantly trying to find the “most remote, off the beaten path, authentic” place because everywhere else is so “touristy”. And whenever they find one, word goes around and in a couple of years, these remote off the beaten path places are now changed.
I feel like that is what happened/is slowly happening to Muang Ngoi. Mind you, it is still pretty remote and not as visited by tourists as in other cities in Laos. Muang Ngoi is still a tiny riverside village. To get there, you have to travel by boat from Nong Khiew or (apparently) charter a boat from Luang Prabang. Also, the town just got it’s permanent electricity in 2013.
But this small remote village is becoming a favorite destination for backpackers in Laos. After all, it is only a little over an hour boat ride (25, 000 kip) from Nong Khiew which makes it pretty accessible. It now boasts a few guesthouses which offer 24 hour electricity, WiFi, hot showers and breakfast buffets. It lacks ATM service though so if you are planning to stay some days in the village, try to get your money beforehand at the ATM’s in Nhong Khiew. It is possible to exchange currencies in Muang Ngoi though.
We also saw a couple of shops that offer guided treks and tours on the surrounding villages as well as kayak rentals. We didn’t get to ask around and to be honest, we didn’t do much in Muang Ngoi as what we really wanted was to stay in the surrounding villages.
We were lucky that during our stay in Muang Ngoi, there was an outdoor public market which happens only every 10 days, we were told. The market, it seems, is one of the more exciting event in town as there were many people visiting from nearby villages and merchants from bigger cities come to sell their goods.
We decided that we would just spend a couple of nights in Muang Ngoi and then, head off to Huay Bo, a “more remote village” about 1.5 – 2 hours walking from Muang Ngoi. We could have stayed more time in Muang Ngoi and in fact, the plan was to stay a couple more days in Muang Ngoi after spending some days in Huay Bo, but we ended up spending more time in Huay Bo and had to cut our time in Muang Ngoi.
Accomodation: Phetdavanh Guesthouse run by a Swedish-Laotian couple. 60, 000 kip for a bungalow with electricity, hot shower and WiFi
Food: There are a few restaurants along the main road. If you are there during public market day, try the food there as they are cheap and you get to share the table with a lot of interesting locals