We headed out from Luang Prabang and hit the road to explore a bit of northern Laos. We were joined by our new travelling buddy, Chris, with shared plans to see the sights, do a bit of light trekking and kayaking and generally chill out – what could possibly go wrong?
The 3 hour minibus journey on the back seat felt more like 15 hours due to the horrible bumpy roads and lack of air circulation, but we were handsomely rewarded in all respects upon arrival in Nong Khiaw – a tiny town straddling a crystal clear river with huge shear rock faces towering in the background. We found cheap rooms with big balconies and (slightly obscured) views of the river.
Nong Khiaw has a slow pace that eases away the guilt of spending a couple of days of sitting on a balcony in between finding the best places to eat and drink. On night two we hooked up with Amy, a mutual travelling buddy and part of the Luang Prabang crew, who inevitably had found all the cool people to hang out with, namely a trio of super cute and talented Canadians who played guitar and sang their souls out for our entertainment, two equally cute English girls, Jess and Maisie, and a very rich and hilarious Laos-born American dude. We ended the evening on a bridge, under the stars, drinking beers and generally feeling like 20 year olds again.
After the laziness we planned to go on a 2 day trek that would end with us staying 2 nights in the next riverside destination, called Mong Noi, and then returning downstream in kayaks to Nong Khiaw.
Day one of the trek took us through minority villages, countryside and jungle. It was hot and hard work, but with no other tourists in sight and stumbling across tiny dwellings with just one family and their livestock hidden amongst the trees, it was well worth it. We spent the night in a remote village and were hosted by the chief and his wife. Dinner was served on the floor of their hut and was delicious – with the minor exception of the chicken head I accidentally popped into my mouth; only realising my mistake when the eyeball burst out of its socket. The highlight of this village was undoubtedly the hordes of children wanting to play with us and bestow us with gifts of flower bracelets and hand picked herbs.
Read more about day 2 of the trek and our ‘amazing’ kayaking skills in part 2.