I found Paradise

19 Feb
Muang Ngoi - the view from my bamboo hut...

Muang Ngoi - the view from my bamboo hut...

Stop looking – I found it. Paradise is called Muang Ngoi Neua, and is hidden on the bank of the Nam Ou river in Northern Laos. Muang Ngoi is a loooooovely little riverside village, tucked away between towering lush green karst mountains. The village basically consists of one street, which is dotted with quaint guesthouses, makeshift shops and open air restaurants. One the North side of the street there’s a Buddhist temple, with drum tower and monk quarters and all. The other side of the street bumps into a karst mountain.

The people here are very laid back and seem to enjoy the symbiosis with the foreigners. They can make a living selling their wares, but they also enjoy the tourist grub they provide, when I see some locals munching away on pancakes or other tourist food. On the other hand, falang (the Lao word for foreigners) also find their way to the local food stalls, home made drinks sold in plastic bags, etc. They have even

Yummy Falang Rolls - sushi but sweet - for the travellers

Yummy Falang Rolls - sushi but sweet - for the travellers

‘invented’ the (in)famous “Falang Rolls”: sushi like rolls made of sticky rice, peanut butter, sugar and sesame seeds. A great concoction taking local ingredients, some oriental concept (sushi rolls) and western taste buds – lovely!

I am staying in a lovely bohemian bamboo hut on stilts, cuddled up in the lovely green shrubbery, overlooking the river. Wobbly planks lead to the elevated porch of the bungalow. The walls of the hut are basically platted bamboo-mats, so there’s no need

My bamboo hut - I could live here...

My bamboo hut - I could live here...

for air-conditioning as there are small openings in the mats anyway. The floor is made of some planks nailed on beams; so you better don’t drop anything on the floor or it might disappear a few meters down the slope on which the bamboo hut is built. The porch is finished with tree-branch railings and sports two hammocks, which are great to take in the views.

I have the only remaining ‘old’ (authentic & basic) hungalow of Nicksa’s Place, as the rest of the bungalows are now refurbished and have attached WC and bathroom. My toilet and bathroom is not attached, but it is at 5 m from my bungalow, and since all the other bungalows have their own en suite bathroom, it is like having a private bathroom anyway. And there’s even a sit-down toilet, even though still with scoop water flush.

The door locks with a padlock – if you really want to – because, for one, it is so tranquil and peaceful here that nobody would get the idea to do something wrong (or am I too naïve?), and secondly, if you’d really want, you can easily push a whole in the bamboo walls and get in anyway… Locking sounds out on the contrary, is only possible with ear plugs…

The view from the window: karst mountains, river, valley, green & blue

The view from the window: karst mountains, river, valley, green & blue

The bungalow is furnished with a table and a double bed (with mosquito net), even with double mattress, even though you don’t feel much of it. Forget about a spring mattress – no springs and no ‘tress’ here – it is more like sleeping on a mat on hard wooden planks, but it does the job. From the bed, you have a lovely view through the window or door. You can see the day arrive in the morning, and see the karst mountains appear from the mist. The bed is at least queen size, but I don’t think there’s any ‘queens’ to be found in this little place.

Roosters, chicken, ducks are present in abundance though, roaming around freely (see movie), despite WHO bird flue campaigns. They do start their concert around 5am in the morning and it last till dusk, when the crickets and frogs take over. Since the walls are pretty permeable, it is like sitting in the first row. The hut also comes with its own pet: it’s been two days in a row now that I saw my own personal gecko crawling down the doorpost at sunset when I was reading or blogging in my hammock. A friendly little chap.

This is Muang Ngoi's main and only street...

This is Muang Ngoi's main and only street...

This place is pure bohemian bliss. This is the tree house you wanted as a child, but then taken seriously. This is roughing it, but in a comfortable way. A minuscule 40 Watt light bulb that comes on with the electricity each evening from 6 to 10 definitely adds to the charm. This is the place I could relax, the place I could easily work (if I’d get a laptop with a longer-life battery – and, euh, internet…- sorry just dreaming). It’s a mix between Sonia’s cottage in the Slovakian mountains, the magic of Halong Bay (but in a river setting), the village of Arendonk with the roosters crowing at 5h30am and Asian prices (3 euro per night),

It’s only after 3 days here that I realize that there are no cars or motorbikes in this village. So all sounds you hear are perfectly natural – the air you breath is fresh and pure (except the smoke of wooden fires used for cooking)… The only mechanical noise you hear is the occasional boat that brings are takes new travelers, or the generators between 6 and 10… (otherwise I couldn’t be writing this here for you)

What would you need more in paradise?

The beach - well, there is sand and water ;-)

The beach - well, there is sand and water ;-)

A beach? OK – done. I found out yesterday that there is a nice white sandy beach along the river, just 5 minutes walk from the boat landing. On top of that, it’s a great meeting place to hook up with other travelers and the river is divine to cool off in… (and to do that long needed sport – so I just swim across the river a few times).

And then imagine, against the dramatic backdrop of karst mountains in different shades of green (because different distances and different density of mountain fog), complete and utter post-card peace, 2 of the local boys are floating languidly by down the river in their tube, singing Lao songs echoing off the mountains around you… It doesn’t get any more idyllic…

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