On Nam Ou

Trip Start Jan 10, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Namhoun Guest House
Sunrise Guest House

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The morning I left Luang Namtha was a very cold one. I froze my buns in an sangtaw for 20 minutes on the way to the bus station which was out of town almost loosing all the fillings in my mouth ... my jaw would stop shaking... cold! Boarded a Luang Prabang bound bus looking forward to a 7 hours long ride and hoping the road conditions were better than my guide book was saying.
Though luck! the ride was something from a thriller movie except it was happening during the day. Imagine the worst turbulence you've ever experience in a plane. That times 7 hours plus half an inch thick blanket of dust covering you head to tows. I eat probably a kilo of it, breathed in another kilo (I could feel the silicosis developing in my lungs) I had it in prety much all the uncovered oriffices. For some reason unknown to me the locals enjoy to ride the buses with all windows open, probably to take in the fresh mountain air... trouble is the roads were once paved, not anymore and the bus usually gets stuck behind a huge slower moving truck. The book says the scenary was amazing. I would have to trust them on that.
But things started to get better when we joined a group of 3 equally miserable Israelis on a last 45 minutes ride in a sangtaw, this time on a better road, to our final destination the village of Nong Khiaw on the Nam Ou river. Things were getting better because the Israelis had a bottle of Lao Lao (local rice whiskey) with them that got passed around until empty.

The Nong Khiaw village is really something from a National Geographic doc. Straddling the Nam Ou there is a somewhat new bridge connecting the village's two sides in over a superb deep river valley sorunded by tall forestered mountains that practically fall into the river. The sun was setting down behind one of these mountains when we arrived casting this fantastic yellowie-orangie-redish warm color over the village... it was beautiful. OK. I admit that Lao Lao might have helped a little bit with the "poetry" of the whole thing but we were definitely in an awesome place.
An unexpected hot shower in a super clean and nice bungallow and an amazing butter chicken dinner at this also unexpected Indian restaurant, some BeerLao to quenche the thirst made it for a very promissing time in this village.
At night we went to check out the village and supplement the dinner with some local meat on the stick and some fruits and we ended up buying also the local Lao Lao delivered in a plastic bag, much like the Pepsi in Thailand less the ice and the straw. The day that satrted so unfriendly ended up quite enjoyable :)
Next day we rented townies (single speed bicycles) and went to check the countryside with our goals set on some caves that served as Luang Parabang's Province administration and Finance dept. durring the Vietnam War (68-74). The Phatok and Bank Caves are a short bike ride from the village and are impresive not as much as caves but as the history that is associated with them. It was interesting to imagine how people lived and worked, keeping a province up and running, in this caves trying to go on with their lives while outside their villages and rice fields were constantly and insanely bombarded by the Americans. And that was not for a month or a year it was for a good 6 years. In the Bank cave, which actulay served the purpose of a bank, we went deep down in some tunels for almost 30 meters and found little wooden plaques indicating where the bank administration was or the finance office was and so on... nothing more than some larger cracks in the cave's walls really... Imagine!
Back in the village we tried to shake of the heavy feelings at the most "fancy" restaurant on a patio overlooking the river (fantastic views) and the mountains. We had some fantastic mixed fruit shakes and a unexpectedly (again this word...) good esspreso. The chocolate danish though was at least a week old all it was good for was bending my fork. Well you can't always have everything...
Watching the villagers going about their lives and the long wooden boats going up and down the river from a hammock on the porch of my bungalow seemed like a pretty good idea to spend the rest of the day. I had to catch up on my blog and so I did taking this time to download and back up my pictures as well. At dinner we decide to go up river by boat the next day to check out this Muang Ngoi village that a friend told us about. Good dinner of Fried noodles with chicken and veggies, Lao Lao and beer Lao in a good and funny company of our Israelis friends made it for a great night. Tomorrow moving on.

If there is anything I hate with passion in Laos is the rusters! I don't know what's the deal with them but every house in the villages has at least 3 and the little fuckers have no sleep! It's enough for one of them to start screaming usually around 3am and all the rooster population responds in kind trying their best to outdo each other in decibels and length of the cry like in "Rooster's Got Talent" contest. Normally my ear plugs help enough so I can make a note of the concert outside but fall back into my slumber reasonably quick without much influence to my morning under eyes sacks. But this last night The little red Devil found the best spot for his "soprano on drugs" tryouts right in front of my bungalow's door. If you were dead and you would jump back to life only to spring outside catch the little shit and brake its neck! Ah, quiet again... Those and a lot worst were the thoughts going through my head abundently complimented with some bilingual swear words that I cannot reproduce here until I couldn't take it anymore. It was time for action.
With the agility of a Transylvanian Ninja I jumped out of my bed, kicked the door open and ... there he was. The size of a double chicken burger with bacon and cheese  with legs and red beak a meter away from me. Stopped in the middle of his insane performance he was extremely quick on his scrowney legs, speed that saved his life. Behind the relative safety of a bamboo shack he turned around and was getting ready to continue with his tirade but I would not have that. It was an intense standof... I employed all the energy and the Jeddhay mind tricks I had in stock. It was a perfect George Cloony moment in "Men that stare at goats" and... Yes, Victory!!!
Well, partially. The enemy did not fall dead as expected but rather turned around and left the confrontation clearly defeated! Good enough for me. I went back to my bungallow, stuffed my ears good with ear plugs and was sliping gently away back into sleep with wonderful dreams of Papaya salad with grilled chicken when disaster struck. My Nemessis was back! And he brought reinforcements, another skinnie just like him, calling me out from a safe distance. Dang!!!
Playing the "I'm bigger and scarier" card and absolutely determined to use blunt force by bamboo stick if the targets would somehow get into striking distance I managed to concquer enough teritory as a buffer zone for my ear plugs to start working enough so I can try to get back to my beauty sleep.
It sort of worked so I decided to file this incident under "Draws" but I can tell you that much that every chicken meal I have since brings a big satisfaction grin on my face.:)
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peter on

Again a nice story, nice pictures, beautiful nature, caves. Advice about the yelling roosters Toni: next time do not ask for noodles with chicken but noodles with rooster, buttered rooster, fried rooster, boiled rooster.... and advice it also to your college travellers......... Next year no early wake up more!!!
Have a nice time Toni, wishes you the Quebeckers in -2 white snowy

Liz Doster on

ha ha ha ha! you're cracking me up, I know exactly what you mean about those "man chicken"s, as someone in Costa Rica once called them. when I was a kid, I thought they only did their "cock-a-doodle-doo" once in the morning when dawn broke. how mistaken.

have fun w/ the travels. I'm in a sweet place, if you want to make a detour, mountains & beach! (and right now, wet snow that's been falling for days, creating a mushy, slushy mixture to freeze your toes on your walk to the bus)

tonypop on

Hi Peter, thank you so much for your comments! I'm happy to bring a bit of warmth and sun in your cold Quebec winter.

Diana on

Hey Tony! Now that's a transformation: from a peaceful vegetarian Canadian to a rooster-hungry Transylvanian Ninja :-)
Keep them coming, your funny stories!

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