Muang Ngoi is maybe one of the most laidback places I know in Laos – it is even more low-key than Nong Khiaw, despite the fact that it seems that there are more tourist per local. But it gets its charm for not having cars or motorbike, and that electricity is only available between 6 – 9pm (definitely bring a torch along – though this might have change over the last year or so). It is settled within a valley next to the river, consisting of one rather big street and a temple – it will take only 15 minutes to explore the village. It is a very quiet place (only noise coming from conversations, animals, music and the boats). And thankfully the village tries its best to keep its traditions – there are signs everywhere highlighting the conduct tourists must follow (no bare chest or bikini tops, and no noise after 10.30pm). Even though not every tourists follow that conduct (unfortunately) it helps keep this less touristy feel.
The main reasons to come here is to either rest in one of the many hammocks, or exploring the stunning surroundings and one of the few minority villages nearby. It is the perfect place to experience rural Laos.
Until now I haven’t found a place like Muang Ngoi in SEA, and it is still one of my favourite places. Don’t come here if you want to party, but if you are looking for a relaxing atmosphere, this is the right place.
Arrival / Departure
In the past you could only reach Muang Ngoi by boat from either Nong Khiaw or Muang Khuau. The journey from Nong Khiaw takes an hour, and offers some nice views from the boat. There are two boats daily in each direction – one in the morning (departing Muang Ngoi at 9am & noon)
The journey from Muang Khuau takes around 6 hours, and might not leave every day.
But recently a new road has been build that enable buses to arrive from Luang Prabang. Due to the fact that no boat can go directly to Luang Prabang anylonger, this could be an option to get to Muang Ngoi. But do not miss at least one trip on the Nam Ou river.
I only stayed at the Say Lom Guesthouse, the first set of bungalows on the right walking up the stairs from the pier – overlooking the boat landing.
There are quite a few guesthouses and bungalows in Muang Ngoi, most are located on the main road, most even offering a great view over the Mekong. There was even one more luxurious looking hotel with solar panels, and offered 24h electricity.
Food & Drinks
Despite being a small village you are not short of choices here for food places.
For breakfast you can visit one of the two all-you-can-eat breakfast places at the corner of the main street and the road to the boat landing. The food is nothing special, but for 20k Kip you can have a big breakfast to prepare yourself for some walks or other exhausting activities – like reading a book in your hammock…
The restaurant next to the boat landing is a nice spot for lunch, with a nice view and they serve some great noodle soup. The sandwiches were pretty good as well (good option if you need some food prepared for a boat trip).
Next to it is another restaurant (following the little path passing the place you buy boat tickets) – it is a great place to watch the sunset with a clear view of the mountains. In addition they serve some yummy food there, with a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.
The busiest place was the second restaurant on the other side of the boat landing. There are nice comfy seats with pillows. The food here was very good (had some good curry). But it was also good to come here during happy hour between 3pm and 6pm for nice cocktails and just to sit back and enjoying the great view.
The restaurant next to it offered some again some good food, but from all the places I have been to in Muang Ngoi it was the worst (though the food was not bad at all).
What to do
One thing you can easily do in Muang Ngoi is – doing nothing. The relaxed atmosphere really invites you to use a hammock to read a book or just to relax.
You can explore the village quickly, maybe visiting the village or go for a refreshing swim in the afternoon.
For some activities you could do a kayaking tour (there is a tourist agency on the top of the stairs from the boat landing).
Or you could just go for a little walk. My favourite one was the walk to the minority village Ban Na village. It is an easy walk without any hills (though you will get wet feet when crossing the river) but you will be rewarded with some amazing scenery. And on the way you will pass an interesting cave
The second alternative is a hike to the top of a hill next ot the village (passing the temple). This is a bit more tricky walk, as you have to climb up some ladders and some interesting looking constructions. On the way to the top you will pass some interesting caves. The reward from the exercise is a great view over the surrounding area.
I met a couple who have done a overnight trek – for such a trip contact a travel agency.
And whatever you have done during the day – do not miss a nice sunset with a cold Beer Lao – life can hardly get any better than that.