The surrounding of Muang Ngoi invites for some walks. My favourite one was to the minority village of Ban Na. It is actually not a long walk, though there are quite a few interesting places along the way. It is an easy walk with no hills, though you might get wet feet when crossing a little river. No map is actually needed, but you could ask your guesthouse to be on the safe side.
To start the walk follow the main road in the village towards the south, and turn left at the end of the road – heading towards the school. Passing the school and the volleyball field it will lead you to a little path. After a short while you get to one of the first site of the walk – Muang Ngoi Kao cave. Before you enter it you have to pay an entrance fee for the whole area of 10.000 Kip. The money is used for the schools in the area.
The entrance on the cave is on the left side, and bigger than the Bank cave I visited in Nong Khiaw. Make sure you bring a torch along as the cave gets pretty dark at the afr and – and I would recommend not heading into the cave with flip flops. The cave itself is very interesting, going deep inside the hill. You can climb some rocks to get to some little places into the cave, though without getting into tight spots. Though I would recommend to check the rocks before touching it, as I saw some creeping crawlers on the floor and the rocks. Don’t be surprised to see some local children at the entrance of the cave – it seems a popular place to play. Don’t worry, they won’t beg, but might want to speak a little bit English.
After the cave cross the bamboo bridge to continue the walk. On the other side of the bridge is a little Tam Kang View restaurant, a nice place for a snack and drinks or a game of bowl.
Following the path you walk along a little stream where you might see locals preparing fishing nets, and get a first glimpse of rice fields. Soon you arrive a little stream you have to pass. There is no bridge, so you will get wet feet. Either wear sandals or shoes that dry fast.
You then finally arrive in an absolute beautiful valley full with rice paddies, surrounded by karst mountains covered by trees. It is one of those places you could sit down and look at it for ages, and still not getting bored. The view you have here is breath taking, in my opinion the most beautiful part I have seen in Laos (and this means something with the scenery Laos offers).
Following the path through the rice fields you might pass locals working in the field, smiling at you and waving. Soon you can either turn left to the Ban Na village, or continue on the path to another village a few kilometres away.
Ban Na is a little minority villages based next to a few hills. The people here live in basic wooden huts, most working on the farm. In addition to the people you can see other inhabitants of the villages like pigs and chicken roaming freely. I can only imagine that the village is a popular destination for a day trip, though no one is asking to sell you anything. You can easily walk around without any hassle – which is very refreshing. Though some of the children will eye you with curiosity, and follow you around, waving and shouting Sabaidee…
At the beginning of the village you can find a little food place Chantanoha Ban Na where you can rest your feet and enjoying a drink or getting some basic food like fried noodles, soup or spring rolls It is a perfect place to relax, appreciating the stunning surrounding, or even play a game of bowl.
If you are not in need of a longer break there, you could walk further to another village, but I found the place here too welcoming to rush away from here.
The walk between Muang Ngoi and Ban NA village is not very long, but if you stop to enjoy the amazing scenery, or having a drink and food, you can easily make it as a full day trip. If you want to do more you can visit one of the other minority villages. Just make sure you do not miss walking to the valley – it is a must-do when in Muang Ngoi and a place you should not miss. You would otherwise miss a stunning place.
It is not a long distance to get there, but still manage to spend the full day for this trip. If you have less stops you can easily cover a longer distance and head to one of the other villages.