Our first night in Nong Khiaw was not good. We had left the dim light on whilst we slept but there was a very loud storm during the night and the power went off. It was pitch black, hot and I could hear insects scuttling around us on the floor. It was not nice at all. Ben was surprised to see me up at 7am in the hammock reading. I was just glad to be out of that room and into the light! We hired a bike after breakfast to ride 2.5km to a nearby cave. It was a nice ride through the local villages, we even saw some wild boar. The cave was through some rice fields and up some tiny stairs. It was used in the second Indochina war for the government to hide in. Different jobs were carried out in the cave and signposted inside. It was hard to get a good idea of what went on in there as it just seemed so unrealistic but the cave was impressive and had some good views. A local told us a waterfall was 1km further on but we went about that far and couldn't see it. We were tired so headed back. A girl working at our bungalows said it was quite far from the caves. We were going up and downhill so it did get quite tiring! The next night wasn't as bad but I was happy to leave!
After 2 nights we caught an early boat upstream to Muong Noi. It's even more remote than Nong Khiaw. It cannot be reached via road and only has electricity between 7pm and 10pm. How ridiculous is that?! You can't even get a phone signal, never mind internet!
We stayed in a wooden bungalow (like the '3 little pigs'. We started off with bamboo, now we're onto wood and we'll be back within concrete in no time!) on the river which is £2.30/night for both of us. We had a balcony with 2 hammocks on so no fighting this time! It is a dusty little village along the river with amazing scenery around. It's obviously a very poor area which is sad, even though there are guest houses and a few restaurants lining the streets. There is no road nearby, you need to get to everywhere by boat. It is nice to get away from motorbikes! Chickens and ducks wander around the streets and there are lots of chicks about. It is quite nice to hear the constant cheeping of them. The ducks are giants too, I don't know why! It's actually like staying on a farm. When we went for a little wander around the town a tiny chick ran in front of me and stopped so I couldn't resist picking it up. It was so cute!
We went for something to eat on our first day. This is the only place we've been where you can't get any form of Western food. It's quite refreshing but no doubt it will make me want a burger!! The dishes are all very simple, just rice or noodles with a choice of meat. I ordered chicken with rice and Ben ordered chicken with noodles. The next thing we saw was the woman picking up the nearest chicken and taking it into the kitchen. You could hear it screeching before it went quiet. I felt very bad:( I know that chickens are killed for me to eat them, but I don't particularly want it happening in front of my eyes! It was very surreal.
There are no street lamps (I guess cos it's not a street!) and it can be quite difficult to see what you're eating after the sun goes down at 7, so we've been getting in by half 7-8ish, making the most of charging our various electronic items and playing cards. The first night was nowhere near as bad as the last place. The worst thing was how uncomfy my pillow was. It felt like it was made of rope. The main problem with this village is that there are no fans, never mind air con, so it's does get pretty hot in the room.
Yesterday we were up quite early and got a buffet breakfast. One of the things I had was sweet sticky rice, flavoured with banana and coconut, it was pretty good!
We decided to walk up to some caves nearby (I know, all we seem to do at the moment is caves and waterfalls!) It had rained during the night pretty heavily (so Ben tells me, I didn't wake up) so the walk there was horribly muddy when you're wearing flip flops! Once we got to the bottom of the hill it didn't get much better. It was quite a big climb to cave 1, made slippy by the mud and with some climbing up and down bamboo ladders which were not fun. There are also massive caterpillars in all the Laos woodland which look like massive mascara brushes. They're pretty spikey and are probably poisonous so you have to be careful where you put your hands. Cave 1 wasn't bad. It went quite deep but we had torches to look around. It was a bit spooky knowing that no one else was nearby and we couldn't get right to the end of the cave as it went quite low. You would have had to crawl through and I didn't fancy that! Next we started the climb to cave 2. It was getting more slippy and with bigger steps thanks to some rocks getting in on the action. Cave 2 was rubbish. You couldn't even go in because there were rocks blocking a lot of the entrance, I don't know whether it was recent or not. You could carry on climbing up to a viewpoint so we thought we'd give it a go. After about 10 minutes of tricky climbing we could hear fairly loud thunder. We were already stupidly hot, sticky and muddy and it had been slippy enough coming up so we didn't fancy trying to get down whilst it chucked it down! We made it down fairly slowly. Ben went flying twice but managed to stay on his feet luckily, I was terrified that he'd hit his head on a rock. It never did rain though! It must have just passed by but it did sound quite close.
That night, after the simple dishes that we'd been having, we decided to try some new food. We had fried river weed, a bit like seaweed from a Chinese fried with sesame seeds but in big squares and laap with fish, a dish you can have with different meat mixed with chillies, lemongrass, herbs and other spices. It was a good choice.
That night we entertained ourselves by playing cards on the balcony and watching the geckos catch moths-it was well interesting! There was also a massive thunderstorm, the lightening was incredible!!
Today we got up early to catch the boat back to Nong Khiaw and then caught a very bumpy bus for 5 hours to Oudomxai-a Chinese trucker town as it is right near the border for China. I've heard it is full of karaoke bars and hookers but disappointingly we've seen neither! We have however been stared at an awful lot, had some bad food and seen lots of Chinese writing so it's almost like being back in China!
We head to Luang Namtha tomorrow. An easy 4 hour drive (I hope). It's in the hills so may be chilly/rainy but it's supposed to be nice. I'm just getting used to having wifi, a TV, a sink, mirror and a flushing toilet again-I hope it's more in between the remote and a touristy town!
In other news we have finally gotten onto our 2nd bottle of hand gel. The first did us proud and lasted over 3 months, even with us abusing it in China! I also had a dream about Phil Neville looking after me whilst I worked at a football club. These malaria tablets have a lot to answer for...
P.s. I completely forgot to mention that our boat on the way back broke down!! Well, it ran out of petrol. It was so pathetic. A woman on the boat rang the riverside AA and after floating for 10/15 minutes, we got our petrol. I was glad we were past the rapid section!