Happy Monday! I just got done spending the last nine days with friends from Chicago in Baronquilla, Santa Marta, and then Cartagena, Colombia. They all headed back to the United States yesterday because most of them have work today. While it is hot here, I definitely prefer the near-equator heat to the cold midwest right now.
Now on my own, I returned to Santa Marta yesterday to stay with Pacho Bottia, a professor of film in Colombia and the father of Juan Bottia, one of my friends and a teacher in Chicago.
Pacho is working on a new film, El Faro (translation, “The Lighthouse”) right now. Right now the film is in post-production and they are gearing up to premier it in a film festival in Santa Marta. He is letting me crash at his place for a few days before I head to Taganga to get scuba certified at one of Taganga’s many PADI schools.
But anyway, back to my SE Asia story. This post is a quick read – simple and relaxing much like the place it describes.
Jon Schultz, a medical student at the University of Iowa that recently visited SE Asia. He had lots of good advice for me and Muang Ngoi Neua was his top recommendation. He was right on the money.
Muang Ngoi Neua is only accessible by boat along the Nam Ou river.
We took a long skinny boat from Nong Khiaw that typically leaves at 11 but waits until it is full before departing. Thankfully lots of folks in Nong Khiaw had the same idea as us at the same time as us.
A local making the boat ride was using one of the most curious smoking mechanisms I’d ever seen.
He was using a plastic bottle as a bong and then placing a cigarette where the tobacco would normally be packed.
Many parts of the river were too shallow for the boat and at parts the ride was choppy but our boat’s captain knew the river well – he’d probably navigated this route hundreds of times.
The Nam Ou is flanked by steep karsts shooting into the air – sometimes the best part of the journey is just the ride there.
After an hour we reached our destination, disembarked at the dock, and started looking for a bungalow.
Our top criteria for the bungalow were that it be on the river with a hammock and we found what we were looking for.
Ben and I each ended up taking solid naps in that hammock during different points of the day. We rented the bungalow from a young couple – 24 year old guy from Holland, his new Laos wife, and their new baby girl.
At some point we wandered through Muang Ngoi Neua’s village – its just one street.
A restaurant in the village had a welcoming sign that gave me a chuckle.
There is not much going on in Muang Ngoi Neua. Definitely a great place to come if you need to get away from it all. We found the most activity near the village’s school.
School had just got out and Ben and I joined some of the kids for a game of frisbee and volleyball.
It was without a doubt the most scenic place we played frisbee in SE Asia, a small flat field tucked in the middle of rolling green mountains.
A little later we headed down to the “beach” near our bungalow.
Ben went for a little swim while some locals unloading construction materials from their boats.
I headed back up to our bungalow and relaxed until the sun set. It may have been the most relaxing combination of the trip – riverside hammock, steep karsts, and slow burning sunset.
Ben eventually joined me and we finished watching the sun set together with a few breskis.
After the sun set we wandered in search of food. All the generators that provide electricity to Muang Ngoi Neua are shut off from 11 pm until 6 am – the villager’s respectfully request that visitors remain quiet during these hours as well.
Ben and I grabbed dinner that night with two germans, an Argentinian, and a guy from Ecuador. I plan on staying with the two guys from South America when I visit Argentina and Ecuador, respectfully.
The next day all of us gathered for the boat ride back to Nong Khiaw. We only spent one day in Muang Ngoi Neua but Ben and I were very glad we did – our spirits were calm and refreshed.
We ended up running into the Ecuadorian in Luong Prabong, our next stop. But that will be the subject of the next blog post.