Monday, November 21, 2016

we return to Nong Khiaw

Oh how we love this tiny little village. We love it almost unreasonably, given what it is. There isn't that much to do here; there is a tiny little morning market, and a big muddy river that you can hike alongside, or hire a boat to travel to nearby villages. We are staying at Mandala Ou for a second time, a perfectly wonderful small boutique hotel right on the river. We wanted to come back last year (it's been two years since we were here) but the place was already booked. Nick, the owner of the property, wants to sell it and we toy with the idea but we love to travel too much to be tied down as owners of a property.

Nong Khiaw is only 75 miles north of Luang Prabang, but it takes 3 hours by private car (4 hours by public bus) and the last time we came, we thought surely that was a mistake. The road is paved almost the entire way, but it just does take that long. Not only is it a sinuous road, tight esses the whole way, but you have to drive S-shapes within the road to avoid the enormous potholes. And the road is so bumpy, so if you're prone to motion sickness, as I am, the up-and-down and side-to-side trip is unpleasant. And three very long hours. We had thought about going directly to Nong Khiaw when we landed in Luang Prabang, but decided a 28-hour day deserved a night of real sleep and I'm so glad we did.

Still, since I had taken Dramamine, when we got to the Mandala Ou I crashed hard, that heavily drugged sleep, and slept for at least 3 hours.

a brief post-nap rest in the hammock, in the yoga studio overlooking the river
this is our little porch
and this is the view from our room
I could've slept more, but Marc helped me get up so we could go to dinner -- a walk down the main road to a lovely little spot, Coco Home Bar & Restaurant, the highest-rated place in town. It was OK, not nearly as good as Joy's, in Luang Prabang, but good enough.

We walked back under the night sky full of stars, and quickly crashed.,,,

....only to be immediately awakened by the damn rooster right next to our cabin. Which seemed to think its mission was to let everyone know IT'S DARK! HEY! IT'S DARK! HEY! HEY! HEY! IT'S DARK EVERYONE!

I saw him this morning -- my sworn enemy. Swine rooster.
What a crappy night. The rooster crowed all night long, and I only slept in tiny little sips. I finished reading The Human Stain (meh, my least favorite Philip Roth ever), and I was pretty cranky when we finally decided to get up. I made a very strong couple of cups of coffee and we headed out for the morning market.

out of order here -- breakfast at the hotel after we went to the morning market. I love eating in this spot.
Marc bought us a couple of little sweet treats -- bits of fried, sugared dough. He basically handed her some
money and waited to see her response to know if he'd gotten it right. :)

a panorama of the morning market. It's a tiny one.
School kids walking through the market

we walk along a path next to the river to get back to our hotel. It's so beautiful.
The little kids in Nong Khiaw are really adorable. They run up to us and want to do a high five and then a low five. They like to run through that twice, and then they're done. So far none have added a fist bump, but I wouldn't be surprised by that. They're really adorable, smiling and waving at us. Last time none of them did this high five thing, it's new and so funny.

After breakfast, we wanted to walk over the bridge that spans the gorgeous Nam Ou. Every morning the mountains are shrouded in mist.

On the other side of the bridge we decided to follow a little road, which turned into a few-mile trek along the river and slightly up the mountain. It was so gorgeous.

Always shrouded in mist
Hmong people live in these mountains. We kept hearing bells, the kind that hang around goats' necks.

I liked the bare trees that are scattered on the mountainsides

these tiny purple flowers were everywhere.....
...but we only saw a couple of these

I stopped to pick up a pretty rock to take home and saw this colorful pillbug -- and instantly felt at home.
We went out for a bike ride later in the afternoon, just as school was getting out. The Nong Khiaw schools, elementary and secondary, are right across the street from each other so it gets very congested twice a day.

for the littles

and the high school kids
Tomorrow we're taking a boat up the Nam Ou, to Ban Sop Jam and then to Muang Ngoi, for lunch. At the moment, though, I'm just praying that damn rooster has a stroke, or that the family has plans for him tonight, for dinner. It doesn't sound promising.

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