Muang Ngoi Neua is a small riverside village in Northern Laos with permanent electricity as of april 2013. Prior to 2013, Muang ngoi had no road access. In the last few years it has become part of the Banana Pancake Trail with rapid construction of tourist infrastructure in response to the increasing influx of visitors. Nevertheless, it remains a low-key destination in a stunning location. Interesting treks can also be done to tribal villages in the area.
Muang Ngoi Neua, Luang Prabang Province
There are 1-hour public boats from Nong Khiaw (daily 11:00 and 14:00, 25.000 kip) or Muang Khua (daily 09:30, 110.000 kip).
In April 2013 Muang Ngoi got a small road. If you have your own vehicle you can reach Muang Ngoi by road but as the trip takes 2.5 hours from Nong Kiew, the boats are the obvious choice for transporting people. It is rumored that a more direct road to Muang Ngoi may complete construction in 2015 thus reducing driving time.
- Traditional Herbal Sauna - at the end of the main walk last street to the right. Free tea, hot shower included, 15,000 kip run buy a Lao woman and her Swedish husband. Open in beginning of Dry season.
- Nam Ou Beach - At the end of the dry season when water is low, take a cool splash in the Nam Ou or sip from a cocktail on a bamboo stretcher
- Phetdavanh Book Exchange - Change your old books for new ones at this 2 for 1 book exchange with more than 300 titles.
- Tham Kang cave and Tham Pha Kaew cave - east of town, about 40 minutes by foot and can be found without a guide. Follow the dirt/gravel road from the main boat landing and continue as it intersects the town's main road and exits the town. Continue until you reach the Tham Kang cave, which is situated on the left side of the road. These caves used to be a bomb shelter during the Vietnam War era.
After a few twists and turns (aprox 100m in total) in the Tham Kang cave by using the flashlight from your mobile phone you should get to a very small waterfall. Guide yourself by the sound of the falling water.
Just before the cave there is an entrance fee of 10,000 kip to access the caves and villages.
You now have to pay for pretty much everything you see/do, usually 10,000 kip. Goes to the 'community' although can't see where. Certainly doesn't go on anything to make navigating the area easier for tourists, signage, trail markers or keeping paths free from overgrown trees/vines/etc.
- Visit surrounding villages, Bana, Huay Bo, and Huay Sen. To Bana, walk ~30min past Tham Kang cave on the same dirt road ( where there are some local spots here for food, nicely situated on the river and next to the rice paddys). The village is clearly visible from the road and will be on your right side. To reach Huay Bo, you have two options; first, you can walk through the Bana village and find the dirt motorbike path on the southern end that exits the village (the easiest way to find it is either ask villagers or circumnavigate the town counterclockwise until you find it), crosses a shallow stream, and leads to Huay Bo. The total time to ride a bicycle to Huay Bo from Muang Ngoi is around 1 hour. A second route is described below in the description for Konesavanh Guesthouse that is more suited for people travelling on foot. There are guest houses in all 3 villages, costing 5,000kip to 20,000kip for a bungalow.
If you prefer sticking to the river you can hire a local boat to the next village about 30 mins upstream, they sell and make textiles and have a nice river beach to swim at ( Phetdavanh guest house offered a very overpriced 150,000 kip ride, try to negotiate at the jetty instead). There is a local swimming spot on the smaller clear running stream on the way to Tham Kang cave about 15min walk out of town, look for motorbikes parked under a big tree on the right, follow your nose.
- Live the rural life: homestay in a rural village (Ba Na or Huay Bo) and interact with locals, hunt in a jungle with ancient rifles, fish in the stream with a fishing net, create fire by burning a plastic bottle, cook, and eat what you catch afterwards. Worth seeing are micro hydroelectric plants: villagers use creeks around the village for powering small turbines and producing electricity for some of the houses.
- Riverbeach Restaurant - Located on balcony overlooking the beach and nam ou river, close to the temple. Serves great food and western cocktails.
- Phetdavanh Buffet Place - In the beginning of the main street there is a Swedish guy and his local wife running a buffet restaurant. Besides from the good food they also serve fabulous cocktails and play nice music. Buffet breakfast (7:30 - 10:30am, 25,000 kip) with a lot of fruits, sweets, tea & coffee, muesli, shak suka, eggs in all variations. Not anything special but cheap for the quantity. The same place offers dinner buffet for 30,000 kip with a good choice of local foods. Excellent food despite the dirtiness, they are currently developing the premises as the owners are moving to their other location at River View Bungalows.
- Ning Ning Restaurant - Left of the Boatlanding stairs take the path passing the boat office. Big open-air terrace overlooking the Nam Ou, best view in town. Open all year.
- Lattanavongsa Restaurant - Immediately left of the Boat landing, overlooking the jetty. Solid and clean. Boasts big wooden balcony and marble table seats on the grass. Open all year. Excellent and cheap place for breakfast, especially before boarding the ferry.
- Aloune Mai - Located halfway through the mainstreet on the right hand. Good Lao food and cold beer Lao.
- Vita Restaurant - Located after Aloune Mai on the right hand off the mainstreet, tucked away close to the river. Balcony overlooking the Nam Ou.
- Bee Tree Restaurant - beautifully located on the very end of the main street (5min from boatlanding). Serves amazing authentic versions of Lao and local food with fresh ingredients and free from MSG. The chef is young, passionate and a very nice guy. Menu includes explanations on the various dishes. There's a happy hour on all real cocktails everyday and they are the best in town. Prices are the same as anywhere else but food and service is much better than at the moneygrubbing "riverside" lodges along the boatlanding.
- Meen Indian Restaurant. Indian and Lao food. edit
- On the main street, not far away from Aloune Mai, there is in the evening a local merchant selling take-away delicious home-made pork sausages, sticky rice and spicy pepper sauce packed in banana leaves.
- Riverbeach Bar Located over the riverbeach on the right side of the boatlanding. Beutiful terasses with bambu furniture and on the beach there is a daily campfire in the evening.
- Pdv Books Cafe and Buffet At the beginning of the main road Phetdavanh guesthouse serves daily breakfast and dinner buffets, during daytime there is also lunch and different sweets. Happy hour for cocktails 5pm - 7pm makes also this a great place to have a drink before dinner.
- Sky Bar - Located in the middle of the town. Open in Dry Season (December - March)
- Cave View Restaurant, (Across bamboo bridge from Tham Khan cave). Very quaint setting on the river/stream. Food and bevs, petang square, friendly and fun owners. Owner also has high-quality scarves at reasonable prices that she makes herself on site! Great place. Open when there are customers - definitely in high season Nov to Feb. Just pop in if you are at the cave anyway! edit
Generally there are three main things to inquire about. Ask about whether they provide 24-hour electricity (as some facilities shut off their electricity after a certain hour which would make your room fan a useless amenity), if they have heated showers (which you can verify by looking at whether a heating box is attached to the shower hose), and whether there is a mosquito net. If you are after a very cheap room then ask some of the people running the restaurants, even if they don't have signs saying 'guesthouse' etc. It is possible to get double rooms for as little as 20,000 kip per night that way.
- River View Bungalows +856(0)20 22148777 - Bungalows with balconies overlooking the Nam Ou river, Located half way down the main road with big wood sign. Each balcony comes with 2 comfy hammocks, table and chair. Rooms include big ensuite bathroom, 24h hot shower, fan and comfy bed. Prices(40.000 - 100.000) kip. WARNING: theft has occurred in these bungalows. (Same owner as Phetdavanh and Riverside bungalows)
- Phetdavanh Guesthouse & Bungalows - concrete bunker style and bamboo rooms with private bathroom to the far left of the boat dock with comfy beds and superb view over the river. 50.000 kip off high-season. Offers 24 hour electricity generated from a nearby waterfall and has a big book collection in the Guesthouse on the main street. Leaking bathrooms and scorpions in some bungalows. (same owners as Riverside and River View bungalows)
- Ning Ning Bungalows - Clean wooden bungalows with garden. Not very good views of the surrounding trees and many roosters that are quite noisy during the early morning. There exist wooden bungalows that are smaller, a little less well constructed, but with the same amenities and beautiful river view, such as Aloune and Saylom. It's recommended to 50,000kip in low season. There is now a new large hotel like building with this name, its possible this is either an addition to the bungalows or a full replacement
- Lattanavongsa I & II - Located immediately upon entering the town from the boat landing. Hardwood bungalows with bathroom inside, nice garden and good restaurant. on the main street as well as close to the river. Hot showers and wifi, although wifi is excruciatingly slow. Rooms are 100,000 kip a night, and 50,000 kip in low season.
- Aloune Mai - Located halfway down the main street (travelling away from the boat landing), on the right hand. Simple wooden bungalows with hammock and a nice river view. Comparable to Saylom Bungalows but slightly more shoddy and no hot showers. At least one bathroom was in disrepair, so please check the bathroom facilities before agreeing to stay. 30,000 kip in low season.
- Saylom Bungalows - Right of the boatlanding, nice wooden bungalows with hammock and a beautiful river view. Hot showers. More well-constructed than Aloune. Lao owner speaks French. 50.000 kip a night. 30,000 kip in low season.
- Rainbow Guesthouse - Recently built 3-story concrete building, easily visible from the river, tallest building in town. Basic rooms with fan and mosquito net. Better take a look on the mattress before checking in, they are not necessarily cleaned on regular basis (if ever). 80.000 kip a night (feb 2015), 50,000 low season.
- Riverside Bungalows - Perched left of Rainbow guesthouse, Riverside offers wooden bungalows and a hammock balcony overlooking the Nam Ou. *Warning* recent reports concerning theft and sexual harassment by the owners (same owners as Phetdavanh and River View bungalows)
- Niksa's Bungalows - Halfway down main road, on the right, Niksa's has riverside bungalows with attached bathroom (boiling hot showers), a small garden area and two hammocks for each bungalow. Friendly staff. Seems to be one of the best budget options. 60,000 kip (Mar 2016), 30-50,000 kip low season.
- Lertkeo - Solid and clean bungalows with riverview about two thirds down the main road, turn right at Meen restaurant. 50,000 kip.
- Konesavan (856) 030-9235-830 - in Huay Bo village, about 1.5~2hr walk from Muang Ngoi (alternatively, you can call the owner, who will be happy to pick you up by motorbike for 10,000 kip). An incredible opportunity to stay in an authentic rice planting village and experience village life. The owners have a small restaurant with a few basic dishes on the menu, but you can also choose the homestay option, which implies that you eat the same food as the owner's family (you can also help prepare food, if you wish so). There are 4 rooms with double bed and mosquito net. Each room has light and power socket to charge your phone. Obviously cold common shower only. If you want to know more about the things you will experience there give this blog article a look that has a lot of pictures: http://lukasontour.de/en/2016/08/homestay-in-the-houy-bo-village-03-07-08-16/ (there is no official Website available) If you have a bicycle, please take the main road by following the directions in the Huay Bo section description. The following are directions for people travelling by foot, which allows for a more direct walking path through a rice field. Pass the Tham Kang cave on the left of the road as mentioned above. After approximately 8 minutes of walking, you will reach a bamboo grove, where a small path leads off to the right. There is a yellow sign with red lettering, indicating the way to Konesavanh guesthouse. Follow this footpath across a small stream, and you will emerge in a large rice paddy field. While there are many paths to walk through the rice field, keep to the right side until you reach the far end of the field. Once you get there (there will be further signs directing you to Khonesavanh), you have to cross a log-brige along a river that has been to your right all along. There are two crossings, the first one (log) is obviously only for people on foot, while the second one (shallow point of river) for small vehicles as well. You will have to wade across either way. Follow the motorbike trail on the other side for about 20 minutes, until you reach Huay Bo village. GPS coordinates are: 20.678984, 102.71193. You now also can navigate by MAPS.ME from Muang Ngoi to the Huoy Bo Village and it will lead you exact the way trough the rice fields.
As of March 2016, there are still no ATMs, so make sure to bring enough money for the duration of your stay in Muang Ngoi. However there is now 3G (Unitel & Lao Telcom) and WIFI available at almost all restaurants and guesthouses. If you run out of cash it is possible to get the 9:30am boat to Nong Khiaw, use the ATM and return on the 11am boat, or change your US-Dollars at one of the small huts on the main road (the is a small handmade sign saying "money exchange here"). Additionally, if you choose to visit any of the nearby villages, electricity is generally not available which means that there are no fans in guesthouses or cooled beverages. 3G also disappears very quickly outside of the main road.
A torch/headlamp is almost essential if you plan to be out (typically at one of the bars that stays open) after the street lights are turned off around 11pm. Additionally, please be careful walking on the main street solo past 11pm, as some of the house dogs can be territorial and may put on a minor show of aggression as you walk by.
Take the public boat to Nong Khiaw (every day 9.30am 25.000 kip) or charter a boat to Muang Khua or Luang Prabang. It is also possible to make a one day trek or kayak back to Nong Khiaw.
Although there is a sign at the boat office in Muang Ngoi indicating that there is no scheduled boat to Muang Khua, and the local boat operators in Muang Ngoi will insist that there is no scheduled boat going north to Muang Khua, there is a boat leaving Nong Khiaw at 11:00 daily that stops in Muang Ngoi at 12:00 daily, continuing to Muang Khua. Actual departure times seem to be ~30 minutes late on an average day. The fare is 110,000 kip from Muang Ngoi (or Hod Sa Pheuy) to Muang Khua.
If you do not wish to take the scheduled boat, there is now a board in the little hut where you can buy the boat tickets (follow the signs near the Lattanavongsa restaurant by the boat landing) where you can write down your name for the day you wish to travel to Muang Khua. On the day itself, come to the hut at 9:00AM and as soon as there are 10 people, you can buy your ticket (100,000 kips; 6 hours upstream).
- Update - July 2014* Boat to Muang Khua costs 150000 kip if there are at least 5 people and takes about 5-6 hours. However, when at least 10 people show up the boat the price is reduced to 100000kip/person. During low season you probably have to wait for 1-3 days for a boat, but during high season the boat most often leaves daily. There is also a boat from Nong Khiaw that stops in Muang Ngoi sometime after midday and proceeds to Muang Khua, but this is difficult to plan around as it only leaves Nong Khiaw when it too has enough passengers.