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.
There are 1-hour public boats from Nong Khiaw (daily 11:00 and 14:00, 25.000 kip) or Muang Khua (daily 08:30, 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 Muang Ngoi, 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.
See & Do
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. Just before the cave there is an entrance fee of 10,000 kip to access the caves and villages.
Visit surrounding villages, Bana, Huay Bo, and Huay Sen. To Bana, walk ~30min past Tham Kang cave on the same dirt road. 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.
Live the rural life: homestay in a rural village 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. The owner of Konesavanh Guesthouse, Mr. Kee, will take people, whether you stay at the his guest house or not. You can reach him by calling the Konesavanh Guesthouse or by simply dropping by the village. He is currently one of the village chiefs, speaks english, is quite smart and easygoing, and will take people out (or arrange) for hunting (50,000-100,000 kip), stream fishing using a traditional net method (not pole fishing), trekking, walking tours, and whatever else he can think of. At one point he was annexing his guest house, letting people help him with construction, and inviting people to help plant and harvest rice during the appropriate seasons. It is also possible depending on the month of year to help him with a number of other things -- it is not clear, but this might be free to do and he may offer in return to reduce the cost of staying at his guesthouse, since enlisting free manual labor is mutually beneficial. He is very reasonable about the pricing of his activities, especially as compared to the sales agents found in Muang Ngoi.
Riverbeach Restaurant - Located on balcony overlooking the beach and nam ou river, close to the temple. Serves great food and western cocktails.
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 Boatlanding. Solid and clean. Boasts big wooden balcony and marble table seats on the grass. Open all year.
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.
Be careful with the buffets. Some restaurants reheat the leftovers.
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.
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!
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.
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(80.000 - 100.000) kip.
Cheap Cheap Room - 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.
Phetdavanh Guesthouse & Bungalows - Newly built bungalows 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.
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.
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. 100.000 kip + a night. 30,000 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 but no mosquito net. 50.000 kip a night.
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.
Niksa's Bungalows - Halfway down main road, on the right, Niksa's has riverside bungalows with attached bathroom, and two hammocks for each bungalow. Friendly staff. Seems to be one of the best budget options. 30,000 kip low season (June 2012).
Konesavanh (856) 030-9235-830 - in Huay Bo village, about 1.5~2hr walk from Muang Ngoi (or you can call the owner, who is happy to pick you up by motorbike for 10,000 kip). The owner Mr. Kee speaks english. 20,000 kip for a small room and a mattress on the floor of his guesthouse. An incredible opportunity to stay in an authentic rice planting village and experience village life. There is an optional homestay option to live and cook with the owner's family. 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, there will be a smaller walking path leading off to the right with a yellow sign with red lettering, indicating the way to Konesavanh guesthouse. Follow this foot path across two small streams, 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 of the rice field until you reach the far end of the field. There will be a small, shallow river bank on the far end, and has several crossing points you can descend to wade across. Cross the river to the motorbike trail on the other side, and walk this path for 20 minutes until it terminates at Huay Bo village.
Please note three very important things before arriving. Cellular internet (3G) is not available, Wifi is not available, and there are no ATMs as of June 2014. So please make plans accordingly to have adequate money and disconnection from digital communication for the duration of your stay in Muang Ngoi. 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.
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 Kiau (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 Kiau.
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. This is possibly a lie (presumably to encourage unnecessary charters). As of February 2013 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.
Update - March 2014* 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 8:00AM and as soon as there are 10 people, you can buy your ticket (100,000 kips; 6 hours upstream).