Nong Khiaw: A Quiet Corner in Laos

Following a village homestay, our group of Strays was pretty excited at the prospect of a non-river shower and maybe a regular toilet.  But first, we had to take “the worst road in Laos” from Luang Namtha to Nong Khiaw where we would be spending the night. The worst road in Laos was promised to be a five hour ride to go something like 140 miles. And to be honest I was immensely grateful that we weren’t driving any faster as we bumped over steep, winding, unpaved roads, with broken-down and toppled trucks along the shoulder. Fortunately, aside from stalled air conditioning and mild car sickness, we arrived safely in Nong Khiaw.

Once we arrived my first order of business was doing some laundry, which I hadn’t done since 2 cities ago. Gross, I know – Welcome to backpacking.  Our bungalows were equipped with beautiful river front balconies (with a laundry line) and semi-western toilets all for the low low price of something like $5 per night. Happy to have clean clothes awaiting me on the line, North Cyprus and I headed out to explore the town while some of the others went to frolic in the river.

Aside from our home stay, Nong Khiaw was the most remote town I had visited on the whole trip.  There was little western influence and even less English, which made it an adventure just to try and buy a Sprite and a coconut water (thank god for digital calculators). Plus the area was nestled between mountains, and the Nam Ou River ran through it which made for a beautiful scenic walk.

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Not sure where to go, North Cyprus and I walked around aimlessly, turning down a random road into a residential area towards some mountains. At this point we started getting some strange looks since there were zero other westerners in this area – or maybe with the combination of my Asian looks and his big round eyes they thought we were in violation of the “no Lao citizens with non-citizens law.”   Some time later, as we approached the nearest mountain, we came across a temple set against the gorgeous backdrop of the sun setting over the mountains.  We explored for a bit and then North Cyprus assured his place in Buddhist hell by lighting a cigarette with an incense stick before scurrying out of the temple complex to find our way back to the hotel.

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When we got back, as a typical effect of Southeast Asian weather, I was sweaty, sticky and disgusting.  The cold shower that was once a threat by my parents for misbehavior, was now something I was greatly looking forward to.  As I was shampooing my hair, I noticed there was a cute little frog figurine in the corner of the shower and then realized – who the fuck puts a frog figurine in the shower… and promptly started screaming and ran out of the bathroom.  Grabbing a towel I ran onto the balcony and tried to get someone to come down remove the voyeuristic frog.  Now don’t get me wrong, frogs don’t particularly scare me, I’ve even heard that licking them in the Amazon or frying their legs with breadcrumbs and garlic can be a great experience.  However, the idea of a frog suddenly leaping up and clinging to my naked leg or elsewhere while I’m rinsing off sounded absolutely shudder inducing, so I needed that little fucker out of the shower before I could get the shampoo out of my hair.  Fifteen minutes and three guys later, the Belgian was able to capture the frog in the trash can and toss him out of the room.  Thank you Belgium for your fabulous beer and your frog removing heroes.

Laos 050 Laos 048Finishing a  frog free shower, fully refreshed and fancy free, the group of us met up and headed to dinner at one of the local restaurants which was open air, and had an absurd amount of large flying bugs surrounding the ceiling light.  Two adorable toddlers were running around like maniacs, screaming and climbing on all the tables while our waiter brought us a round of Lao-chitos, which are similar to Mojitos but with lemongrass and made from Laolao.  While struggling in English to take our orders the waiter kept staring at me and finally approached to take my order.

Waiter: Sorry I keep looking…you are so beautiful!”
Me: Aw, thank you
Waiter:  Your English is so good!
North Cyprus: She learned English from American TV and movies (thanks dick.)
Waiter: Oh Julia Roberts!  I love her, but Lady Gaga is the best!

America.  We may be on the decline as a nation, but our entertainment will never cease to reach every corner of the world.

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