Muang Ngoi

Muang Ngoi is a gorgeous, sleepy town, and one of the friendliest in Laos, which is a big call. There is no road access, and the lack of motorbikes and other vehicles is refreshing. Limited electricity means that the locals’ lifestyle is aligned with daylight hours, and the town shuts down at 9 or 10, and starts up again very noisily at daybreak.

Smaller than Nong Kiaow, Muang Ngoi offers more in the scope of local activities, and a few of the guesthouses offer trekking, walking, boating or caving day trips. Almost all the guesthouses wisely have hammocks on their balconies, and the favourite pastime of most visitors is simply swinging and appreciating the view.

Directly in the path of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the area was quite heavily bombed during the war, and local caves were lived in to avoid the falling bombs.

From Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi it is possible to head upriver to Muang Khua and eventually Phongsali, or by land to Udomxai, which is the hub that opens up the north. Whether you only have a few days to spare and want to get out of Luang Prabang, or want to use these places as a stepping stone to a more in-depth exploration of the north, Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi are both great destinations.

Muang Ngoi has no electricity, except at nights between about 18:00 and 22:00, after which the entire shut downs. Bring a torch for getting around in the dark, and respect the locals’ early bed time by not making noise.