The small town of Muang Ngoi in Laos can only be reached by a scenic boat journey on the river Nam Ngoi. I took the longer, less traveled, two and a half hour long scenic boat ride from Muang Khua. The boat only runs between the two towns if there are enough passengers.
On the day I was supposed to leave Muang Khua, there were just three tourists making ticket per person quite expensive. We were stranded, trying to get a better bargain when a Chinese couple in love, who had to inspect the dam on the way, came along and were generous enough to bear the larger share of the journey.
Thus began one of the most memorable trips of my life. Most part of the boat ride was pristine and the river was flanked by forested hills on both the sides as far as eyes could see. We passed a couple of villages where the children greeted us with such delight as if we were some cherished guests and saw us off with even more enthusiasm, taking their shirts off and jumping in the river after our boat. We saw some boats at the village but ours was the only boat for most part.
As I had hurt my knee a few days back, more on that some other time, the tourist couple helped me with my bag as we had to take a truck to reach the spot where we had to switch our boat. They also helped me down the slippery, gravelly slope to reach the boat. They even found me a wooden stick for support while walking after we reached Muang Ngoi, and we had many a pleasant conversations.
As my mobility was greatly restricted, I chose a nice basic accommodation overlooking the river and the mountains and settled there for almost a week. I could only drag myself to the main lane that had most shops and restaurants for my meals. I met locals and travelers at these restaurants and had some nice conversations. It was my bad knee that attracted most attention and I found people to be quite empathetic.
I met a kind local guy who had lost his arm in a landmine blast, when he was a child. Many land mines were planted during the troubled times of war, and unfortunately people still lose their limbs when they go off.
I spent my time reading and relaxing on the hammock in balcony. Every now and then, I exchanged a short conversation with my neighbors. Other travelers left to explore the nearby villages and a trekking route that comprised of three villages. In spite of my inability to move, I was in a serene state of mind and felt no anxiety or regrets. I never seemed to tire of the view from the balcony. I realized that silence and stillness surpass music and movement by a huge margin.
Eventually a group of travelers came with their guitars and played music all day long. It was beautiful but somehow it distracted me. It felt like noise. I decided to leave and visit again after recovering. I still hope that I would be able to visit this place again and I hope it retains its charm.
I left on a crowded boat to Nong Khiaw. Most people visit Muang Ngoi as a day trip from Nong Khiaw. the journey is only half an hour long and not as scenic. There had been very few visitors in the five days that I was there, but many people arrived the day I left.