Nong Khiaw

Drive a couple hours east of Udomxai and you come to beautiful Nong Khiaw. Not much to do there, but just look at it! Perched on the banks of the Ou river, framed by massive green mountains, it was a perfect setting in which to laze around, which we planned on doing for the next 24+ hours. Silasak had recommended that we travel north to the even-more-scenic Muang Ngoi Neua (accessible only by boat) before we headed back to Luang Prabang in a few days, but we decided against it. We wanted to do a whole lot of nothing instead.

But to backtrack a little:

We’d driven to Nong Khiaw after leaving Udomxai and checked into the Riverside Resort, a guesthouse built on the side of the mountain directly over the river. Silasak was leaving us briefly to return to Ban Namai because his grandfather had passed away unexpectedly a few days earlier. He’d be gone for a day and a half, and we were free to do as we wished.

the road down to the guesthouse – no cars allowed

The Riverside Resort was actually a handful of individual bungalows in a town called Ban Sop Houn just across the river from Nong Khiaw. They were like little cottages, spaced well apart for optimal seclusion and with absolutely killer views. Killer!

$16/day for river and mountain views

Despite our big plan for doing nothing, we crossed the bridge into Nong Khiaw and took a short walk around.

There wasn’t a lot going on.

Some interesting architecture, though.

love shack

like a wild west town, but with palm trees

locally made fishing traps

Mel took some pictures of the fine Nong Khiaw fashion for sale.

artfully arranged by color palette

We also passed the local police station, and made friends with a skinny, yellow dog who followed us all the way back across the bridge. I think he thought we had something to feed him.

Back at the guesthouse, we marveled at the beautiful accomodations: huge rooms with wood floors and double-height woven bamboo walls and ceilings, a lovely tiled bathroom (no flush toilet, though), and two sets of wide French doors opening out onto a spacious deck.

A forced-water toilet, in case you were wondering, is one that doesn’t have a flush mechanism: you manually pour water into it yourself. The toilet at the Riverside Resort (like the toilet at the Boat Landing Guesthouse in Luang Namtha) was unusual in that it was a sit-down version (you usually squat). The urn next to it was filled with water and a small bucket.

Some of the bathrooms we experienced, like the ones in Muang Sing and Tat Lo, had a hand-held sprayer mounted next to the toilet so you could hose yourself down after the deed. I never used them. They looked like smaller versions of the sprayers you see installed in American kitchen sinks, and employed a stream of water so powerful, it was hard not to either get water everywhere or do some serious internal damage. Actually, now that I think about it, my aunt and uncle have a Japanese toilet that automatically hoses you down, quite vigorously, from inside the bowl, but I’m not particularly comfortable with that, either. I guess I’m just a paper person, and our guesthouse did provide that.

Public toilets, however, do not. They typically don’t have sinks or soap, either. So if you’re a germaphobe that likes his Cottonelle, YOU ARE OUT OF LUCK IN LAOS. (Squatting actually seems more sanitary than sitting, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.)

Anyway, we were spoiled, paper or no paper, squat or no squat. I’d read about villages in Laos with no toilets at all, not even pits. The government claims they are working on rural sanitation, and hopefully, conditions will improve in the near future.

In the meantime, practice your squat.

Laos “how to” poster for school children

note: I’m not sure how this post denigrated into a discussion about toilets. My apologies.

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