After a night of glorious sleep I was up early and ventured down to the boat pier. Mr. Neat (from the day before) was there with his friends waiting, and immediately began laughing. “No people, expensive for you” is what that laughter meant. Low season can mean cheaper rooms and less crowds, but it can also create problems. A boat down the Nam Ou river to Muang Ngoi costs approximately 1 million kip, if split between 8 passengers for a total of 120 kip each. Like Mr. Neat said, no people expensive for me. He quoted me the fare of 1 million but laughed, knowing I wasn’t about to pay that much. We sat there for a while talking, the price dropping every few minutes before eventually I conceded at 400,000 kip. Mr. Neat must have been feeling generous because he mentioned that if we picked up additional passengers along the way he would refund me 50,000 kip. Part of me wanted to think I was getting ripped off but knowing (thanks to Wiki) that a ‘Private boat’ costs 1 million I figured this was fare game. The only thing giving me doubts was Mr. Neats sly laughter as he talked to his friends, and the disapproval shaking head of one of the other men nearby, oh well. Honestly I was just glad to be leaving the city and on to somewhere new.
After my seemingly never ending hours aboard buses from Vietnam I finally arrived in Muang Kuah, with no idea what was going on. I was all but thrown off the bus onto a dirt road, in the rain, with nothing but a simple “Goodbye” from my friendly driver. My admirer from the bus was supposed to be departing here as well but he must have made a break for it because he was nowhere in sight. I sought cover under a nearby overhang which also housed three men playing cards, I was somewhat surprised as they paid little to no attention to me, except for a brief “Hello”. I dug out my umbrella from my travel pack and started on my way, destination: guesthouse. Originally I was planning to ‘shop around’ but considered the rain and my zombie state settled for the first one I inquired at. The owners were a lovely old couple and the price of 60,000 ($7.50) didn’t seem too bad.
Often overlooked on the backpacker trail, this is a destination to not be missed. Without the influence of 7/11, Mc Donalds or Starbucks this is a country that offers a raw, rich experience.