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Muong Noi - where there's always a new beginning!

Houayxay, Laos


(Katie)

Muong Noi is a tiny town that most tourists to Laos miss. It sits at about the same latitude as Huay Xai (I used that city because it's closest - the map on this site doesn't list Muong Noi) but on the opposite side of the country, close to the eastern Laos border. It would just be a dusty, homely town consisting of four or five blocks-worth of slapped-together wooden buildings and narrow dirt roads, if it weren't set against a spectacular backdrop of sheer, massive cliffs and lush jungle. No road goes there; if you want to visit you have to take a boat an hour upstream from another tiny town that's vehicle-accessible.

Muong Noi's charm is in its peace, only occasionally broken by rooters. The closest thing to a traffic jam here is a couple of ducks with flocks of ducklings in a puddle in the middle of the road. It's not the kind of place where you plan your days. Michael and I wandered down paths in the forest, played in the river and relaxed.

We also, randomly, had the closest thing we experienced to a wild party night in Laos here. We had met an Australian couple the day before who had been planning to organize a trek. When we bumped into them the following day, they were sitting in a circle of plastic chairs outside a trekking office with all of its employees. Everybody was laughing, having a great time and passing beer around, and it was pretty clear that our Aussie friends' hiking plans had been derailed and they weren't too broken up about it. They asked us to join, and the party moved to someone's backyard down the road.

When we arrived at the house, one of the guys had already begun the process of killing a duck. Dinner was fresh. They served the ex-bird in courses throughout the night, bit by specially prepared bit. The heart was fine, but I drew the line at the cilantro-flavored coagulated blood. Rice and actual meat came out last.

Michael brought his guitar out and he and one of the guys took turns playing while one glass for beer circled the table. When it was your turn, you drank the contents - preferably in one gulp - and handed the glass back to the pourer who would refill it and hand it to the next person. There was no turning it down. They said that was rude, and we certainly didn't want to be rude.

Every so often, someone would said, "bi mai!" and then everyone would repeat it. It means, "happy new year!" When I asked when the actual Laotian New Year had occurred, since I had understood that it was the same time as the water party we'd attended in Thailand about a month earlier, our host replied, "oh, yes, we celebrated for two months!"

Why shouldn't New Year's just be a state of mind?

permalink written by  katieandmichael on May 4, 2009 from Houayxay, Laos
from the travel blog: Katie and Michael's Travel Blog
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eeeeewwww duck heart?

permalink written by  Angie Merriman on August 31, 2009


hahaha, what do you think are in hotdogs and slim jims?

permalink written by  katieandmichael on September 3, 2009

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