The boat journey from Muang Khua to the tiny village of Muang Ngoi is one of the most scenic boat trips you can take in South East Asia.
If you are travelling to Laos by land from Vietnam and are using the Sop Hun / Trey Trang border crossing then the bus you are on will most likely go to Muang Khua. However, most travellers using this crossing, will skip Muang Khua and head straight to Luang Prabang, thereby having to endure a ridiculously long journey and missing out on one of the most beautiful parts of this country.
Around an hour after crossing the Laos border the bus will stop, all those going to Luang Prabang will go one way and those to Muang Khua another.
Once you’ve arrived in Muang Khua you can either catch the boat immediately to Muang Ngoi (if you get there in time, but more about this later) or rest up a bit and stay the night at one of the handful of guest houses on offer. The next morning head to the ‘pier’ (really just the side of the river) for around 9.30am. If you’re not sure where to go, your guest house will point you in the right direction. Next to the river is a little hut with a sign in English that confirms the boat leaves from here to Muang Ngoi.
The boat is supposed to leave at 9.30, as it says on the hut sign, however we didn’t depart until about 11.30 when, funnily enough, the bus had arrived from Vietnam and there was double the amount of passengers to take.
We think the rule is as follows; if there are enough people at the pier at 9.30 the boat will leave shortly after. However if there are only a handful, there were 5 of us ready to go, you will either have to pay a lot or wait for the other bus to arrive. The boat driver would have taken us earlier if we paid something like 200,000 Kip each but none of us we’re prepared to pay that much when we knew it was only supposed to be 100,000 – 120,000 Kip. Obviously we tried to barter, but to no avail, and none of us were really fussed about waiting a couple of hours by the river especially if it saved 100,000 Kip (which can get you a few nights accommodation in one of the bungalows at Muang Ngoi!).
If you have been waiting for ages for others to arrive take this opportunity to get on the boat first (obviously ask permission before you do this) and get the best seats for what is an epic journey of completely unspoilt, breath-taking scenery. The journey takes around 5 – 6 hours so make sure you take plenty of water with you.
Once you’ve arrived in Muang Ngoi, which is currently only accessible by boat, get ready for a few days of pure relaxation in a backpackers paradise!