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Three Days in Muang Ngoi


Muang Ngoi, Laos

While in Luang Prabang, we decided to do a three day trip to Muang Ngoi, which is a small village about 180 km north of Luang Prabang and only accessible by boat.  It was quite the adventure!

We grabbed a minivan from our guesthouse that was the bumpiest, scariest ride I’ve had yet. It was 4 hours of twists, turns and making sure we hit EVERY pothole along the way! Seeing as we were aiming for the potholes instead of trying to avoid them, we *surprisingly* got a flat…

Muang Ngoi, Laos

The van dropped us off at a bus station where we had to take a songtaew down to the boat. The boat didn’t leave for another hour, so we sat and watched the local kids playing.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

When the boat arrived, the porters also loaded the boat with supplies to drop off at Muang Ngoi. These older women get paid to take supplies down to the boat. They carry them down with a rig that they place on their head and make only $4-6 a day. What’s crazy is we saw four women and only one man carrying a motorbike down to the boat!

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

 

The boats are small and cramped, and a 90-minute ride to Muang Ngoi.  The ride was filled with the same views as my trip on the 2-day slow boat from Thailand to Laos.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi is a cute one street town. We found a guesthouse that was right on the water that had a balcony with hammocks.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

We spent two nights there and went hiking up to Buddha View Point. The view was breathtaking, but it’s a crazy steep climb. Not for the feint of heart! It was also raining which made going up and down quite tricky. The route to the viewpoint is made up of mud and some stones, with no real path for your footing in some parts of the trail. It was more like rock climbing rather than hiking. I took my PacSafe Backpack with me for this hike. It’s not waterproof, and I don’t have a dry fly, but it did ok. I love this backpack, but I’d suggest getting a dry fly for it of you’re going to be doing hikes in the rain.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

The townspeople are friendly, and the kids are curious and adorable. We spent most of our days at an outdoor cafe reading and working. The cafe has a great view of the river and down below you can see all the fishing boats lined up.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

My three days in the village were relaxing. It’s very minimal accommodations and only a few sitting places for food, but it was perfect.  This trip was a great way to experience the laid-back Lao life in a village.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Thailand Hill Tribes


Hilltribes, Chiang Mai

Seeing the hill tribes is something I wanted to do while visiting Thailand.  Me and a friend visited Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village, located just north of Chiang Mai old city. There are 7 hill tribes living here. Karen Hill Tribe, Lahu Shi Bala Hill Tribe, Palong Hill Tribe, Hmong Hill Tribe, Kayaw Hill Tribe, Akha Hill Tribe, and Yao Hill Tribe.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

There have been a lot of reviews on TripAdvisor calling it a human zoo. One of our local Thai friends said the village is a good thing for the hill tribes and not a human zoo as some tourists have been calling it. On this recommendation, we took a motorbike and went there on our own to check it out. We had a different impression. We went early and got there around 10am before the tour buses arrived. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was how friendly everyone was. Each hill tribe greeted us warmly, and they were happy to show us what they were making, and also invited us in to see their home. One hill tribe even shared their cherries and other fruit with us.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village    Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Unfortunately, the older women didn’t’ speak much English, so we couldn’t ask them many questions. But we played with their children and one of the men showed us how to shoot his handmade slingshot equipped with a wooden arrow.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

We did meet one vibrant little girl from Karen Hill Tribe named Maisie, who was just charming and spoke very good English. Quite the little sales lady too, she talked me into purchasing a beautiful scarf her tribe weaved.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village   Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

We also met Sek from Karen Hill Tribe and was happy to talk with us at length about the tribes. Although his family is still in the mountains, he was able to go to Bangkok for school and just graduated university with a degree in Public Administration. He said, like him, some of the Karen Hill Tribe also came to this location to be near the city. It’s better for medicine if someone gets sick. If they get sick in the mountains, they rely on herbs to help them get better. Another main attraction to move here is all the children of the hill tribes go to school and get an education. All of the other Hill Tribes that are here also came on their own accord for a better life for their children.

    Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

When asked about the 500 baht entrance fee, Sek did say the fee we paid to get in did not go directly to the tribes. Before I could get in an uproar about it, he let me know that all the tribes live on the land rent-free and all the goods they sell is their money to keep. The compound also provides transportation for the children to get to and from school, free of cost, which is 15km away.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village     Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

The one thing I was curious about was the Karen Long-Neck Hill Tribe and why they stretch their necks. Sek said the long neck came about as a fairytale. The women thought they’d be prettier, if their neck was longer. They also decide rank by the length of the neck. The longer the neck, the more high up your are, with the longest neck being like a queen. We met one lady of the Karen Long-Neck Hill Tribe who had the longest neck in the tribe. She showed us a picture of herself without the rings. Her neck is strong enough to wear without the rings.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

The tribes hand make the items they sell. They are weavers, painters, wood carvers, and sewers. All the items they produce are very beautiful. Again, anything you purchase from them goes directly into their pocket.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village   Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

So human zoo? If you go there, solely to take pictures and stare, without interacting with them. Then yes, I could see how some would call it that. But, if you take the time to stop, say hello, play with the children and ask what they do, you’ll look at it a bit differently.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Link to the rest of my photos here:

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

 

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