Muang Kua, Lao wedding and a bus that never came



Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 23/05/2024, 19:15

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

My boat got to Muang Kua in the late evening. The views changed a little in the last 2 hours of the boat ride from Nong Kiaw. There were less and less trees, the mountains were ripped apart by diggers, and trucks passed through the narrow roads all the time.
Muang Kua wasn’t as inviting as Nong Kiaw. People there seemed not to be too happy about the new visitors

I walked from the boat up a very steep hill, passed some deserted bars with dogs lying outside and hens running around. A few steps further down the road there was a smaller bar, where local men were drinking beer and observing me. It seemed like tourists weren’t a common sight in Muang Kua.

Finding a room was fairly easy. Mostly because there were not that many places to stay in the town. Surprisingly, the room was clean and had an air conditioning (which didn’t last long as there were power cuts for most of the night).I didn’t lose my hope for Muang Kua, even after eating a really bad meal in one of the bars and almost being eaten alive by mosquitos. I stayed there a whole day, just to get a feel of the place.

A typical sight in a bar in Muang Kua – flies, flies and more flies

There was only one tourist information office, where a small man with greasy hair and extreme amount of pimples seemed to be eating soups all the time. I asked him what I could do in the town and without even sparing me a glance, with his dirty finger ended with even dirtier fingernail, he showed me a piece of paper hanged on the wall. A map was drawn on it and I guess this was a local area and the lines going around it were hiking trails. I decided to leave the walk in the Lao mountains for the time being.

I set off on a little wonder around Muang Kua. The only interesting spot in the town was a wooden bridge suspended over the river, which divided the town into more and less modern parts. Every now and then a motorcycle passed making the whole bridge shake. I held onto the metal rails for my dear life.

The bridge dividing the town into two parts
A view from the bridge

The life on the other side of the bridge seemed more relaxed and laid back. There was a school and a temple. Kids were running around, trying to sneak a peak at me. Women were washing their long hair in the yard, men were playing cards at a small table near a local shop.

Kids playing in the old part of the town

I turned back a little and then took first left and found myself on the main road again. I turned back to the hostel, stopping at an internet cafe.

Main street in Muang Kua

The owner was having an afternoon nap, lying on a mattress. Only two boys, around 7 years old, were using a computer, watching what seemed like a cartoon. Only when I got closer I noticed that the only thing that was close to a cartoon were the colourful graphics, the rest was violent and pure porn. I was shocked. The owner stirred a little, looked at me, showed me to a computer and went back to sleep. He didn’t even glance at the kids’ computer screen. I tried to show my concern, but was ignored.

The evening drew closer. Opposite my hotel there was a huge house with a gate and a big yard outside. Something was clearly going on there. The gate was decorated with flowers, there were tables and chairs everywhere and people going in and out were dressed in suits and beautiful dresses. Laotian music blasted for what seemed like an eternity and didn’t seem to stop. And let me tell you, to western ears their music is like a cat’s cry – it’s hard to stand for a longer period of time.
I went outside the hotel to have a closer look. It turned out that it wasn’t only my idea. There was a whole village on the street watching.

Village men watching the wedding

After inquiring in my broken Laotian I found out that it was a wedding and it will last the whole night. I was up for a sleepless night and my bus to Vietnam was leaving at 6am. Great!

I went to the local shop, bought myself some snacks, went up on a balcony and, just like the locals, started observing the ceremony.
What seemed like ages, the groom and bride were standing outside, on the street greeting the endless flow of guests. The music got louder and louder and finally, when they got inside, and started eating, dancing and drinking, the volume of the traditional songs was almost unbearable. What was even worse, the band allowed the guests to sing a little, too. As much as it was interesting at 3 o’clock it was purely annoying and tiring.

Getting up for the bus was easy as I didn’t sleep anyway. As I was leaving the hotel the wedding guests were still leaving the party.
I got to the bus stop and sat down on a small bench. Of course there were no schedules, nor information about buses departing from Muang Kua. I knew there was one in the morning from the tourist information office. But how reliable it was – I couldn’t say.

There were few other people waiting: a very nice, adventurous couple from Holland, a Thai businessman, who spoke English and Lao, and a few locals. We waited an hour.

Finally, after the sun has risen a woman appeared. She wore a long skirt, black leather jacket and a pointy, woollen beanie. She said something to us in Lao, smiled a toothless wide grin and as quickly as she appeared, she disappeared. We looked at each other in confusion. ‘I think she said that the bus had come an hour earlier and already left’ – said the Thai businessman.

I was a bit laid back about the journey to Vietnam. I didn’t really want to spend another night in Muan Kua, but I didn’t have a reason to rush. The Dutch couple however was worried as their visa was due to expire the next day.

I then realised there was a phone number for a taxi company on the tourist information building. I run there, took the number, called the taxi driver and after about an hour we were on our way in a very small, but modern white van to the Vietnamese border.

Before we boarded the car we witnessed the morning alms. It was unexpected and sort of magical, and each of us was overwhelmed by the close proximity of the monks.

The alms were different from what I had seen in Burma, not only because of the colour of the monks’ robes, but also because the Burmese monks didn’t pray out loud. They were quiet. Lao monks stood over the heads of the women and prayed for a good couple of minutes. It turned out that the drama with the bus not showing up was a good thing.

Have you ever heard about Muang Kua? Are you interested in places like that? Would you stay there for a night? Don’t be shy! Leave a comment!