Sitting on the banks of Ou River, Muang Ngoi Neua is an idyllic village. Only reachable via boat until 2013, this village has witnessed some rapid development due to the influx of tourism, but it has retained its rural quaintness. With the majestic karst limestone mountains as the backdrop, the feel is as rustic and remote as ever.
Muang Ngoi Neua has a documented history that goes back to the 15th century, but it was events in the 2oth century that radically changed the lives of its people. During the Second Indochina War (1955-1975), forces of the Pathet Lao (Lao Communist Party) took shelter in the caves near the village. Being sympathetic to the North Vietnamese Communist Regime, Pathet Lao attracted much attention.
During this period of time, the United States and U.S.-backed forces dropped over two million tons of cluster bombs over Laos, targeting North Vietnamese forces along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and Lao sympathizers. Cluster bombs were dropped in casings, which would open and scatter bombs over a large area. An estimated 30 percent of these bombs failed to explode on impact. Since the end of the war, more than 20,000 Lao people have been killed or maimed because they accidentally stepped on or hit unexploded ordnance.
Alongside the bombs, however, bomb casings also fell on the ground. These casings were made of high-quality, durable metal. In the village of Tha Bak, people made boats out of them. In Muang Ngoi Neua, people repurposed them as flower pots, water troughs, fence poles, and steps, all of which can be seen around the village.
Although a bridge connects Muang Ngoi Neua to the main road boats are still running south to Nong Khiaw, and north all the way to Phongsaly.