What Does a $4 Bungalow Look Like?

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Just what does $4 buy you in Laos? I stayed in a truly basic bungalow in Nong Khiaw and, though it lacked most amenities, I enjoyed it so much that I stayed an extra day.

Another traveler had recommended the Bamboo Paradise Guesthouse, saying it was cheap and clean, but nothing fancy. For 30,000 kip ($3.75 US), I got a bamboo bungalow on stilts with a fan, my own bathroom, hot shower, a large bed, mosquito net, and a balcony with views of the Nam Ou below.

There were cheaper options: I checked out a room up the street that went for 20,000 kip per night, but it was just a small, windowless wooden box with a bed and a door. The rooms had one shared bathroom and no views or common area and there was no breeze. I passed on the sweat box — a balcony and bathroom seemed well worth the extra dollar.

 

What Does a $4 Budget Bungalow Look Like in Laos?

There was plenty of room to move about and the bed was big, but hard — you could feel the springs under a thin layer of padding. I checked the pillows for a mint, but didn’t find anything. Mosquitoes weren’t a problem –surprisingly– and I never had to use the net.

 

What Does a $4 Budget Bungalow Look Like in Laos?

A single florescent tube ran through a hole in the wall, providing weak light to both the room and the balcony — efficient, certainly, but dim. Nong Khiaw has only had full-time electricity for a few months, so I was grateful to have power at all.

 

What Does a $4 Budget Bungalow Look Like in Laos?

Okay, so the bathroom was nothing to brag about. The walls were stained and there were no towels or tiny packets of shampoo. But, it had a flush toilet, was clean, and the hot shower worked — the water here in the mountains is pretty chilly in the morning. The step down from the main room was about 18″ and I nearly did a face-plant the first night. They should add “Adventure” to the hotel name and double the price.

 

What Does a $4 Budget Bungalow Look Like in Laos?

The balcony made up for the bathroom and any other complaints I might have had. There was a cool breeze blowing up from the river and I could comfortably sit during the hottest part of the day and read or write. At night, there was no traffic to be heard and I would be lulled to sleep by the sounds of frogs and cicadas.

Then, I’d be woken the following morning by a monk who walked around with a drum at 5 am, chasing away the evil sleep spirits. Even the roosters hated him.

 

What Does a $4 Budget Bungalow Look Like in Laos?

During the day, large colorful butterflies would land on my drying laundry. They were probably enjoying the salt I hadn’t managed to rinse out and I always had two or three of them to keep me company. Birds darted about, chasing each other through the banana trees and high grasses below.

 

What Does a $4 Budget Bungalow Look Like in Laos?

The view was pretty nice. I could have paid more and found a guesthouse closer to the water, but I was quite content here. The river below was lovely and serene, but the limestone mountain that loomed above the town really stole the show. In the morning, it would be shrouded in thick, slowly-dissipating cloud and at night, it glowed in the moonlight. I could have watched it for days.

Actually, now that I think of it… that’s exactly what I did.

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

Audrey August 12, 2010 at 8:02 pm

You know, I think we stayed in the same spot in Nong Khiaw in Laos. We had stayed the first night across the river in a hole-in-the-wall that was about the same price, but was a dark room in the back of the house. The bungalows weren’t luxury, but they were clean and it was nice to have your own space and terrace.

When we traveled through South America, we really missed cheap places like this…
.-= Audrey´s last blog ..Saying Goodbye- Celebrating Life =-.

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wes August 14, 2010 at 7:30 am

The little research I’ve done on South America suggests it’s not as cheap as I’d hoped. No $4 rooms there, I’m guessing?

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Daniel September 18, 2013 at 3:07 am

In Banos in Ecuador we rented a house for $5 (close enough right?), not too dissimilar from this in terms of amenities, but was a definite characterful house with intriguing decorations such as a tapestry of dogs playing poker and a pickled snake above the fridge! I don’t know about other apartments but all across South America, anything over $5 in a hostel was considered expensive!

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Nick Laborde August 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Love the light fixture …
.-= Nick Laborde´s last blog ..Why I’m a Crappy Employee =-.

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Natalka Jacquard August 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I LOVE IT !!

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Garrett August 13, 2010 at 12:27 am

$4 – love it! My cheapest was $2.00 a night for a room on the beach in Dreamland, Bali, Indonesia.

Keep on sending eye candy our way, Johnny.

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Chris Day January 4, 2011 at 11:29 am

Wow $2.00 a night , could you have stayed there for a year. Always looking for someplace cheaper than living in the USA

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Erin August 13, 2010 at 6:09 am

Makes me really want to go back to Laos! I loved the views at those lovely river towns.

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wes August 14, 2010 at 7:31 am

They’re wonderful, aren’t they? After the noise and chaos of Vietnam, I’m really enjoying the peace and quiet.

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Andi August 13, 2010 at 6:54 am

Unbelievable…$4…I can’t even get a cup of coffee for that price!
.-= Andi´s last blog ..India- Day 9 Part 2 =-.

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Gary Arndt August 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

Toilet. Bed. Hot water. What more do you really need?
.-= Gary Arndt´s last blog ..Daily Travel Photo – Bangkok- Thailand =-.

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Normand Boulanger June 5, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I absolutely agree, basic needs, hot water is a bonus.

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Jaime D. August 13, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Wow, great post & awesome pictures. I cant wait to visit SEA on my RTW trip.

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wes August 14, 2010 at 7:35 am

You’ll love it!

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pirate63 August 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm

loved those sort of places Wes when we were there,you did the right thing there ,just chill out and write and read.

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James Clark August 14, 2010 at 9:50 am

Oh man I miss those bungalows. Good living!

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GoGoStopNGo August 15, 2010 at 12:25 am

Gorgeous place. This picturesque destination is on my to do list. It’s reminiscent of where I stayed in Corcovado national park in costa rica on the OSA peninsula. They were tents by the beach in the jungle…our tent had a toilet and a shower. They were covered by a canopy wall attached to the cabin tent, so no one can watch u do your business but had no roof so you can see the tree tops and the monkies.

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wes August 15, 2010 at 6:46 am

Wow, that sounds nice.

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Abhi August 15, 2010 at 2:22 am

Nice!

Btw, in case you are interested to know, the butterfly (the pic you have uploaded) is a ‘Blue Tiger’ butterfly.
.-= Abhi´s last blog ..Namma Bengaluru =-.

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wes August 15, 2010 at 6:45 am

Thanks, Abhi! I’ve never really been into butterflies, but I’ve seen some amazing ones here in SE Asia. Just gorgeous.

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ayngelina August 15, 2010 at 4:05 am

I’ve completely lowered my standards as far as bathrooms go, if it has a seat and the shower works I’m good. If it has toilet paper and hot water I’m in heaven.
.-= ayngelina´s last blog ..25 things I learned from traveling in Central America =-.

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wes August 15, 2010 at 6:36 am

Haha. I’m totally with you on that.

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Karl August 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Wes!

You crusty chilled out witty Texan – hows trix?

Just skimmed your blog – I like it, interesting to see your “official take” on Nong Khiaw and the like. I’ll watch this space… Im back in LP but heading to Vang Vieng probly tmo.

Cheers

Karl (continental Australia)

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wes August 22, 2010 at 7:43 am

Wassup, Australia! Good to hear from you, man. I’m in Vang Vien right now — probably stay one more day then move on. Hope to bump into you.

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Mark Powers September 17, 2010 at 10:02 am

Really making me miss SE Asia, Johnny . . .
.-= Mark Powers´s last blog ..I’m Not A Drum Teacher =-.

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wes September 19, 2010 at 11:01 am

Glad to help, Mark ;)

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RumShopRyan September 22, 2010 at 4:22 am

Sounds like a good place to explore on a tight budget!

Thanks for sharing.

Cheers!

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Roni Weiss September 25, 2010 at 8:42 am

Looks like places I stayed in Ko Phangan, Thailand and Boracay, The Philippines…
.-= Roni Weiss´s last blog ..roniweiss- @LuxeTiffany OK But story-wise- thematically and all of that- its something that generations down the road will still respect =-.

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Federico October 8, 2010 at 1:27 pm

My cheapest ever was a 2 USD tin bungalow in El Salvador, with rats and all. Suckers ate half of my bread while I was asleep.

Federico
.-= Federico´s last blog ..Photo of the week =-.

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wes October 9, 2010 at 8:28 am

Ha! No extra charge for garbage disposal ;)

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deputu October 31, 2010 at 11:31 pm

It’s suitable for hideaway honeymooner.

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Zablon Mukuba November 3, 2010 at 11:13 pm

the hens hated the monk that was funny. it was an incredibly cheap and great place to live in for just $ 4. you are lucky

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Wally Zebco November 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I love it when the bungalows are so close together that the idiot 20 somethings play their guitars or bongo drums thinking other want to hear their artistry.
Think of others stoners

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wes November 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Oh man… bongos are a pet peeve of mine. Makes me want to carry a tuba with me so I can overpower them…

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Kelsey April 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

That would be hilarious.

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Randolf December 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Really Nice views. Wish I could go there asap…
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Waikiki Beach Bum December 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Haven’t been to SE Asia yet, but that looks like a steal of a deal for $4. Makes me want to book a ticket while I’m sitting here…
Waikiki Beach Bum recently posted..Aqua Waikiki PearlMy Profile

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wes January 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Do it!

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AudreyDez January 3, 2011 at 11:17 am

Gorgeous! It was worth it to pay the extra dollar! I really love it!:)

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wes January 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Thanks! Totally worth it :)

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Costa Rica January 25, 2011 at 6:33 am

I love it! The pictures with the mountains in the back round shows the places true beauty. Great info.

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Rachel January 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm

What an inspriration for SE Asia Travel. Thanks – and keep it coming.

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Aníbal February 22, 2011 at 2:22 am

Hi Johnny, I’m writing to you from Uruguay.

I often come here to check upon your articles and travel experiences, but this article in particular always drives me to Laos; best thing about it, I’ve never been to Laos. Well, it’s not the “best” thing since I’ve always wanted to go there, but what I’m trying to say here is that this article that you wrote is superb, truly wonderful. And not to mention the actual travel experience of a $3+ hostel in Laos (hell yeah!).

I’ve been meaning to ask you: have you ever thought of travelling to Uruguay someday?

I came across some vids of my country and would like to share one with you (though at the site there are PLENTY others): http://uruguaynatural.tv/video/795327171001

That being played :P, it hardly does justice to what Uruguay has to offer to tourists!

I hope you can visit our country someday :D

Cheers,
Aníbal

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wes February 23, 2011 at 8:16 am

I would love to visit Uruguay. Not sure when I’ll make it but I will :)

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Aníbal February 23, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Fantastic!

We’ll welcome you with a massive steak haha http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muAFU5KL5is (vid about our meat by Anthony Bourdain).

Cheers!

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Jaloola March 31, 2011 at 1:36 am

I just read this again. It’s such valuable travel information and well written.
Makes me want to get on a plane.

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wes March 31, 2011 at 11:02 am

T’anks!

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Ted Beatie April 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

You make me miss Nong Khiaw!
Ted Beatie recently posted..Memories of JapanMy Profile

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wes April 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Sweet place, isn’t it?

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Dave Brett May 5, 2011 at 3:39 am

Looks like a nice happy spot for reading
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Frances May 24, 2011 at 11:44 pm

I just recently heard of Laos from a friend and now I seem to see it everywhere. I did not realize it was such a beautiful place. I love when mountains meet the ocean.

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Ted Beatie May 25, 2011 at 12:51 am

Laos was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The karst formations near Thakhek and the Ou River valley were some of our favorite places.
Ted Beatie recently posted..A tale of two citiesMy Profile

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wes May 27, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I agree! That boat down the Ou is amazing.

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wes May 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Laos is lovely, as are the people. Go soon, as it seems to be growing up very quickly.

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fajas colombianas July 1, 2011 at 11:47 pm

You might not believe me but this sir is already an inspiration for me to travel to places less traveled by man.

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chris July 2, 2011 at 12:42 am

So, if your doing this blog that means that you have full internet access on your laptop?, are u using a laptop?, notebook?

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wes July 2, 2011 at 8:00 am

Yeah, I’m using a 13″ Macbook Pro. I also do design work, so a netbook doesn’t have the horsepower I’d need.

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mac247waikiki September 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Wow its awesome, Ireally love it

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Josh Knutson September 6, 2011 at 9:04 am

This looks like the place I stayed at on Phu Chi Fa overlooking Laos. Amazing that you can get a place with a view/scenery for $4 or $5.

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TheGourmetCoffeeGuy October 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

Very cool story. You’re right: some of the best places to stay are very natural, down to earth, simple and unforgettable. Fun post, enjoyed it a lot!

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Matthew C October 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm

$4.00 a night wow. And the place looked not that bad. I could stay there a whole year for what one months rent cost me here in the USA. Maybe I need to move!

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Paul in London November 23, 2011 at 12:06 am

Nice post and nice blog. But you’re probably sent them enough demand so’s that they’re charging $5 now. ;-)

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wes November 23, 2011 at 1:30 am

Ha! I may have to go back and check ;)

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Sergio Felix January 3, 2012 at 12:56 am

Wow… I can’t believe the cost of staying there and the views are so amazing it looks unreal.

Can’t say much for the bathroom but if it was not shared, it was clean and it works, I guess it was just PERFECT!

$4 bucks… man I’m definitely living on the wrong country haha

Sergio

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wes January 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I’d go back in a heartbeat — prop my feet up on the rail and watch the river flow by for a week or so :)

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cheryl January 8, 2012 at 8:43 am

Wow, nothing fancy but looks fantastic! I need to visit Asia one if these days … so lovely.

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Jeremy bolen January 21, 2012 at 4:11 am

You probably already mentioned this . but where in Laos is this ? im going to head there soon. im in china and would love to check it out!

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Jeremy bolen January 21, 2012 at 4:12 am

oh man its right thre in the beginning haha sorry

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Jeremy January 30, 2012 at 6:15 am

what would be my best route to get there?!

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wes January 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I came into Laos via Vietnam (Dien Bien Phu) so it was on the way. If you’re already in Laos, I think you would catch a bus from Luang Prabang. Boat might be an option too, but it’d be going upriver so probably more expensive.

Anonynmous March 24, 2012 at 9:09 am

Hi,
I was beginning to look for prices and its amazing how cheap it is around there. Problem is that I need internet and that place doesn’t look like it has…

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wes March 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Nope. Only one place in town with wifi, alas…

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Benjamin July 31, 2012 at 5:04 am

Hey Johnny, great post about the $4 Bamboo Paradise Guesthouse bungalow. I guess WiFi isn’t included!! I find it amazing how cost effective accommodation can be when you really look hard for it – a great recommendation from your friend.

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wes July 31, 2012 at 11:43 am

Alas, no wifi included ;) For that there was 1 hotel/restaurant that had it and you paid dearly by the minute. Internet in Laos was rough….

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Awais August 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm

stunning places .. Loved them

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Mo Draj May 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Thank you Wes… Very interesting! :)

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Naomi May 19, 2013 at 5:25 am

Nong Khiaw is such an awesome place – so quiet, and that crazy karst scenery all around! Just a bit of a heads-up for any future visitors who see this review, though: a friend and I stayed here at Bamboo Paradise Guesthouse in early May 2013 and were both had cash stolen from our rooms. The owner of the guesthouse seemed to know exactly where the stolen cash had been in our rooms, as well as the different types of currency that had been taken before we told anyone. Rather sketchy. We later found reviews from other travellers that had been robbed there as well. All in all, I’d say to approach with caution!

Besides, there are plenty of other 4$ bungalows in Nong Khiaw to choose from ;)
Naomi recently posted..If you give a kid a camera…: Photos by Lantan kids in LaosMy Profile

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wes May 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm

In Asia, I ALWAYS kept my cash and cards on me in a money belt. In Central America, it’s the opposite.

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northierthanthou July 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm

For $4 a day, that’s a damned palace. Very cool.
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Dixie August 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm

That’s exactly where I want to stay a few days whenever we make it that far afield….ahhhh!

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TJ Reubens September 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I stayed at this place in 2009 for 5 days. Timeless in the way time slips by unnoticed. In a word peaceful. I found a cool back country drinking fountain made from bamboo channeling spring water from the hillside along the logging road behind the property that parallels the Nam Ou. That road has many trails that lead off to hill tribe villages. That said, I also found Oreo cookies in the small store nearby!

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