The small village of Hat Sa fronts onto the brown waters of the Nam Ou River in the far north of Laos. There is just one reason why it sits on traveller's itineraries -- Hat Sa sits on the bank of the Nam Ou river and is connected by road to Phongsali, the provincial capital and the main traveller's centre of Phongsali province (not that that's saying much).
While the area is lovely and ripe for exploration, the vast majority of visitors pass up on the chance to stay in Hat Sa while travelling between Phongsali and Muang Khua. Those that do decide to stay obviously have an awful lot of spare time on their hands.
There is only one truck per day which travels the one-hour, 20km journey between Hat Sa and its more popular neighbour. This means that if your boat from Muang Khua arrives in late, or if there are no more boats available for departure when you arrive from Phongsali, then you're destined for a night in Hat Sa.
Should you find yourself stranded, don't fret -- as there are two extremely basic guesthouses, a couple of noodle soup shops and one small restaurant -- what more do you need! There is still no regular electricity so you'll be hitting the hay early after the electricity watershed at approximately 21:00..
The locals tend to be delighted when people stay instead of pushing straight on to Phongsali, so if you're prepared to make an effort with your phrasebook or have a way with sign language, then you're in for a treat.
By Adam Poskitt