Once a poster youngster for intrepid journey in Southeast Asia, in the present day’s Nong Khiaw may not be the little identified, off-the-grid paradise of many years previous. Yet, Nong Khiaw stays a supremely gorgeous and rewarding vacation spot for vacationers on the lookout for a wholesome stability of rustic solitude and fundamental facilities, served with a beneficiant dose of journey.
Nong Khiaw may simply be the most effective of Laos rolled into one vacation spot, providing dramatic karst formations, pleasant residents, and a laid again vibe — all with out sacrificing creature comforts like glorious eating places, snug guesthouses, and fashionable infrastructure.
Do you prefer to hike and scale dramatic ridges and have the path (and panoramic view) [mostly] to your self? Do you want riverboat adventures to much less trodden villages? How about whiling away a day in a hammock or ending the day with a scrumptious steak and a riverfront view for lower than the price of a Starbucks foofy drink in Bangkok?
Intrigued? Read on for concepts of what to do in Nong Khiaw throughout a 3-day itinerary.
Why Visit Nong Khiaw?
Most vacationers go to Nong Khiaw to soak up (and work together) with the pure environment, which by all accounts are gorgeous. If you want outside actions, Nong Khiaw is a wonderful jumping-off level for climbing, trekking, climbing, zip-lining, caving, and far more.
Nong Khiaw’s location can be a significant factor in visiting. Once you’re right here, it could seem to be a world aside, however in actual fact, is an easy 3-Four hour journey by native bus or minivan from Laos’ prime vacationer vacation spot, Luang Prabang. A 4-hour journey by public transport could seem lengthy to some, however contemplate this — it’s this issue alone that presently retains the vacationer crowds from spilling out of Luang Prabang, at the very least for now.
Finally, Nong Khiaw is a wonderful antidote for temple burnout, tourist-trail fatigue, and same-same-but-different journey locations. If you’re trying to get away from Southeast Asia’s most visited locations and add a bit extra authenticity to your travels, Nong Khiaw delivers, which is strictly why we added Nong Khiaw to our personal itinerary on our final journey to Luang Prabang.
A 3-day itinerary for Nong Khiaw might very properly show too quick a time to dedicate to this superb place, nevertheless it’s a fairly good start line for many vacationers.
Who Might Want to Skip Nong Khiaw?
Some prefer to name Nong Khiaw the “New Vang Vieng” on account of its dramatic karst panorama and alternatives for outside adventures. But let’s get one factor clear — you don’t go to Nong Khiaw for the nightlife, and also you actually don’t come right here to get together with 100 of your closest new Gap Year associates.
You additionally shouldn’t go to Nong Khiaw anticipating an “undiscovered” paradise. If you’ve been wandering the planet barefoot for a decade and are adamant about being the one Westerner inside an hour’s journey, you’ll in all probability wish to skip Nong Khiaw and head to Phongsali or Houaphanh.
If you demand five-star luxurious, a swimming pool, and Michelin-rated eating places, you most actually will wish to skip Nong Khiaw, however that’s fairly self-evident.
How to Get to Nong Khiaw?
Nong Khiaw is situated 140km northeast of the more and more well-liked UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang in Northern Laos. That places Nong Khiaw a mere 500 km from Chiang Mai and 400 km from Hanoi — because the crow flies.
The terrain in Northern Laos is rugged and the highway infrastructure is poor (however enhancing), which might translate into lengthy days (and nights) making the journey by public transport from the area’s closest main cities.
Fortunately, Luang Prabang and its worldwide airport (LPQ) aren’t far. As an added bonus, buses and minibuses for Nong Khiaw arrive and depart from the Northern Bus Station conveniently situated simply north of the runway at LPQ. Being primarily based out of Vientiane, I used to be in a position to board a flight within the Laos capital at round 8am and be laying in my hammock sipping sundowners on the Nam Ou river by 4pm.
While there are loads of choices for attending to Luang Prabang, highway transport is presently the one choice for getting between Luang Prabang and Nong Khiaw.
Up till a number of years in the past, you might additionally make the journey by boat. However, the development of dams alongside the Ou River put an finish to ferry site visitors between the 2 cities.
Generally talking, taking the bus in Laos goes to be a safer and extra dependable public choice. The highway between Luang Prabang and Nong Khiaw is properly maintained, principally sealed, and never too dangerous concerning curves (actually nothing in comparison with the highway between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng). If you’re delicate to winding roads, go for the bus over the minibus.
Buses usually depart from Luang Prabang transit middle at 09:00, 11:00, and 14:00. The journey sometimes takes 3-Four hours and prices 40,00zero LAK. We’ve heard some accounts of a “tourist class” bus for 50,00zero LAK departing at 09:00, however this didn’t look like an choice once we final did the journey within the top of vacationer season.
Along those self same traces, it’s greatest to remember the fact that in Laos, all of this data is topic to alter with out discover, notably throughout native and nationwide holidays.
By Minibus & Songtaew
Some contemplate minibuses to be a extra snug choice when in comparison with full-size buses. With the exception of personal hires, I can’t personally say I’ve been on a minibus journey in Laos that exceeded the comforts of taking a giant bus. Minibus schedules (for those who can name them that) are typically far much less dependable than that of their massive bus brethren, usually leaving when full (which might take a while…or no time in any respect).
I recommend getting in with the mindset that minibuses go away about each two hours from 09:00 to late afternoon and strongly warning towards pinning your hopes on one leaving at any particular time. In that sense, the large benefit of taking a minibus is there might possible be one leaving before a giant bus for those who occur to reach on the station between bus departures.
Minibuses take 3-5 hours, relying on elements reminiscent of climate, how briskly the motive force looks like driving, and whether or not you allow Luang Prabang full or empty. If you allow empty, anticipate to go cruising for passengers across the outskirts of city and stopping quite a few instances alongside the best way to choose up and drop off passengers who’re solely going a brief distance.
Occasionally, you may even see a songtaew on the brink of depart Luang Prabang for Nong Khiaw, although songtaews are usually used for shorter routes. If you aren’t acquainted with Laos-style songtaews, they resemble a bigger four-wheel model of a tuk-tuk on a supply truck chassis. Often loaded with monks and colorfully painted (with a blue or silver base), they’re laborious to overlook.
If you’re feeling notably adventurous, a 3-5 hour journey on a songtaew shall be memorable, to say the least. Just remember the fact that the trip can get tough, moist, crowded, and sizzling!
By Private Vehicle
Taking a non-public shuttle is an effective choice for these wanting door-to-door service or touring throughout off-schedule instances. Tickets might be bought at any respected journey company in Luang Prabang metropolis middle.
For these touring with households or teams, a superb choice could also be to rent a driver and car by way of your guesthouse in Luang Prabang. Keep in thoughts that this feature will possible be far dearer than taking the bus or minibus, even after dividing the fee amongst a number of passengers, and you may additionally be anticipated to cowl meals and lodging to your driver at some stage in your time in Nong Khiaw.
You can lease a automotive in Vientiane or Luang Prabang, however doing so might be very costly and driving by yourself in Laos, notably within the rugged north, might be difficult for guests.
Finally, as with wherever else in Laos, the journey will also be completed by motorcycle or bicycle, each of which might be rented in Luang Prabang at a each day charge. Keep in thoughts that the route is rugged with a number of passes to cowl, and using needs to be averted in the course of the wet season.
Getting from Nong Khiaw Bus Station to Your Destination
Once you arrive in Nong Khiaw, you could must switch to a songtaew for a brief distance relying on the place you might be staying.
If you might be arriving by minibus, the Minibus Station is situated a half kilometer west of the city middle and 1-1.5 km from guesthouses within the backpacker enclave of Ban Sophoun throughout the bridge. Songtaews are often ready on the Minibus Station to ferry passengers to the place they should go for a small price.
If you might be touring by massive bus, the bus might cease on the Minibus Station or within the middle of city (or each).
3 Day Itinerary for Nong Khiaw
You don’t go to Nong Khiaw for a packed itinerary of seeing temples and visiting museums. A go to to Nong Khiaw is all about enjoyable, exploring, and taking issues down a notch in a gorgeous setting. If this feels like what you’re on the lookout for, learn on!
Working from the identical mindset, that is my beneficial 3-day itinerary for visiting Nong Khiaw.
Also remember the fact that this itinerary covers three full days in Nong Khiaw, assuming you’ll have tacked on a journey day to/from Luang Prabang on both sides of this itinerary, for a grand complete of 4 nights in Nong Khiaw. We departed Luang Prabang round midday on a Wednesday and returned to Luang Prabang at 10am on Sunday and felt that that was a superb period of time for an informal go to to Nong Khiaw.
Day 1 in Nong Khiaw
Breakfast at Delilah’s Place
Wake up slowly in your snug, but rustic bungalow to the sound of birds singing and fishermen puttering by in small picket riverboats. Enjoy a sizzling bathe and a leisurely morning stroll over the outdated Chinese bridge connecting Ban Sophoun (the place the vast majority of backpacker lodging is) with the middle of the village.
Head to Delilah’s Place, end up the right seat (there’s all the pieces from cozy cushions indoors to cafe tables with a roadside view) and order a hearty breakfast from their sizable menu of Western consolation fare and Pan-Asian favorites.
Delilah’s is a superb place to fulfill different vacationers, get the most recent data on path circumstances, or simply chill for a number of hours with a powerful cup of espresso earlier than setting off to discover.
Visit Tiger Trail
While you’re at Delilah’s, take a look at close by Tiger Trail Travel (there’s additionally an workplace in Ban Sophoun on the south facet of the river). If you’ve received a bit of additional money and time, Tiger Trail provides excursions and packages starting from half-day to 10-day excursions and treks in and across the Nong Khiaw space.
For those that want to discover Nong Khiaw independently and on foot like we did, learn on.
Hike to an Incredible View
Nong Khiaw now has a number of glorious viewpoint hikes to select from that go away proper from city and supply gorgeous views of Nong Khiaw, dramatic karst peaks, and the luxurious surrounding valleys.
Be forewarned, these viewpoint hikes aren’t a lazy stroll as much as a touristy temple, however fairly steep and strenuous ascents. Expect to make use of your arms and knees for parts, and train excessive warning if it’s rained previously week. With that stated, the paths are usually well-maintained and expertise low to average foot site visitors a lot of the 12 months.
The trailhead for climbing to Pha Daeng Peak (often known as Nong Khiaw Viewpoint #1) is accessed on the east facet of the primary freeway (Route 1C) in Ban Sophoun (south financial institution of the Ou River within the backpackers’ enclave).
The newer Nang None Viewpoint (Nong Khiaw Viewpoint #2 & Sleeping Woman Viewpoint) might be accessed both from the trailhead simply behind city on the north facet of the primary freeway (Route 1C) between Hive Bar and Delilah’s, or 1 km west of the Minibus Station alongside Route 1C.
Expect every of those hikes to take a number of hours (roundtrip). The greatest time to hike is early within the morning to keep away from the warmth and different hikers, or simply earlier than sundown. If you do hike earlier than sundown, keep in mind to deliver a headlamp! Due to the jagged topography of the world, Nong Khiaw will get very darkish, very quick.
Coco Home or Khao Pia for Lunch
After a difficult and rewarding viewpoint hike, head again into city to refuel at any variety of glorious eateries. Noodle retailers might be discovered nearly wherever on either side of the river round lunchtime. If you’re hankering for some khao pia (suppose Lao pho), there’s no higher (and more energizing) time than lunchtime.
If you’re within the temper for Western and Pan-Asian fare after your massive hike, take a look at Coco Home Bar & Restaurant for hearty, no MSG choices and unbelievable desserts!
Town Loop Walk, Hammock, Lao Sauna
After a morning of climbing up a mountain, you might be able to loosen up. You’re in luck! As there could also be no higher place in Laos to get your chill on.
If temperatures are on the cooler facet (as Nong Khiaw is thought for), take this chance to stroll across the city middle, poke into native retailers, and discover the waterfront.
If you’re feeling such as you’ve completed sufficient climbing for in the future, loosen up on a hammock at your guesthouse (there are a lot of guesthouses with river-facing bungalows and hammocks on the Ban Sophoun facet of the river), chill on a cushion at any variety of bars and eateries in Ban Sophoun (or Delilah’s on the town), or get steamed up at a Lao Sauna (there’s a superb one on the west facet of the primary highway in Ban Sophoun).
Sundowners & Dinner
Just earlier than sundown, head all the way down to Duangdee Restaurant for a BeerLao or shot of LaoLao on the Ou River. Duangdee is a floating barge restaurant on the south financial institution of the river accessed from the highway to Nong Khiaw Riverside Lodge.
In addition to drinks, Duangdee additionally has native meals choices. But for those who’re solely in Nong Khiaw for a brief go to, I like to recommend trying out Noymany (simply off the highway in Ban Sophoun, throughout from Chennai Indian).
Day 2 in Nong Khiaw
Day Trip to Muang Ngoi (by boat)
On your second full day in Nong Khiaw, I extremely advocate doing a day journey to Muang Ngoi by boat. Grab a fast breakfast and a view at Ban Lao Sunset Guesthouse (accessed on the facet highway close to Q Bar) and head to the Boat Office within the city middle.
Prior to the damming of the Ou River, taking a ship from Luang Prabang to Muang Ngoi by way of Nong Khiaw was a favourite journey for backpackers and native holidaymakers. Those days could also be gone, however the river stays navigable between Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi — and the journey is a stunner!
And simply to clear up some confusion, what guests check with as Muang Ngoi (or Muang Ngoy) is technically known as Muang Ngoi Neua (as Nong Khiaw is sometimes called Muang Ngoi by locals). If there’s any confusion with the tour workplace or boat driver, we’re speaking right here about a day journey to Muang Ngoi Neua, however that needs to be evident given that you simply’re beginning your journey within the different Muang Ngoi. With that stated, we’re going to check with the village as Muang Ngoi right here for consistency’s sake.
Why is Muang Ngoi value a go to? For numerous the identical causes you may wish to go to Nong Khiaw, however with a memorable boat trip within the combine. It’s a small, picturesque village with good providers for vacationers and a few good hikes to caves and viewpoints.
Boat schedules between Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi are continually in flux, so that you’ll wish to enquire on the Boat Office the city middle for the present schedule.
Alternatively, if you’re touring with a small group or don’t thoughts spending a little bit extra money, you possibly can at all times rent a personal native boat to do the journey. In addition to with the ability to depart if you wish to, a significant good thing about a personal rent is with the ability to make a few stops alongside the best way.
In addition to an prolonged cease in Muang Ngoi, you can even ask to cease on the ethnic minority weaving village of Sop Cham (farther up the river), and the village of Sop Keng (situated between Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi) for a scenic rural hike to a waterfall.
For extra particulars on doing the boat journey up the Nam Ou, you possibly can take a look at my journey report on visiting Muang Ngoi Neua.
Happy Hour & Dinner at Q Bar
After a protracted and memorable day on the river, loosen up with a cheerful hour drink and attractive dinner at Q Bar in Ban Sophoun. In addition to their mouthwatering menu, Q Bar additionally provides Lao BBQ (additionally known as sin daat or Lao suki) on sure nights of the week.
Day Three in Nong Khiaw
If you’ve made it this far with out falling off a cliff, a ship, or a hammock, it’s time to have a good time! And what higher approach in Nong Khiaw than exploring a cave and sipping a chilly beverage?
Pha Thak Cave & Restaurant
From Ban Sophoun, observe the primary freeway (Route 1C) south out of city for two km till you arrive at Tham Pha Thak (Pha Thak Cave) complicated on the appropriate (additionally spelled Pha Toke). It’s a straightforward and scenic “hike” alongside a lazy stretch of tarmac the place you’re sure to come across extra livestock within the highway than automobiles.
Cross a makeshift bamboo bridge to a stilted restaurant the place you could or might not must pay a small entry price for the cave (and will or might not be accompanied by a few native youngsters appearing as your tour guides). Continue alongside the trail from the restaurant in direction of the sheer limestone wall the place steep concrete stairs await for accessing the mouth of the Tham Pha Thak.
While Tham Pha Thak gained’t win any awards for greatest collapse Laos, it’s nonetheless value a go to — for its pure magnificence and for its historical past, as that is the place the Pathet Lao forces arrange their provincial headquarters in the course of the Secret War.
Before you head again to city, make sure to cease by the restaurant for a chilly beverage and even lunch. Chat up your hosts (we discovered that a few of the youthful ones have been keen to talk English) and be taught extra in regards to the cave and the encircling space.
Take the chance in your ultimate afternoon in Nong Khiaw to take in the surroundings out of your hammock, loosen up at a bar, or hike as much as the opposite viewpoint on the town (sensing a theme but?).
Due to Nong Khiaw’s greater elevation and funky[er] local weather, afternoons usually stay fairly snug. But even when it feels cool, don’t overlook about hydration! The humidity can nonetheless be brutal.
If you’re not but uninterested in caves, you might go to Tham Pha Kuang situated simply off the primary freeway about 1.5 km west of the Minibus Station. Additionally, you might additionally peek into a few of the native temples and have a chat with the monks — many are desirous to follow their English expertise with foreigners. And lastly, you might ask at your guesthouse about the potential of fishing or swimming within the river, each of that are depending on the season.
Dinner at Nong Kiau Riverside Resort Restaurant
On your final night on the town, deal with your self to a riverside meal at Nong Kiau Riverside Resort Restaurant situated simply east of the bridge on the southern/ Ban Sophoun facet. For these on tighter traveler budgets, contemplate grabbing a cheerful hour drink right here for sundown, then a neighborhood chunk to eat again on the town.
Back to Luang Prabang
You’ll discover that three days in Nong Khiaw flies by, and earlier than you understand it, it’s time to head-on. For the fortunate ones with time on their facet, which may imply upriver to Muang Ngoi Neua for an prolonged keep in an idyllic little vacationer village, then onward to Phongsali. For the remainder of us, it’s again to Luang Prabang, which by most accounts is actually not a nasty place to retreat to.
If you’re eager on taking a giant bus again to Luang Prabang. Ask for the present return schedule both at your guesthouse or if you get off of the bus if you arrive. You’ll additionally wish to affirm the situation as arrival and departure locations are often completely different.
If you’re touring by minibus, head to the Minibus Station on the western fringe of city and purchase a ticket for the following departure. Depending on the day of the week and the time of 12 months, there needs to be a number of departures per day. To be on the protected facet, you possibly can go to the station the night earlier than to substantiate the time or present up round 9am the morning of. Minibuses most often depart between 9-10am and 11am-12pm, and the journey takes 3-Four hours.
Tips for Visiting Nong Khiaw
When we visited, there was at the very least one dependable ATM (BCEL) subsequent to the bridge in Ban Sophoun. BCEL is the most important financial institution in Laos and accepts most main worldwide playing cards. Unless you pay to your lodging on-line, anticipate to pay for all the pieces in Nong Khiaw in money (LAK). Restaurants and guesthouses may additionally settle for USD in a pinch, however don’t depend on it.
Prepare for rain, even within the “dry season.” If you propose on climbing, it helps immensely to have sturdy footwear with good traction. I strongly warning towards climbing to both viewpoint in flip-flops (it continually amazes me what number of vacationers I see doing this in Laos, and the way shocked they appear once they inevitably bloody up their toes or lose one (or each) of their sandals over a cliff or within the muck).
Along the traces of clothes, be sure you cowl up round city. This is a conservative tradition the place modesty of gown is anticipated, notably when visiting temples (vats). Also, remember the fact that common Laotians are usually reserved and passive of their dealings with foreigners. Many vacationers misconstrue this for unfriendliness. A smile, a number of Lao phrases, and a respectful nop go a good distance in breaking the ice.
When to Visit Nong Khiaw
November by way of February is usually thought-about the most effective time to go to Laos basically, as these are the best, driest months of the 12 months. That means little to no rain in Central Laos, however the likelihood of rain in Luang Prabang province (the place Nong Khiaw is situated) is excessive year-round. While Nong Khiaw doesn’t see wherever close to the variety of guests that locations reminiscent of Luang Prabang or Vang Vieng see, traveler numbers do appear to peak in December and January. Expect reductions on lodging (and torrential rain!!!) in July and August.
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