Nong Khiaw is a lovely quiet town in the north of Laos, beautifully situated on the banks of the Nam Ou river and with a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. Along the river are guesthouses. They often rent out bungalows with a terrace where you can lie down and relax in your hammock. For less than €15 you can sleep here with the fantastic view of the river and mountains as an extra. We had a few lovely relaxing days in Nong Khiaw. We enjoyed the sunset every evening during the delicious dinner prepared by the owner of Ban Lao Sunset guesthouse. A better place is, in our opinion, not to be found in the village!
There are two viewpoints in the area, which we visited. The “Sleeping Woman Viewpoint” is located a little north, about a kilometre from the village. We walked up in our sturdy mountain boots, panting, while we were regularly “ran past” by Laotian children in their flip-flops. But we also got up there. It is a rather difficult climb and you reach the viewpoint after about an hour and a half. You can see here how the village is so well situated with the river and the surrounding mountains. You don’t have a 360-panorama here. The way back is by the same path, not always well-signposted, but getting lost is still impossible.
The start of the hike to the “Pha Daeng Peak Viewpoint” is located just southeast of the bridge over the Nam Ou. On a reasonably good path, you walk up in about two hours. It rises nicely, so every now and then it is important to take a good rest. But when you finally reach the top, you enjoy a truly phenomenal 360-degree view of the faraway surroundings. It is really enjoyable here, as far as you can see and the landscape is so beautiful with whimsical rock formations, a river meandering through them and the village far below.
We did not see a sunset here, but it is supposed to be beautiful. You can start the climb until 4 pm at the latest. After sunset you walk down the same path as you walked up. It is important that you have a strong headlamp or flashlight with you for the return trip. A headlamp is more practical, because then you have your hands free.
Further fun to be had in Nong Khiaw:
- Walking to Tham Pha Thok, about three quarters of an hour’s walk from the village. This is a series of caves in the karst mountains where the population hid during the many American bombardments of the Vietnam War.
- By boat to the sleepier village of Muang Ngoi Neua. On the way, you see some beautiful landscape, you go ashore at an indigenous village where we visited the village school and end up in the quaint Muang Ngoi. Back you go by boat. If you want to do something more active, you can also canoe back to Nong Khiaw in three hours. You can take as long as you want at it, so feel free to moor at one of the various beaches you come across along the river.
- Several travel agencies organise trips to small villages where the Hmong, an ethnic tribe, live. You can also do a two-day trip with a homestay. We did not do this, but we did hear enthusiastic stories about it. You can also go on a trip to the many waterfalls in the area.