A great way to explore the area is hiring a bicycle. There are quite a few places throughout Nong Khiaw to get one – I would advise to get a mountain bike, as the road is not flat…it goes up, down, a bit steeper up, and down again (at one point the hill is so steep it is better to push your bike…I just followed the lead of the locals). But the road si paved all the way.
When following the main road south the usual first place to stop is Pathok Cave, around 3 miles from NK. It was actually closed for H&S (I really wonder what a place must be like that it is closed for H&S in Laos!!!), but you can walk into the Bank Cave next “door”. Bring a torch along, and it might be worthwhile using the guide. If you have the choice, get the older man who usually stands next to the bridge (aka a tree branch over the river). It is interesting to explore the cave, that was used as the local bank when the locals had to hide from the bombs dropped by the US during the secret war. It is difficult to understand that the locals had to live that way for a few years. Some bomb crates around the caves showed the reason.
Following the road you pass some nice little villages and and viewpoints that offer amazing views over the other limestone cliffs and mountains (beautiful when the sunset starts slowly), and kids waving at you all the time.
If you need a break or if you are hungry you find some little shops and even food place along the road where you can get water or a nice Pho for lunch.
People might tell you about a waterfall nearby – but it is actually just a small rapid. So do not look out for a spectacular big waterfall – unless you want to look like a fool like me!
Overall it is a nice day trip to explore the great surroundings of Nong Khiaw – though using a bicycle is hard work. Getting a scooter might be a better options when it is very hot.
However, either way you can easily explore the surrounding areas for a few days.