Nong Khiaw is a village on the banks of the Nam Ou river in Northern Laos, located around some stunning mountainous scenery. With the karst limestone it has little similarity with Vang Vieng – but with a much more relaxed atmosphere.
It is a popular place for tourists who want to experience rural Laos. The village itself is very nice, a bridge connecting the two parts separated y the river. In the northern part you find mainly the homes of the locals, the boat landing, a bank and several shops, while the southern part is mainly the tourist areas full of guesthouses and food places. From the bridge itself you can view stunning sunsets – or you can watch it while sitting at the bar next to the bridge while sipping a cold Beer Lao.
From here you can do several outdoor activities like trekking or kayaking, or just hiring a scooter or a bicycle to explore the beautiful surroundings. But the place also invites for some relaxation time.
The proximity to Luang Prabang makes Nong Khiaw to a great place to add to any itinerary for northern Laos. There is a variety of accommodation and good food is served here. Next to the bridge is an ATM, and there is another ATM next to the bank on the northern side of the village.
Arrival / Departure
Buses from Luang Prabang and Uudomxai do not stop necessarily in Nong Khiaw but at the bus station in Pak Mong. A 40 minute ride with a songthaew brings you then to Nong Khiaw. Minibuses for onward travel might start from Nong Khiaw itself.
Buses to Luang Namtha take around 6-7 hours, to Oudomxai around 4 hours, and to Luang Prabang 3-4 hours.
In the past it was possible to get from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang by boat, following the Nam Ou river and the Mekong. It was a great way to travel, but due to the construction if a dam a direct journey is no longer possible. However, you might be able to organise a boat trip up to the dam, the do a short Tuk Tuk ride, and then continue the journey from the side of the dam to Luang Prabang. I have no experience with this new trip though.
From Nong Khiaw you can still head do the 1-hour boat journey to Muang Ngoi or even further north to Muang Khuau, however these boats only leave when enough people sharing a boat – or when you pay the right price.
I stayed at the Mee Xai Bungalow, on the southern part of the village.
There are several accommodations located directly at the river, some are slightly behind. here is a rather luxurious bungalow complex on the south east side of the town along the river, Nong Khiau Riverside.
When arriving by songthaew you might get approached by some guesthouse owners. They can be very pushy, best advise is to avoid them and either head to your pre-booked accommodation, or check the various places first.
Food & Drinks
For such a small place there is a good variety of food on offer in Nong Khiaw.
There is a Indian restaurant south of the bridge serving great dishes for a low price. Highly recommended to visit it.
Following the road south there is the Sabai Sabai restaurant on the right hand side that serves a nice hot pot in a nice setting.
Opposite of the Indian restaurant is a place that serves good lunch – and equally important they have comfortable pillow seats and hammocks to relax as well.
The food at restaurant directly at the bridge didn’t look too good, but it is a good place to have a beer while watching the sun set.
What to do
The village itself is quickly explored, but still worthwhile
Tiger Trail and Green Discovery, who both have offices north of the bridge, offer treks and kayaking. Tiger Trail was the only one that offered trips to the 100 waterfalls that were only discovered back in 2010.
A great way to explore the area is hiring a bicycle or a motorbike to explore the surround areas. Here are more information about a potential trip.
A highlight is watching the sunset from the bridge. It offers plenty of good photography opportunities.