Nong Khiaw

Nong Khiaw (Nong Kiau or Nong Kiew) is a rustic little town on the bank of the Ou River in Laos. It is squeezed in between some of the most fantastic limestone mountains to be found north of Vang Vieng.

Many travellers pass through on the way up river to the even more isolated Muang Ngoi, but Nong Khiaw has a plenty of charm, a decent range of accommodation, plus conveniences like 24 hour electricity and a connection to the road network for those interested in exploring the surrounding area.

Get in

Nong Khiaw is 3-4 hours via road or 6-7 hours by boat from Luang Prabang along the Mekong and Ou Rivers. Boat travel is by far the more spectacular, but more costly.

By bus

The bus station is on the west side of Nong Khiaw about a 10 min walk from the bridge/boat landing, or 5,000 kip by common tuk-tuk. If possible, you should always check times/prices with the bus station ticket office prior to travel. English is spoken. As with all travel in Laos, times are a guideline and you should allow for considerable delays.

To Luang Prabang and Udomxay by songthaew, daily around 09:00 and 11:00. 4+ hr, 40,000 kip

To Luang Prabang by minivan leaving at changing hours, 3+ hr, 50,000 kip

To Luang Namtha you have to take the bus to Udomxay and than change the bus which gives you a quite late arrival in Luang Namtha. It cost 40,000 kip to Udomxay

To Muang Khua or Phongsali you need to go to Udomxay (11:00) as well, change bus

To Vieng Thong and Sam Neua (near Viengxay and Vietnam border) the bus starts originally from Luang Prabang and you have to be on call around 12:30.

The buses seldom run on time and they often leave as soon as they are full as well. Buy your ticket in advance and leave your name! Private minivan to Luang Prabang can cost as low as 500,000 kip especially if drivers have empty returns.

By boat

To Luang Prabang

Important note: this service has seemingly been discontinued due to the construction of a dam on this part of the river. It is strongly advised to verify the existence of this boat before intending to travel this way. Update 14/5/2015: According to Oudomxay's Tourism Office slowboat no longer operates on this route.

You can take a public boat to Luang Prabang. The trip takes approximately 8 hr and costs 110,000 kip per person. Purchase tickets at the office near the boat landing (near the bridge) from 08:00. The boat won't leave until all seats are filled. Reportedly, this is a minimum of 9 persons. If you're lucky it will leave as scheduled at 11:00. The ticket office reportedly keeps a list of wannabe travellers, so see the list to gauge your chances of departure and ask to be put on the list. Take a packed lunch as the boat will only make a few toilet stops at random places along the river and you can't buy supplies.

Alternatively, you can arrange a private boat. Riverside Eco-lodge will arrange it for 1,500,000 kip for the entire boat, or you can ask around. Takes only about 6 hr by private boat (fewer stops and less waiting time), and you can make as many stops as you want on the way.

Muang Ngoi

Boats that go up the river to Muang Ngoi Neua leave regularly in the high season until 15:00. It takes 1 hr and costs 25,000 kip. In low season there is one boat definitively at 09:30 and another at 14:00. Some of the boats continue on to Muang Khua.

The price is 25,000 kip although this might change if not enough people in the boat.

Private boats run for about 300,000-400,000 kip one way, cheaper if the person driving needs to go anyway. Speedboat (30 min only) cost return 400,000 and is more dangerous, but can be quite fun.

Further on the Nam Ou to Muang Khua

The boats leave around 11:00 if there are enough people to fill it. A charter cost about 1,100,000 kip. and takes about 6 hr. Visit the boat landing and pass by a few times to check if there are some/enough people signed up. Speedboats to Muang Khua costs 1,000,000 kip and take only 2.5 hr. Especially the part north of Muang Ngoi is extremely picturesque and worth visiting/cruising through. You can do that also with a day cruise from Muang Ngoi in a small boat.

Remember: In Laos even the public transportation is mostly privately-owned and drivers stand in a queue to grab the next job/drive. So if there is no profit, they won’t go. If travelling alone you might find yourself waiting for the next boat or busload of people to turn up.

Get around

Nong Khiaw is simple in layout and small enough to walk around. It's possible to rent a bike at Riverside Bungalows and Delilah's to explore the 2 roads and surrounding area.

A large concrete road bridge connects Nong Khiaw on the west side of the river with the village of Ban Sop Houn on the east side of the river, where many of the river view bungalows are found.

See

Since Tiger Trail has opened their tour office in Nong Khiaw there is suddenly something more to see. They will take you out for various trips, hikes, river tours, bamboo raft workshop, village stay. A must-see is the 100 waterfalls jungle hike already featured on a TV show. Daily tours seem to run with minimum 2 persons. It gets more affordable with 3-5 people joining.

Do

Buy

The few small shops on the main street cater more for locals than tourists, and offer little more than basic necessities.

Mini-mart near the bridge on the west side.

Money can be changed near the boat landing - Youth travel agency or over the Bridge at Riverside Guest House. Riverside can also offer cash advances on credit cards.

Eat

Drink

Cold Beerlao is served everywhere in local restaurants. The small shops sell cheap but decent Lao Lao in unlabelled bottles.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Connect

The Nong Kiau Riverside and Coco Bar have Internet for a small fee. The speed can be very slow. Most restaurants have free Wi-Fi.

Go next

North of Nong Khiaw one hour by boat is Muang Ngoy Kao or Old Muang Ngoi, a backpackers favourite with no road access or electricity and a backpacker vibe, with village treks nearby, then north by boat to Moung Khua and Phongsali for hill tribes.

Connections to Luang Prabang by local bus and minibus, and possibly boat if there is a 3-day tour group; bus connections to Udomxai.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.