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Nong Khiaw

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Nong Khiaw

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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 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 suchas 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 the road or 6-7 hours by boat from Luang Prabang along the Mekong and Ou River. Boat travel is by far the most spectacular but more costly.

Buses from Udomxay are scheduled 3 times daily (3-4 hours) to Nong Khiaw but may not run on time, or at all, during the low season (depending on passenger numbers). It is possible to negotiate a fare on either the Vang Vieng or Luang Prabang bound bus and disembark at Pak Mong (where the highway turns south). From here a tuk-tuk will take you the last hour or so to Nong Khiaw for around 30,000 kip per person.

Buses from Nong Khiaw: The bus/minivan station in Nong Khiaw is on the edge of town on the western side of the river.

To Luang Prabang and Udomxay run daily at around 09:00 & 11:00 price 40,000 Kip. 4 hrs.+ - To Luang Prabang by Minivan leaving at changing hours and costs 50,000 kip per person. 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 run hardly ever on time. 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.

Get around

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

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


Since Tiger Trail has opened their tour office in Nong Khiaw there is suddenly something more to see. They will bring you out for various trips, hikes, river tours, bamboo raft workshop, village stay. A must see is the newly discovered 100 waterfalls jungle hike. Daily tours seem to run with min. 2 persons. It gets more affordable with 3-5 people joining. Some of the tours can be found online. [1]

  • Pha Tok Caves, (about 2km outside town on the far side of the river from the boat landing and bus station). This cave set high in a limestone cliff sheltered villagers and Pathet Lao fighters during the Second Indochina war. The caves are accessed via steep concrete steps, and inside a few signs identify points where command posts were stationed. Entrance fees are collected at the bottom where you can also borrow a torch. The trail to the cave passes through many rice paddies and a small section of jungle. If you ask the people at the "ticket desk", you should be able to arrange a boat ride back to Nong Khiaw from a local. For 2 people in the very small canoe type longtail boats that can seat max 2 people plus driver the price is around 50,000 kip. 5,000 kip.

Be careful with "guides" who try to show you the second (there is 2 caves there) cave after you visit by yourself the first one. He will ask to you tips (50'000-80'000kip) for is help (that you don't need for sure). To see the second cave by yourself take the little pass at your left when you are at the entry of the first one.


Walk around the village enjoying the village feel with great views over the Nam Ou river.

Walk or bicycle on the dirt road behind the Riverside resort for some scenic views and nature.

Rated one of the best hikes in Laos is the is the "100 Waterfalls" trek operated by Tiger Trail and Fair trek initiative [2] [3] Some of thier treks go to the interactive culture lodge.

Go rock climbing or abseiling with Nong Kiau Climbing [4]. Kayaking, cycling and trekking also possible.

  • Green Discovery Laos [5] is Laos' pioneer in Adventure Travel and Ecotourism since 2000. They offer far more than 100 unique tour programs all around the country, involving trekking, kayaking/rafting, cycling and rock climbing.

Phone Travel is the only tour agency in town run by local people. Located just in front of Sabai Sabai massage. They can organize a range of activities and treks. Recommended are the bamboo rafting (one day) and the trek to Sop Jam village with Mr Mang as your guide (2 or 3 days).

Rent a mountain bike and push eastwards to remote Khmu and Hmong villages. Riverside Guest House rents mountain bikes for 50,000 kip and city bikes for 10,000 kip.

Go for a herbal steam bath or massage at Sabai Sabai


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

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.

  • New Bank in Nong Khiaw. In March 2012 a new bank opened on the main street in Nong Khiaw, it offers good exchange rates., accepts Traveller's cheques and there is an ATM in front of the bank. There is also a BCEL ATM by the east end of the bridge, near the Riverside resort turnoff.


  • CT Bakery, (next to the bridge on the opposite side of the river from the bus station and boat landing). offers fine views from its riverside terrace and WiFi access. Lao coffee here is particularly good.
  • Delilah's, (on the main street just before the bridge). Offers a selection of everything home made including ice cream, bread, soups and salads. No MSG or additives used. Laos western fusion cuisine with a creative twist. Free WiFi access for customers. May 2012: closed up with dust...
  • Deen restaurant, (100m after the bridge on the right), (856-20)22148895. Indian- lao , very good food, and WiFi access. Added internet cafe.
  • Mackana, (across from Deen Restaurant). Has both Lao and Western food, including a whole page of German breakfasts (which the menu says they learned from a German friend). Nice sandwiches, but be careful if ordering "tofu" that you actually get tofu and not meat. Also, with the advertised cappuccino containing an expresso shot with fresh local milk - while it does have nice froth, is actually a packet mix.
  • Nong Kiau Riverside Eco-lodge, (on the Eastern side of the river (across the bridge from the post office)). Offers very good Laos, Asian, and Western food. Beautiful view over the river. Prices a little higher than other restaurants nearby.
  • Sabai Sabai, ((In front of the Wat)). A selection of Local Laos foods in a nice atmospheric setting.
  • Sengdao Restaurant. (beside the bridge on the western side). Hot & cold drinks from 5000kip, mainly Laos food. Average price for food is 20,000kip.
  • Sunset Restaurant. Reasonable prices for the food, and river view
  • Vinag Restaurant.
  • Morning Dew Restaurant. (80m down the road from the bridge ,just past the Wat) Excellent Lao and Western food at cheap prices . Open for breakfast through to dinner . Made to order baguettes, Lao coffee and cold beer also on offer .Friendly English speaking owner "Dith" is a great source of local info .

Vongmany Restaurant - Awesome food and a very good value. The chef learned how to cook from her grandmother as a child and learned modern techniques from a Luang Prabang culinary academy. The only Happy Hour in Nong Khiaw, with some good food and drink specials.

  • NoyMany, (Your first right turn after crossing the bridge). Exceptionally clean restaurant offering gorgeous views of the surrounding limestone kasts. Huge menu with authentic Lao options and international cuisine. The mango sticky rice and Laap are well prepared and taste excellent. 20000k.


Cold Beer Laos are served everywhere in local restaurants. The small shops sell cheap but decent Lao Lao in unlabeled bottles, probably homemade.

  • Coco Home Bar & Restaurant. 8am - 10:30pm. Bar & restaurant serving authentic Thai and Western dishes by Thai chef. Full range of cocktails, mixers and shots. Movies shown at 8am, 12pm & 6pm everyday on big balcony with river-mountain views. Two raised chill out huts and a comfy hideaway inside. Free WIFI, satellite TV, message board and blankets available.



HoboMap has a good map listing all guesthouses here:

  • Bamboo Paradise - has both rooms and bungalows with private hot showers. Bungalows have river view. Low season (June 2012) price 30,000. Free WiFi. Basic restaurant. Mind that the rooms have no bars on the windows and the mosquito net can easily be removed so take care of your cash.
  • Lin Tong Guesthouse - After the bridge 100m on the right. Mobile: +856 205 437 7098 or +856 9 813 3308. Value bungalows, close to all the restaurants. Friendly owners, English and French spoken. 40,000 kip bungalow (shared bathrooms, 70,000 kip bungalow (inside bathrooms).
  • Meexai Bungalows - cheap guesthouse on the eastern side. Free WiFi. Bungalows were 70,000 kip in Feb 2012 and the WiFi was not working. Friendly owner.
  • Nam Houn Guesthouse - guesthouse on the eastern side, has river view bungalows . Some with attached bathrooms with hot shower from 40,000 kip in the low season
  • Nam Ou River Lodge - [6] Guesthouse opened in April 2012 is located behind the town's school between the boat landing and the bus station. It is run by Mr Mang, the 'discoverer' of the 100 waterfalls trek and he speaks English very well. Wonderful river views from this guesthouse. 80,000 kip with a private bathroom. Free Wifi. Small bar with food opportunities, and possible to plug in your own mp3-player.
  • Sunrise Bungalows, (Next to the bridge on the eastern side). Solidly-built wooden bungalows with hammocks offer great river views, although the attached bathrooms are rather primitive. Run by a very friendly older couple, they are never to shy for a short chat. 30,000 to 60,000 kip.
  • Sunset Guesthouse - on the eastern side. Basic rooms at 50,000 kip, bungalows with private bath at 150,000 kip. Food quality varies depending on who is making it. 100,000 kip for bungalows with private bath in low season, as of June 2012.
  • Phulisak Guesthouse - on the eastern side. All rooms at 50,000 kip (October 2012) all with private bath, TV, wifi in room & fan only. Rooms are bright & clean. Water (hot & cold) is available for free. No food is supplied here but there are three restaurants within 1 minute. Not much of a view but this is an excellent cheap option.

Mid range

  • Nong Kiau Riverside [7] - Along the river on the eastern side. Overlooking the river, it's the best upmarket choice, featuring big bungalows with kettle, private balcony, deckchairs and attached bathrooms with hot water. Rooms at 240,000 (single)- 350,000 (double) kip including breakfast (eggs, baguette, jam, fruits, tea/coffee). Free wifi access in the restaurant area. Rents mountain bikes, and can set up a range of transportation or tour options. Great restaurant.


Some restaurants and guest houses offer WiFi internet connections. The Nong Khiaw Riverside and Coco Bar have internet computers for a small fee. The speed can be very slow.

Get out

North of Nong Khiaw one hour by boat one finds Muang Ngoy Kao or Old Muang Ngoi, a backpackers favourite with no road access and electricity and a real village feel. Also see the GET IN section for more information.

By Bus

The bus station is located on the west part of Nong Khiaw about a 10 minute walk from the bridge/boat landing. 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 delay.

  • Udomxai - 11am, 40,000 kip, 4 hours.
  • Luang Prabang - 3-4 a day, 80,000 kip, hours.
  • Sam Neua - 1 a day (11:30), takes 10-11 hours, 130,000 kip.

Private minivan service available by a local named Mang, who speaks English well. Ask any of the expats or restaurant owners and they can give you his phone number. A trip to Luang Namtha costs around 160,000 kip per person person and takes about 6-7 hours. Prices negotiable. It seemed that he would be willing to drive just about anywhere.

By Boat

You can take a public boat to Luang Prabang; the trip takes approximately 8 hours and costs 110,000 kip per person. Purchase tickets at the office near the boat landing (near the bridge). The boat won't leave until all seats are filled - either 12 or 18. As of mid-April, the boat left at 11:00. Alternatively, you can arrange a private boat. Riverside Eco-lodge will arrange it for 1.5 million kip for the entire boat, or you can ask around. Takes only about 6 hours by private boat which makes fewer stops with less waiting time, and you can make as many stops as you want on the way.

Boats that go up the river to Muang Ngoi Neua leave regularly in the high season until 15:00 –takes 1 hour costs 25,000 kip. In low season there is one boat definitively at 9:30 and another at 14:00. Some of the boats continue to Muang Khua

Boats on the Nam Ou: To Muang Ngoi the public boats leaves around 11.00 and around 14:00. The price is around 25.000 kip. Private boats coat 300,000-400,000 kip one way, but can be cheaper if the person driving needs to go anyway. Speedboat (30 min. only) cost return 400,000 and is more dangerous. To Luang Prabang Public boats are not so common but normally start at 11:00-12:00The road offers a much faster way to go but less interesting. A private boat down to Luang Prabang (6-7 hours) would cost about 1 to 1.3 million kip. It’s recommended to get a small group together and share the cost as the trip is worth it. You can leave your name at the boat station! If it runs like a public boat you are supposed to pay around 150,000 Kip per person (4 times the price of a public Minivan) In high season there are normally enough people to go. Speedboat to LPB costs 1 million kip and takes 2.5 hrs. (up to 6 persons)

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 1.1 million kio, and takes about 6 hours. Visit the boat landing and pass by a few times to check if there are some/enough people. Speedboats to Muang Khua costs 1 million kip and, and takes 2.5 hours. 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 be waiting for the next boat or busload of people to turn up.

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