The Ou River is a mirror of shifting colours which reflects the towering hills lining its banks. In the morning these giants are shrouded in mists which reluctantly retreat from the day’s heat and at sunset they become black shadows against a riot of colour. This sleepy town of Nong Khiaw nestled amongst this beauty was the perfect spot for a few days relaxing and taking in the awe-inspiring scenery.
Where we stayed:
The cheapest option for accommodation in Nong Khiaw was 120,000 kip. We stayed one night in a fan bungalow before moving to Meexai Guest House across the bridge which we preferred. The rooms were very clean and the bed was comfortable. The best part was the balcony as we were lucky and had one of the rooms at the end (No 5) that still had a view (unfortunately for the friendly family that run the place another guest house was built in front of them and blocked the view for most of their rooms).
What we did:
- Caves (10,000 kip pp): While not all that impressive themselves, the fact that people survived in them for years during the war was incredible. The scenery surrounding the caves made for a perfect bike ride and there was a swimming pool on the way back in to town.
- View point (20,000 kip pp): On Trip Advisor some reviews state it takes an hour each way whilst others said 1-2 hours. We cannot stress enough how steep this climb was; at times ropes were provided to pull ourselves up. Our advice – give yourself plenty of time, take lots of water, and try to go at a cooler time of day (climbing in 39-degree heat in an attempt to see the sunset is not enjoyable). If attempting in the dark (which we wouldn’t reccomend) you will need a good head torch.
- Sabai Sabai Herbal Steam bath (20,000kip pp): After breathing in the scented steam and drinking herbal tea we felt very revitalised. The hut does look a little run down but do not be put off as it is a refreshing way to spend an hour. They also offer massage services and these rooms are nicely decorated.
- Restaurants (80,000-90,000 kip for two mains at dinner): There were no street food options available and all restaurants were similar in price and quality. For breakfast we liked Delilah’s and for dinner we liked the smaller Indian restaurant next to the busier restaurant next door (this was one of the only places we were welcomed with a smile). There was one bar (Q Bar) which provided a chilled hang out for backpackers.
- We spent a lot of time relaxing and taking in the view, the best guest houses for this are across the river (on the same side as Sabai Sabai).
- Other activities available we did not do due to timing: Various trekking/kayaking trips (approx. $40) and an overnight stay to a nearby village Muang Ngoi where you get the public boat at 11am and return back at 9am the next day (there were no other boats so an overnight stay was the only option).
Tip: Most of the restaurant owners do come across unfriendly and it did make us feel uncomfortable at times which is a shame as the town of Nong Khiaw itself is charming. However, we beleive this is more of a cultural difference than anything else and there are a few places where you feel a bit more welcome.
We took a local minibus from Luang Prabang’s northern bus terminal which cost 40,000 kip per person. It left at 1pm and reached Nong Khiaw at 6pm where we paid 5,000 kip per person for a Tuk Tuk into town. On the way back to Luang Prabang the bus left at 1pm. Alternatively, any travel agent in Luang Prabang can arrange transport for slightly more.
The town is very small so our own two feet did the job. However, a bike can be hired for 10,000 kip per person in order to cycle out to the caves which are about a 45 minute walk away. Tuk Tuks go to and from the bus station for 5,000 kip.
Where To Next?
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