The North of Laos


Global Mark : 13.66 (down)

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


5 5 1 1 4 1 5 2 4 12.44

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
23 96%(22) 87% (20) 100% 5 to 19 14.87

Description :
A village by the Nam Ou River, surrounded by mountains and caves. 

Comments : The main street is a basically a succession of houses, guesthouses and small shops until you reach the school but it is a nice one and the setting is really gorgeous. 

What to do ? Say wow at the scenery / Experience the countryside's life / Meet the farm (turkeys, roosters, pigs, ducks,...) / Just on the other side of the bridge, go up to a small temple for images of hell or go down to a small sand area where kids like to play / Wonder on the number of kids per family as the villages are full of them / Relax by a water stream / Accept flowers from kids / Walk the paddy fields / Climb a bamboo ladder to a big cave / Watch fishermen / 

What you may not like ? The "sabaidy kip, pen, candy, bag or even gold ring" kids / Being asked any of the above after getting the flowers / The posters warning you about lethal forgotten mines or other explosive devices (stick to the paths !) / Not having light in your room / The expensive boats / The dirty sand beach /

How long ? Couple of days

Where to stay ? Electricity is usually on from 6 to 9 or 10pm. All the guesthouses have light but some outside the rooms only...

  • Phayboun GH, first guesthouse on the road coming from Pak Mong / Rooms with electric bulb K10,000 / Shower / Go there for the OK rooms or if the bus drop you there and you are lazy to walk...
  • Philasouk GH, next to the bridge / OK rooms K10,000 / Shower / Go there for the view on the river from some of the rooms / What you may not like : the lack of smiles, some rooms with shared light, the noisy generator 
  • ® Manipoon GH, the first one on the village street / Nice room w. light K10,000 / Free tea / HW on request / Go there for the best rooms in town / What you may not like : the poor attached monkey, the light switch off before the announced time, the road noise, the bad exchange rate when paying in Baht (change in the opposite shop)
  • Sanhty GH, on the left, just after the above, opposite the village TV-cinema / Very small & basic rooms with no light K8,000 : not a bargain !
  • Somgnot GH, on the left / Very basic rooms with mattress on the floor K5,000 / Go there for the cheapest rooms with light / What you may not like : sharing the light with another room, the water bottle "decoration"
  • ® Sainamou GH, by the river, near the boat pier / Room w. light K7,000 / Go there for the relative isolation, the nice view from some of the rooms or the restaurant / What you may not like : the basic rooms
  • Vandy GH, back on the village road, on the left next to the road down to the pier / Basic rooms without light K10,000 (1) or K15,000 (2) / Very expensive for what you get !
  • Phosai GH, after the school, 10mn walk from the bridge / Small & basic rooms without light K5,000 (1) K7,000 (2) or K10,000 (3) / Go there for the relative isolation in a nice part of the village / What you may not like : the bad mattress 
  • Soon to come : Boupha GH, after the school and the above / Promised features include dorm bed (3) for K4,000 and Sgl for K8,000. Check it out ! 

Backpacker's Tips : Stefan Westerheide, Germany (Jan 05)
« Bamboo Paradise GH (basic bungalow,clean,friendly,mn and a rat running around at night for free) 1.5 $ good value. Best place to stay is Sunset GH, good food there, but very arrogant owners, since they often have tour groups they don´t seem to care much about other travellers. Nice place for a day, but if you´re short of time better go directly to Muang Ngoi/Luang Prabang. Bus to Luang Prabang 3.5 h, 2 $, good road.»

Where to eat ?
At Boupha Restaurant, next to the school where "Papa" & "Mama" take their time to prepare good big dishes. They also have a map of the area and a daughter with a guesthouse at old Muang Ngoi.

Bank ? The nearest is on the way to Pak Mong, about an hour away 

A nice walk around ? This is the idea of coming here : explore the area on foot ! You could ask at the above restaurant for ideas or trek up the mountain or just do the following : Back on the road, cross the bridge and walk about 30mn passing small villages until you see high caves holes on the right shack with a bamboo ladder. There is a small path going down to the river. You actually need to follow the river upstream a bit until you can cross it and access the rice paddies. After visiting the big but not so nice cave, continue as long as you wish toward other villages & rice paddies fields. But do not forget to come back before dark ! On the way toward Pak Mong, a small cave can also be spotted next to the road after about 20mn walk (10mn from the north extremity of the village road)

Backpacker's Tips : Chayut Pihakaendr, Thailand (Jan 04)
« I only stayed here only acouple of days I think the surrounding is beautiful by mountain but the road is very dusty . Fortunately , when I was there they already have all night electricity from Vientiane since 2002 so don’t worry about the light and I stayed at sunset Gh on the river bank across the bridge and then follow the sign along the road / 15000k / one bungalow with a lillte bacolny / outside toilet and bathroom with cold water . I think it is good with this price .
In the town has no bank so I couldn’t exchange any dollar but there is one post office near the bus station
Goto Part Hark Cave cross the bridge walk along the road it costs 5000 K only cave for tourist in this town .I didn’t go there myself but some traveller told me about it
Boat Schedule In Nong Khiaw Daily
Nong Khiaw -- Muang Ngoi 10.00 – 15.00 hourly or when it packed / 10000 K
Nong Khwai -- Luang Prabang when it has enough 6 people costs 100000 / each otherwise you pay 900000 for your own
Nong Khwai – Muang Khua when it has enough 6 people costs 50000 / each / slow boat or 57000 / speed boat this boat on the way to Phongsali
Bus Schedule in Nong Khiaw Daily
There are 3 truck a day to Luang Prabang the first one leave at 8.30 with a van others is truck . The fare costs 16000 k each
If you want to go to Oudomxai it costs 24000 / 6 person or you can go to Pakmong for interchange bus to Oudomxai it always comes every 2 hrs from Oudomxai you can go everywhere in the north.
I think Nong Khiaw is one of the most beautiful scenery in Laos but only thing I didn’t like the dusty road others is nice.  »

Backpacker's Tips : Peter Christiaen, Belgium (March 02)
« Sleepy place. Not much to do, but I liked the place for a while. / Hotel : Somgnot Guesthouse : 10.000 kip; room without light; collective Chinese toilet and cold shower. Very nice people running the place. / Bus to Luang Prabang (14.000 kip; 3 hours + 3 hours waiting for the pick up to leave)

Backpacker's Tips : Tam Chiwai, Hong Kong (Sept 00)
 Nothing particular to do here but the atmosphere is great. Couple of caves nearby you can visit. Or swim in the gentle Nam Ou river. Hitching in the river is fun : when you see the kids rolling their small boat , wave at them and make them know that you want to go to that direction. They will come over and give you a lift.  

 << Discover three aspects of Nong Khiaw

Leave Nong Khiaw ? 

The best way would be to take a slow boat upriver to Muang Khua (K240.000 per boat or K30.000 per people if enough, 6 hours) or downriver to Luang Prabang (K520.000 per boat or K65.000 per people if enough, 6 hours) but the prices & min people requirements might prevent you from doing so. Note that it cost only K43.000 per people (and that boat accept to leave with a few passengers only) to go upriver from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw. 
The village also resonate from time to time with the noise of speed boats but those are coming from Luang Prabang or Muang Khua and seem to cater to tourists only.
To experience the river without spending too much, go relax at old Muang Ngoi, 1 hour & K7.000 away. For this price, you need about 10 people or to wait for the regular boat.
Otherwise, tuk-tuk regularly go to Pak Mong (K6000) from where you can connect with a bus or truck going to Udomxai (K10000) or Luang Prabang (K8500). Direct bus or tuk-tuk also go to Luang Prabang for K11000.

Backpacker's Tips : Ariel Matzner, Israel (Dec 04)
« When you got enough relax in Mong Ngoi, get back to Nong Khiew eary in the morning, catch a truck to Vieng Thong ($5.-), the trip is an experience itself, beautyful scenery and lovely villages by the way. Spend the night there, and after taking a walk over the market, buy some stuff for the road, and get at 7:00 another truck to Nam Noen ($3.-), from there you can get to Phonsavan to see the magnificent Jars on an amazing background or if you have a lot of time go north to Xam Nua to see some cave and more remote villages. From Phnosavan you have direct buses to Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang or Vientiane  »

Bus Schedules : 

To Price Road Duration Time Nb Freq.
Pak Mong B30 ok 1h15 day a few hour
Luang Prabang B55 good 3.5 8/10-12/14-15 3 na
Vieng Kham B75 ? 2 12 1 every two days

Notes : From Pak Mong to Udomxai (B50, 3 hrs) or Luang Prabang (2.5 hrs) / To Luang Prabang, also a few tuk-tuk / To Vieng Kham, coming from Luang Prabang then returning there

The Trip to Old Muang Ngoi : SSSS / everywhere / B35 / 2 hours / Slow boat
Having been told that the boat would leave at 7am, we showed up at 6:30. Too early : we realized after all that there would not be any boat before 8 and we were too few to charter one (K70.000). Fortunately, more travelers showed up an hour later : we were 9 totally and all paid the K7000. Could we expect to leave soon ? Off course not : they wanted 10 foreigners and not a single less. Could they not take locals with us ? Apparently no : we were explained that it would be a foreigners trip. Some of us were willing to pay the additional K7000 but half the group preferred to wait. At the time we had decided to pay anyway, we were told that the boat would leave soon. It was 9:15 already and it took another fifteen minutes for the boat to fill up with local people who suddenly appeared from nowhere. And so we left, on a nice river cruise (at least if not sitting next to the engine) that was supposed to take 1 hour but took two as we stopped a long time next to a village for a special delivery...

The Trip to Luang Prabang : SSS / L&R / B55 / 3.5 hrs / Tuk-Tuk
A Tuk-Tuk to Luang Prabang was waiting for passengers at the pier when I came back from old Muang Ngoi. It was really packed with bags but people also managed to fit in. The road was holy until Pak Mong then real smooth... And of course, the scenery was worth staying awake. Some things fortunately never change... 
The North bus station is about 2km out of Luang Prabang but, being told 6km, I boarded a very slow motorcycle taxi for K2000. After 10mn, I arrived at a full guesthouse...

See also to Phonsavan (by Sarah, USA)

See also the trip from Old Muang Ngoi