After spending nearly a week in this remote Laotian village of the Luang Prabang Province, I fell in love with Nong Khiaw. Straddling the Nam Ou River and connected by a single bridge, Nong Khiaw is completely surrounded by sheer mountains covered in lush tropical forests.
While most of the very few tourists that come here participate in the 100 Waterfalls Trek, there is plenty more to see and do. If nothing else, take a few days to chill out along the Nam Ou river.
Learn about travel to Nong Khiaw, recommendations on where to stay and eat, and so much more below.
Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw Boat
While we really wanted to take a slow boat from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw, this unfortunately isn’t possible anymore. Due to construction of multiple new Chinese dams along the Mekong and Nam Ou River, long distance boat trips are not longer possible.
Instead, the best way to get from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw is either by van, bus, or motorbike. An air-conditioned van will cost you 65,000 kip ($7.50 USD). Although Google Maps says the drive to Nong Khiaw will take 3 hours, expect it to take over 4 hours since, well… everything takes longer in Laos.
As far as motorbikes are concerned, the cheapest motorbike you can find in Luang Prabang is around 70,000 kip per day for a Scoopy. The road is mostly paved, but there are some stretches of dirt where it can get muddy, especially during rainy season. You’ll probably want to rent a proper motorbike to make the trip.
Pha Daeng Peak Viewpoint in Nong Khiaw
The highlight of my Nong Khiaw travels was climbing to the top of the Pha Daeng Peak viewpoint. While the sign in front of the trailhead claims that it only take 1 hour to get to the top and 45 minutes the descend back down, I’d double this estimate unless you don’t plan on stopping for a break.
Regardless of how long it takes you to ascend to the top, the sweat and effort are well worth it. Your first glimpse of the 360 degree view down below is stunning to say the least.
How to Get to Pha Daeng Peak Trailhead
If you type “Pha Daeng Peak” into Google Maps, you’ll be taken up north along the Nam Ou river. This is the wrong direction. You need to start your hike at the Nong Khiaw Viewpoint Trail Entrance and Ticket Office.
The price of a Pha Daeng Peak ticket is 20,000 kip ($2.30 USD) per person in 2019.
In all honesty, the trail is well maintained and worth every penny. There are multiple trash cans along the trail, lots of bamboo hand rails, and climbing ropes. The ground is even carved into steps in a lot of places. In addition to a large wooden hut at the summit, you’ll find multiple benches along the trail for resting.
100 Waterfalls Trek
Although one of the main reasons we went to Nong Khiaw was for the 100 waterfalls trek, we ended up not doing it.
We opted out primarily because we were exhausted from the Pha Daeng Peak hike the day before, but probably more of a deterrent for us was the nightmare stories from recent 100 waterfalls trekkers about leeches. This was in July, but I’m sure other parts of the year don’t have this leech problem.
At the same time, I also heard fantastic stories about the 100 Waterfalls trek. Here’s a description about the 100 waterfalls one day trek from a Tiger Trail marketing flyer.
This tour starts with a 1 hour boat ride down the Nam Ou to the small village where the 100 waterfalls was first explored. Spend the next 3.5 hours trekking through some stunning scenery and up to the 100 waterfalls. After looking around the 100 waterfalls, we go to a Khmu village, famous for its Lao rice whisky. We take a boat back visiting another Khmu Lao village and the Pha Tok caves cave where they stayed during war.
There seems to be a bitter competition as to which tour company was the first tour company to find the 100 waterfalls. Both Nong Khiaw Aventures Travel (located at the end of the main road) and Tiger Trail (a few doors down) claim to be the first tour company to find the 100 waterfalls around 2008. From a tourist perspective, it doesn’t really matter who was first. I only bring this up because it rubbed me the wrong way during the sales pitches I heard.
100 Waterfalls Trek Price
The last thing I’ll mention here is about the 100 waterfalls tour pricing. I really dislike how these Nong Khiaw tour companies structure their prices based on the number of people who sign up. For example, if it’s just you and your travel buddy, you’ll pay 300,000 kip ($35 USD) each for a one day 100 waterfalls tour, whereas if 7 other people sign up for the same day, you’ll only pay 200,000 kip ($23 USD) each.
For this reason, you’ll see lots of chalkboard signs outside of the many tour companies in Nong Khiaw declaring how many people have signed up for the various tours that they offer.
Best Place to Eat in Nong Khiaw
After trying a couple other Nong Khiaw restaurants including Sengdao Chittavong and Joy’s, we ended up eating probably 75% of our meals at Coco Home Bar & Restaurant during our 5 day stay.
Not only was all the food delicious, but prices were cheap, and the staff was friendly. We especially liked the owner, Sebastian, who was super nice. He event let us take our beer and wine down to enjoy along the river.
Not to say that the laap wasn’t good (because it certainly was), but a highlight was definitely breakfast for me. Breakfast comes with a baguette, muesli, yogurt, fruit, butter, jam, orange juice, and tea for 45,000 kip or just over $5 USD.
While you don’t have to eat here for every meal like I did, I recommend that you at least stop by as you pass through Nong Khiaw.
Nong Khiaw Bridge
A focal point of Nong Khiaw is the bridge. The bridge connects the more populous western side of Nong Khiaw to the opposite side where most tourists stay. The bridge was built in 1964 as a gift from China.
We calculated the height of the Nong Khiaw bridge by hocking a loogie off the bridge. It took on average 3.65 seconds for our spit to hit the water. By using one of the four kinematic equations of physics, we can determine that the Nong Khiaw bridge is around 65 meters tall.
Maybe more interesting than spitting off the bridge is how the youth of Nong Khiaw use the bridge at night to socialize. Take a stroll across the bridge after sunset and you’ll find different groups of kids and teenagers posted up under various light posts. Some groups will be chatting and drinking while others will be on their cell phones.
Where to Stay in Nong Khiaw
We stayed five nights at Sunrise Guesthouse in Nong Khiaw. Kampi, who showed us our room, was such a jolly old man. He couldn’t speak a lick of English, but still managed to greet us and put a smile on or faces every time we crossed paths.
Sunrise Guesthouse has both rooms with and without air conditioning. We opted for a room with A/C. A non-A/C room will probably run you 50,000 kip or less.
Our room had good air-conditioning. The only complaint was the bathroom water had a weird smell to it, and the hammock on the deck was ripped. But for 110,000 kip per night, this was a much better deal than the bungalows a bit up the river at Nong Kiau Riverside which was over twice as expensive.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about Nong Khiaw or Northern Laos in general.