Trekking Around Nong Khiaw, Laos

Spectacular Nong Khiaw offers some of the most amazing trekking in Laos…

trekking, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia

Where is Nong Khiaw?

If you find yourself in Luang Namtha, then travelling by minibus to Nong Khiaw takes around 6 hours and is not too difficult.

Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia

Nong Khiaw is a gorgeous small village on the banks of the Nam Our River in northern Laos.

Hemmed in by incredible and imposing limestone mountains, Nong Khiaw is a photographer’s delight!

Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Room with a view

Nong Khiaw

My separate article on Nong Khiaw provides a little background on this gorgeous area, but also where to sleep and eat during your stay.

Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia

Nong Khiaw is in the Luang Prabang Province, which really is an incredibly beautiful part of Laos.

Boat Trips

The guide books’ promote many boat trips that whizz up and down the Nam Ou River. Make no mistake, these trips are on a well-worn trail.

Another great boat trip leaves from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang through some of the most spectacular scenery in Laos. But alas, Power China is building the ugly, monstrous, and contentious dam around 2 hours by boat from Nong Khiaw, which cuts this passage and the river in half.

Tour companies are charging more than 1,900,000K for a boat to the dam, then a 5-minute shuttle bus across to the other side, to then pick up another boat for the remaining journey to Luang Prabang. The whole river journey takes 6 hours although, by bus, the journey only takes 3 hours.

Nam Ou River day boat

For something a little different, you can still hire a boat that will take you to the dam. The boat owner waits for you to walk around for an hour before returning to Nong Khiaw.

The benefit of this trip is not to see the ugly dam, but to see the spectacular scenery and river life, as locals still live along the river. Leaving Nong Khiaw, the scenery just becomes more amazing until reaching around half an hour out from the dam. This is when the scenery changes dramatically as deforestation devastates the surrounding mountains – so tragic.

Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
River views

This dam is affecting the Khmu (indigenous people) and many ethnic groups that live directly on or near Nam Ou. One local advises that the river will rise by 4-5 metres following the dam’s completion. For obvious reasons, no one is providing locals with actual figures yet but in effect, much of Nong Khiaw’s riverside buildings would go under.

Chinese dam, Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Contentious Chinese dam

To put this into perspective, take a look at my photo (below) where the man is standing on the steps, then look further up to when you just see steps through the trees. This point, which is also close to the ticket office is about where the new river level would rise to…scary thought?

Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Steps to the ticket office for all boats up and down the Nam Ou

With the plan containing 72 new large dams, 12 of which are under construction and nearly 25 at advanced planning stages, this has either happened or is happening everywhere in Laos.

Let’s be clear, in Laos, there are no or very minimal environmental studies undertaken before building the dams. The mighty dollar speaks all languages.

Our boat driver…

As you hire the whole boat, try and rope in more people to split the cost. Bargain hard with the β€œofficial” ticket seller at the jetty office. We found out later that he ripped us off while delivering his flashing smile.

During the boat trip, the elderly boat driver (who doesn’t speak English) asks several times about the cost of our ticket and then motioned to see the tickets. On arrival at the dam, he draws in the sand how much we should have paid (we paid 650,000K but believe the price should be 500,000K to 550,000K). He seems quite agitated that we are overcharged, motioning with his head and hands that this is not good. Keeping our ticket he motions that he’ll go to the ticket office.

Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Untouched beauty

In my naivety, I honestly thought that he was going to try to get some money back for us although, on our return, he says goodbye. I now realise that he’s angry about not getting his correct cut of the higher ticket price and now with our ticket as proof, can confront the ticket seller.

How do I come to this conclusion, you ask? Because on our return, the driver raced past us to the ticket office before it closed but didn’t ask us to come along. Also, during the return trip, the driver asks if he can pick up a couple of villagers that wave him down in the distance. As we hired the whole boat, it’s up to us to agree, even though he changes course to approach the villagers, regardless of our decision.

Agreeing and assuming they hitched a lift with us – happy to give locals a lift – the two passengers thank us for the ride and stay with us until just before docking at Nong Khiaw.

To my surprise, when they get off, they hand money over to the boat driver. He’s annoyed as this is not enough and asks both passengers for more then pockets the money! I have no idea what he charged the villagers. Wanting to give the villagers a free ride, the driver had other ideas for making extra cash on this trip. Everyone is a businessman in Laos and nothing is free.

Day boat and trek to remote villages and waterfall

After reading much about the ‘100 Waterfalls’ day-tour and seeing the numerous tourist boats leaving from the boat jetty every day bound on this journey, decide to do a different and hopefully quieter tour away from the crowds.

The only locally-run company selling tickets is Nongkhiaw Adventure (previously Phone Travel Nong Khiaw) for 6 people on the tour at 200,000K per passenger, at the time of writing in 2014.

Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Breathtaking vistas

The tour provides an English-speaking local guide as a substitute for Mr Mang as his wife is due to have a baby. Also included is a delectable traditional picnic lunch, bottled water, boat hire for the day, a waterfall visit and a visit to two remote villages along the river.

Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Tour transport to the villages

Our tour guide (Ken) is excellent and speaks English very well. The boat ride starts at 09:00am and takes around an hour through the tanned-stained river, surrounded by lush jungle and majestic mountains, to reach the villages.

Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Incredible panoramas

A wander around the first village (Ban Hoyhoi) lasts only an hour with Ken explaining different aspects of the local life in this small village.

Bansamsaath Village, Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
This lady insisted I take their photo

The boat then takes you across the calm Nam Ou to a second thatched-hut village (Ban Sopjam, also known as Ban Sopkan) for a similar village experience.

Bansamsaath Village, Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia

Our tour then treks out of this village and across fluorescent green rice paddies until the incline to the waterfall, which takes a good hour.

Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Stunning scenery on the trek to the waterfall

Bring your swimmers as it’s pretty hot and sultry. There’s time to take a dip to cool down at the waterfall before enjoying a scrumptious picnic lunch, surrounded by jungle noises.

This is the rainy season, so of course, it rains every day and today is no different. Take some sandals on this day trek as you walk through streams and over slippery rocks.

Waterfall, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Refreshing waterfall

Be careful as when you near the waterfall, rocks become particularly slippery, which is where I slipped and hurt my shoulder, then couldn’t trek up the Mountain View Point the following day.

A quick visit to a third village, Bansamsaath…

Bansamsaath Village, Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Bansamsaath Village traditional home

…to observe more of local life along the Nam Ou River before heading back along the river to Nong Khiaw.

Bansamsaath Village, Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw, Laos, SE Asia
Using an empty mortar bomb as a mortar and pestle

Don’t forget to check part 1 of Nong Khiaw for where to stay and eat, but also a couple of more activities to indulge in…trek up another lookout. Or, explore one of the caves used to shelter villagers and Pathet Lao fighters during the Second Indochina War.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More blogs on Laos in Image Earth Travel.


73 thoughts on “Trekking Around Nong Khiaw, Laos

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  1. Very beautiful there, your photos are brilliant. Very annoying at getting ripped off – when I was in Vientiane, I thought the same was happening to me. I went to the Buddha Park and on the way back, we picked up 2 people in the van and I was wondering whether they were going to pay, but they did. The guy was then questioning the cost back at the hotel, but it turned out that he was trying to explain to me that I had paid correctly – so I didnt get ripped off, but then that kip is so damn confusing! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, ha, at least you didn’t get ripped off.
      I know in the grand scheme of things, it’s not much but I guess it’s the principle. And in this instance, the boat driver was not only wanting his cut of the higher ticket price, but quite greedy charging the locals when we’d already paid for the boat and wanted the locals to get a ride for free. For me, this was worse than him wanting his commission from the ticket price. x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great photographs and what a beautiful part of the world. Very much off the beaten path, I think even now? Life must be really hard and it’s no wonder everyone is a businessman, as you point out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the great feedback Maggie!
      It’s a spectacular region of Laos and loved it there so extended – it’s easy to overstay an original booking in Nong Khiaw.


    1. I believe there is Malaria, especially anywhere close to rivers.
      Taking Malaria tablets on and off is effective, but not a long term option, so avoiding is better than meds. Trying to avoid dawn/dusk, wearing long sleeves/trousers, and using repellent are better measures.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Well, the meds then were probably not so efficient, or often one forgot to take them.
      The fevers are over, (Knock on wood) but it did last me until I was about 40… Weird.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. That’s very strange but I hear you never really fully get Malaria out of your system. I knew someone that got cerebral malaria but he survived as they got him to a hospital within 24-48 hours.
      Think Malaria is similar to one of the mosquito-borne nasties Ross River fever or Dengue fever (?) in northern QLD.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. That’s what MD daughter says: you never really get it out of your system. But as far as my fevers are gone… 😬
      Cerebral malaria (and Dengue) can be very bad. Your friend was lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Your daughter is clever! Strange how some things hang around in our bodies…
      Yes, he was living in Thailand at the time so knew what it was and how to react – lucky he’s still alive.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. Apart from a little Duolingo, I never sutdied Italian grammar and find it hard than French (think we spoke about that before).
      Haven’t seen the accent over the “I” and thought it was “mia amica” – but I could be wrong! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    7. You are good at languages. And I suspect the Italian grammar is even worse than the French… LOL. (Haven’t taken any class either. I do have a tiny dream to spend a few months in Italy and learn the language proper…)
      MΓ­a with accent is probably a Hispanism. I pilfer at least two languages shamelessly to pretend I mumble Italian.
      (accents will now be dropped selectively)
      Buona settimana.

      Liked by 1 person

    8. No, I’m not really, πŸ˜‰ And yes, think I mentioned before that I studied French in high school for 6 years (not that I put much work into anything) and I find that Italian grammar is definitely more complex. Too many tenses, moods, etc., that can change a basic sentence.
      Sounds like you’re ripping off from several languages to create your own version!
      Buona Serrata

      Liked by 2 people

    9. Ha, ha…good for you! πŸ˜‰
      I used to be able to read French and can probably make the words out, especially when I visited in 2015 but don’t think I’ll read Les Mains Sale in any hurry like we had to for year 12!

      Liked by 2 people

    10. You might find it easier than you think.
      Now, “Les mains sales” is a very good book but not easy. Compliments… (I think I have it on my shelves…) Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

    11. We had compulsory French and German in the first year of high school then you could pick the following years whether you wanted to continue with languages. But really, in Australia, we should have been learning an Asian language as we’re part of this region. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    12. Ha, ha, for the first year yes, if my memory serves me well, then just French for the other 5 years. πŸ˜‰
      Mandarin is very difficult but Bahasa is easier…the best way to learn is to live in a country for a few months.

      Liked by 1 person

    13. I can imagine the difficulty of Mandarin. I know only a few words of Hokkien, but much more Bahasa. I have to go back to Penang and learn both. πŸ˜‰
      Buona sera Nilla.

      Liked by 1 person

    14. Indeed…one of our ex-pollies is fluent in Mandarin, which is very impressive – not sure if he can write/read traditional or simplified Chinese though – he is a smart cookie.
      I need to go back to anywhere right now…
      Buona giornata/serata πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    15. Mandarin is impressive. I once heard an Australian film maker whose name escapes me right now who was totally fluent in Mandarin.
      Did you book your tickets to anywhere already?

      Liked by 1 person

    16. Ha, ha, anyone that comes to Oz and thinks they can spend a couple of weeks here is mad. Travellers don’t realise just how big our continent is and to give you an example, it takes around 6 hours to fly from Brisbane in the east to Perth in the west. We are 2 hours in front of the west. πŸ˜‰
      I have a couple of weeks off in July and will try to get away for a week, then may need to do more renovating for the other week.

      Liked by 1 person

    17. Haha. I kinda like there. It’s quiet. There’s a couple of old leather-bound armchairs. Even a mini-bar. πŸ˜‰
      I know about the old saying. Thing is the English one hears here is so heavily American influenced, no “Aulde Englishe” expressions come through. I seem to recall hearing that expression with my Brit friends long time ago…
      Buona giornatta Nilla.

      Liked by 1 person

    18. Sounds ideal – a great place to relax and wind down.
      I can imagine in Mexico there’s a lot of American TV and that’s where locals pick up the accent/slang/colloquialisms from…not great!
      Buona Serrata Brian πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    19. There is a huge American influence. People go to grad school to the US, most US series cross over the border… Well. Such is life.
      Anche tu…


    20. Everywhere not just in Mexico. It’s as though here in Australia, the around 30-year olds have forgotten how to say Z(ed) instead, they say Z(ee), plus they spell with z and not s – outrageous!

      Liked by 1 person

    21. LOL. When I got to grad school in the US, first class of quantitative techniques, Z is rational numbers, very much used. I asked a question pronouncing Z(ed), another student asked “What’s he talking about?” Teacher (from Austin, Texas, with a thick Sudern accint) said “That’s how the English say it. He means Zee, right, Brian?”. Now I say Zee. πŸ˜‰ (I will go back to Zed) 😬

      Liked by 1 person

    22. Part of it is the overwhelming influence of American clients. Most of my clients were American Fortune 500 companies. So, you tend to write reports in their dialect. Now, on WP, if I write harbour, the system signals a spelling error.
      But we shall never surrender…✊🏻

      Liked by 1 person

    23. Of course, you have to localis(z)e to your audience. Yes, WP doesn’t allow you to set a default dictionary – it’s all US English, which is quite annoying. Everything becomes homogenous, doesn’t it? πŸ˜‰
      Absolutely not and great quote!

      Liked by 1 person

    24. And the end result is I get confused sometimes. Our and re are easy, but s/z is not so easy… Anyway, possiamo parlare tutto en Italiano… Buona giornatta Nilla. πŸ™πŸ»


    25. LLO. I’m sure it is way better than mine. I just mix whatever little Italian I know, with French or Spanish with a salsa di pommodoro. πŸ…


    26. Just a comment on your comment about my post on our son-in-law. (My daughter reads all my posts…) what nags me is all the stuff both missed. They’d been together for six years. Wedding was set for November. Venue picked up, dress bought. All their life ahead of them. But no. Besides missing him every day (we’d really hit it off together), I am just mad at all the missed opportunities both he and my daughter will never have together… A very sad affair. (Apologize for using your blog, just don’t want my daughter to read. She is very strong, but it still is a shame…)
      Thanks for listening.

      Liked by 2 people

    27. Hey Brian
      No problem at all venting here and I don’t mind being a sounding board.
      It’s tough when you can’t express/discuss your thoughts. Checked out the link for AndrΓ©s ‘ from your post – powerful words!
      Take care

      Liked by 2 people

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