Nong Khiaw is located about 3 hours north along Luang Prabang, upstream from the Nam Ou River. A charming little town close to nature, you can find many ethnic villages, rice farms, and weaving villages. A great two-day trip or even a day drive option here’s top things to do in Nong Khiaw.
Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw
There are buses that go from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw, about three times a day. There used to be boats that run between the two cities but now it’s only accessible by bus. More information here.
Na Yang Tai Village and Baci Ceremony
On the way from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw, the Nayang Thai Village inhabitants are originally from southern China. We were warmly welcomed by the locals, who greeted us with their local scarves and flower necklace. There are two different ways to wear the scarf depending on your gender. The local textile are beautiful:
For the boys, you simply drape it over your left shoulder and tie it to the right. For girls, you drape it over the left shoulder then around.
The Baci Ceremony is held in their community hall. Baci is a folk ritual used to celebrate important events, including welcoming guests, weddings, and new years. It is led by a senior member of the community, usually someone who had been a monk in his lifetime. A pah kwan – tray with cotton strings, flowers, offerings etc – is placed in the middle for the ceremony, with a central flower cone surrounded by bamboo stalks tied with cotton string.
After chanting and blessing the congregation, the cotton strings from the flags are distributed to be held by the members surrounding the pah kwan, with those behind touching the person to be connected for the final chant of respect.
After that, the cotton strings are divided by the elders and to tie on the wrists of us – the guests. While practice normally puts it on the right wrist, we received it in both hands. You are supposed to keep them on for three days – spirituality and you keep it with for good.
You can watch a vlog on the ceremony here:
Meanwhile, local rice whiskeys shots are given, followed by a feast:
Ban Lue handicrafts
While the Nanyan Thai Villagers also sell their weaving products, Ban Lue Handicrafts is a brand new institute by a local that offers classes on weaving and indigo dye.It is also a homestay, located not too far from the village itself with an education center.
A stay here will only set you back 30k Laos kip per night and they offer pick ups from Luang Prabang.
They still don’t have a website, but you can contact them: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nong Khiaw viewpoint: Phadeng sunrise trek
(watch the vlog for the whole experience)
To name the best viewpoint of Nong Khiaw, Phadeng is definitely on the top of the list. A 1.5-hour hike to the top, the trail is not difficult and well maintained but extremely slippery and muddy in the rain. If you are hiking up during the rainy season, best be warned that you might only get a view of the clouds and fogs, the same can be said for watching the sunrise.
The fog does dissipate around 8 to reveal the Mekong River and the town, but rare during the rainy season. But if you are a lover of foggy, moody views, it’s definitely worth it, too.
The starting point for the hike is not far from the bridge, only about 5-10 minutes walk and clearly marked. The ticket booth is in a bamboo hut just at the turn and you can borrow a walking stick.
With a halfway rest stop, the trail has some steep parts but also gentler slope and undulating landscape, and would have been an easy hike if not for the slipperiness.
Going down took an hour due to slipperiness but should be fine during the dry season.
Admission: 20,000 kip
Address: 5-10 minutes south of the bridge
Nong Khiaw Bridge
Straddling the Nam Ou River, the Nong Khiaw Bridge offers a great view of the river and the surrounding mountain. Famous among the locals, the bridge is a gift from China that connects the two parts of town, and the locals do morning exercise and hangs out on the bridge in the evening, too.
Pha Thok Cave
Where the government was during 60-70s with planes and set up office, Pha Thok Cave is nestled behind rice paddies and reachable via a set of steep concrete stairs.
Over 300 people had lived and sought refuge for eight years, hiding from the bomb. Before the concrete stairs were built, the cave was accessible by bamboo stairs only. The cave is more fascinating because of its history and not natural beauties, and it’s a great pit stop to stretch your legs.
Address: Road 1C, Nong Khiaw, Laos
Admission fee: 10 000 kip
Opening times: 9:00 – 17:00
Pha Kuang Cave
For those seeking a more adventurous cave experience, Pha Kuang Cave is not too far from Pha Thok. another hiding spot for the locals during the war in the 60s, to explore the entire complex where the locals had lived would require you to do some crawling. We didn’t have time to do that part, but you can visit the temple inside the cave entrance at the beginning without going down on all fours.
Admission fee: 10 000 kip
Opening times: 9:00 – 17:00
Nong Khiaw accommodation
While it does involve a bit of walking if your bungalow is at the end, it’s a quaint environment. Each room has a balcony that overlooks the Nam Ou River as well as the Nong Khiaw Bridge, and it truly doesn’t get better than that. As we had gone during the rainy season, it was a bit muddy and wet to get to and from the restaurant and the bungalow, and there are going to be ants in the room. The only complain I have is that things aren’t very clean, though that probably has to do with my bungalow being at the very end and the rain.