Mar 1 11

A Day in Nong Khiaw

by Emily Benjamin

When Jamie suggested we make time in Laos for a tiny village called Nong Khiaw, 140km north of Luang Prabang, I was a little skeptical. The trusty interwebs told him it was remote but beautiful, set amongst huge limestone mountains but without the commodities of everyday living we’re used to. No internet, limited electricity and it would take more than 6 hours to reach by car – I wasn’t so sure. I was even less sure when I checked on Google Maps and the search for Nong Khiaw returned no results, offering the worrying claim that ‘no directions were available for this location’. But I was tired and recovering from the flu, so I put myself and my luggage in Jamie’s trustworthy hands, and when we finally stopped moving and arrived weary, sore and exhausted from the journey here, my eyes lit up.

This place is gorgeous. The interwebs (Travelfish, again) have it spot on, I think – this secluded spot in northern Laos would be just a dusty road with a modern bridge, if it weren’t for the two hundred kind and warm locals and the giant limestone cliffs surrounding their homes. It is an absolutely spectacular view, so I’ve attached some photos below, but I assure you that they’ll never do it justice. Nong Khiaw comes very very close to being breathtaking.

To make sure we weren’t being ripped off, we promised each other that we wouldn’t take the first accommodation we were offered, and I’m proud to say that we stuck to that. Our third stop, Sunrise Bungalows, was our choice in the end, for a very affordable 100,000 kip per night. By the way, that’s only about $11, and considered ‘mid-range’ for tourists in Nong Khiaw. For that price, we have a double bed with a mosquito net, an ensuite (I use that term loosely, though) and a spectacular view of the mountains. No air con or fan, but we haven’t needed it. It’s warm during the day but cool at night, and we’ve both slept soundly here so far.

Within the hour, we decided to stretch our time here from 2 nights to three, and committed to forking out for a flight for our next travel leg. All this moving around by bus/taxi/minivan is tiring and doesn’t allow any time to see the sights, so on Sunday we’ll fly from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, rather than a 2 day overland adventure. But before all that, we’re spending our time in Nong Khiaw relaxing. Here’s how we spent our first day here…

8.30am Wake up and settle into the hammock for an hour or two of reading

9.30am Stomachs grumbling, head out for ice cold chocolate and strawberry milkshakes for only $1.50 each (still, considered a splurge!)

12noon Lunch time! A very yummy chicken & vegetable stir-fry and beef & morning glory stir-fry with two soda waters for $5. Huge servings and very delicious.

1pm Traditional Laos massages… we think. The woman in charge made a quick phone call and two smiling teenagers arrived to massage us. And by massage I mean knead, pummel, fold and rock us back and forth for an hour in the name of ‘relaxation.’ Very odd experience but if they meant to put us to sleep, they almost succeeded. 50,000 kip each – $5.50!

3pm Cocktail in a local bar overlooking the river. The seem not to use mixers here so the drinks were very strong, lulling us in to sleep after such an ‘exhausting’ day.

5pm Early dinner while I skype’d my Dad for his birthday. Yes, the town now has internet and it’s free between 5pm-9pm at a small indian restaurant, which also serves very nice and very cheap food. We ate here for a second night in a row because it was really good, and it only cost us 66,000 kip. Rounded up to maybe $8 – bargain!

8pm Sleep. Can you believe it? I think the afternoon cocktail was even stronger than it looked…

That’s how we spent a day in Nong Khiaw. Although it’s tough to find, and even more difficult to get here, if you’re ever in Laos you should absolutely check it out.

– Em :)

* Ps. If we look a little weary in the cocktail photos, it’s because they were taken immediately following the intense Laotian massages. We were pretty knackered!

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