sign in a cave in Laos

13 August 2011

Nong Khiaw scenery, Laos

Nong Khiaw in northern Laos is a peaceful village bisected by the Nam Ou River, in a gorgeous setting surrounded by limestone mountains and caves. The main street is basically a row of houses, guesthouses and small shops ending at a school.

Located in Luang Prabang province Nong Khiaw is a small district and a popular stopover for tourists. It’s a 2 ½ hour drive north by car from the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, or a six-hour boat ride.

There’s not much to do except sit and stare at the scenery, or go for a walk, boat ride or watch the fishermen.

Discovering the area on foot is great as you experience life in rural Laos. You greet everyone with “sabaidy” which is hello, and they usually respond with a smile. There are kids playing and animals wandering around.

The children spend time on the sandy areas by the river and love to give flowers to passing tourists. But there is a catch as they then ask for a pen, candy, bag or kip which is the local currency. Another drawback of tourism is that the restaurants really cater to Western tourists who want baguettes and pancakes, Nescafe and French wine, rather than the local sticky rice and Lao coffee.

If you walk along the road leading out of town, you come across some stunning scenery as the road passes between two limestone hills. On the right, a sign says “Welcome to Historical Pathok Cave”.
The cave entrance in the cliff is visible from the road and you have to walk through the rice paddies to reach it and then climb a bamboo ladder.

There is still a huge problem of landmines and bombs left over from the Vietnam War, and many parts of Laos have not yet been cleared, so make sure you stick to well used paths.

There are other trails in the village and you can get information from the restaurants.

The river taxis are mostly moored on the downriver side of the village. On the upper side are small dwellings and guesthouses alongside the river. The speedboats are becoming an intrusion into the peace of the village. They cater for tourists going to Luang Prabang and Muang Khua.

From Nong Khiaw, you can go by bus to Vieng Thong and then on to Nam Noen, and from here you can get to Phonsavan to see the magnificent Plain of Jars. It’s certainly a stunning part of Laos and well worth a visit.

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