Activities in Nong Kiaow
Lots to do
What we say:
Most visitors head to Nong Kiaow planning to do little more than lie in a hammock and soak up the river view. But local tour agencies can arrange a variety of activities.
A new Tiger Trail office in town can arrange eco-friendly treks to local villages, kayaking tours, river rafting, climbs of the nearby mountains and the new "100 Waterfalls" jungle hike. This site has only been accessible to tourists since 2008. Tours run with any number of people, though of course single-person tours cost much more than those comprising multiple people. A sample fee is 130,000 kip per person for a half-day mountain climb with a group of three people. The Tiger Trail office is located in Delilah's cafe on the western side of the river, but we had to visit multiple times to get anyone to take our money despite a sign out the front claiming opening times of 07:00-21:00. Sit down in Delilah's, grab a coffee and just wait until someone from Tiger Trail turns up.
Operating across the road from Tiger Trail on the western side of the river, Green Discovery Tours will please adrenaline junkies with their cycling, hiking, kayaking and camping trips. They're also the first to pioneer rock climbing in the area and full-day trips start at very reasonable prices. However, Green Discovery generally charges much more for trips than any other tour agent in town. When you visit their office, you do get a sense that they are a much more professional organisation and not once did we see them closed or their office empty when passing by. Perhaps you get what you pay for.
Some interesting sites lie within walking distance of town that you won't need a guide to find. A few kilometres east are limestone caves, the most famous being Phatoke Cave, where locals took shelter when northern Laos was bombed during the Vietnam War. These caves are usually locked closed outside of the high season, but when they are open, there will be someone around to collect an entry fee of 5,000 kip.
You can visit some even smaller Lao villages by following the road to Riverside Resort that continues up the river. Ban Had Sao is about 12 kilometres away and there are more villages even further. If it's been dry, it's also possible to rent a bike (20,000-50,000 kip) and ride there. Once there, it's possible to walk through the rice fields, climb up a mountain and enter a cave used during the war by communist soldiers. It's dark inside and without a great torch and local guide, it's a fairly useless hike. Try to rent a guide from the ticket booth to make the journey more worthwhile and bring a hat as it can become unbearably hot while walking through the rice fields.
A few of the more local tour shops rent out tubes and can take you upriver on a boat allowing you to float back to town are your own pace. Bank on 50,000 kip per person for a relaxing few hours floating down the river.
For something a little different, head to the eastern side of the bridge and check out Herbal Sauna and Massage. Rustic but relaxing, the sauna costs 20,000 kip and includes tea and towels plus a sarong to wear. They also do Lao traditional massage at 50,000 kip per hour. The sauna doesn't operate outside the high season.
Early risers can observe the tak bat alms ceremony near the town wat which is over 250 years old. It's not on the same scale as Luang Prabang with hundreds of monks, but is a rare chance to observe it without the crowds.
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