Photo: Dine with a view at Mandala Ou.

Eat and meet

Dining in Nong Kiaow can be hit or miss as most restaurants, which are often attached to a family-owned guesthouse, serve generic Western and Asian fare and Lao food toned-down for tourist tastes. The many Lao cuisine fine dining, chic cafes and wine bars of Luang Prabang will feel world’s away. In Nong Kiaow there’s a few exceptions to the fried rice or noodles monotony.





The best restaurant by miles is at Mandala Ou Resort, both food and view well worth the kilometre journey from the centre (find it on the main road close to the bus station). Away from the crowds, lunch is exceptionally relaxing as most hotel guests are out during the day. It doesn’t take long to be lulled by the peace and quiet and the Nam Ou gliding by. Featuring both Western and Lao/Thai fare, dishes are a generous portion, prepared fresh and reasonably priced, ranging from 30,000 kip for a pad thai to 45,000 kip for Massaman curry. The 40,000 kip chicken schnitzel, served with salad and potato wedges, is an absolute winner. The fresh carrot, apple and ginger juice will give you a boost.

After a hard day at the office...

After a hard day at the office... Photo: Cindy Fan

Keeping with the northern Lao tradition of a random Indian restaurant in each town, Deen’s is Nong Kiaow’s random Indian restaurant. The first thing to be said about Deen’s is try to get there early. It is hugely popular and it’s often just one guy in the kitchen. Secondly, it would win the award for restaurant with the least amount of atmosphere: terrace on the busy road with concrete floor, plastic chairs and fluorescent lighting. Intrigued yet? The food will satisfy those craving Indian food. There’s decent naan, the usual vegetarian options at 15,000 kip each and meat curries for 28,000 kip. No alcohol sold.

Alex Restaurant has been a Nong Kiaow mainstay—we’ve been going for years and nothing has changed. The food is delicious and reasonably priced, with most dishes 20,000 to 30,000 kip—and it takes forever to arrive. Ok, not forever but expect up to a two-hour wait. It can take that long when the restaurant is full and it often is. There’s only Mama in the kitchen and she doesn’t seem to believe in mise en place. Don’t arrive already starving for the curry (Massaman, red or Lao green) for only 25,000 kip, traditional Lao dishes like laap or backpacker favourites like shakshuka 30,000 kip. Our tom kha kai (chicken soup with coconut milk, lemongrass and galangal) was very yummy.

Alex Restaurant is always a reliable fix.

Alex Restaurant is always a reliable fix. Photo: Cindy Fan

The town has several restaurants that are riverside but not all do a good job with maximising the view or sunset. One of the top spots for sunset is the restaurant at Ban Lao Sunset Guesthouse—on the main road, turn at Sabai Sabai and follow the dirt road through the concentration of guesthouses to the end. It’s a terrace, with an unobstructed view and the beer is cold. Bliss.

Not surprisingly, another good one is at boutique Nong Kiau Riverside. It’s just a brief walk from the bridge yet the property feels like an escape from the crowds as there is no development directly in front, just a pleasant wide open prospect of the forest clad mountains. Try traditional Lao starters/snacks like spicy tomato or eggplant dip, papaya salad and kaipen (fried river feed) for 18,500 kip each. It’s also one of the few places in town that has wine available.

Speaking of snacks, there’s not many to be found. However, barbecues grilling up meat skewers begin to appear before sunset on the town main street.

Romantic dining by the Nam Ou.

Romantic dining by the Nam Ou. Photo: Cindy Fan

Nong Kiaow nightlife has shrivelled up a bit since a couple lively backpacker bars have come and gone. Delilah’s shows a movie some nights. Head to Q Bar, where waiters are friendly and the happy hour will keep patrons friendly as well. In Laos, away from the big cities, cocktails can be oh-so bad, so we were surprised to find our cocktails well made and worth the 45,000 kip. We didn’t try the food but what we saw others munching on looked appetising. They do a good looking sindad (Lao hotpot/bbq cooked at the table on coals), 50,000 kip for a vegetarian set, 60,000 kip with meat. Q Bar is also the place to go on a cold evening as they do up a fire in an old bomb casing.


Map of eating options for Nong Kiaow
Map of eating options for Nong Kiaow
Legend
(1) Alex Restaurant (2) Ban Lao Sunset Guesthouse (3) Deen’s Indian Restaurant (See Q Bar)(4) Delilah’s (5) Mandala Ou Resort (6) Nong Kiau Riverside (7) Q Bar

Alex Restaurant South of the bridge, west side of the road.; .
Ban Lao Sunset Guesthouse South of the bridge, west side of the road, overlooking the river.; .
Deen’s Indian Restaurant South of the bridge, west side of the road by Q Bar.; .
Delilah’s North side of town, near the bridge.; .
Mandala Ou Resort North side of bridge, far western end of town.; .
Nong Kiau Riverside South of the bridge, east side of the road overlooking the river.; .
Q Bar South of the bridge, west side of the road, by Deen’s.; .

Alex Restaurant
South of the bridge, west side of the road.; Nong Kiaow, Northern Laos
$5-$10
Ban Lao Sunset Guesthouse
South of the bridge, west side of the road, overlooking the river.; Nong Kiaow, Northern Laos
$5-$10
Deen’s Indian Restaurant
South of the bridge, west side of the road by Q Bar.; Nong Kiaow, Northern Laos
$5-$10
Delilah’s
North side of town, near the bridge.; Nong Kiaow, Northern Laos
$5-$10
Mandala Ou Resort
North side of bridge, far western end of town.; Nong Kiaow, Northern Laos
$5-$10
Nong Kiau Riverside
South of the bridge, east side of the road overlooking the river.; Nong Kiaow, Northern Laos
$5-$10
Q Bar
South of the bridge, west side of the road, by Deen’s.; Nong Kiaow, Northern Laos
$5-$10
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Popular attractions in Nong Kiaow

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Nong Kiaow.


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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Nong Kiaow? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Laos.


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