Photo: View from the bridge, Nong Kiaow.

Eat and meet

Not too surprisingly, dining in Nong Kiaow is limited with most restaurants serving generic Western fare and Lao staples toned-down for tourist tastes. Many restaurants are attached to a guesthouse, but there are a couple notable exceptions.

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Formerly Vinat Restaurant, Deen’s specialises in Indian food and, oddly, Malaysian-style fried rice and noodles. It’s a busy place in the evening when masses of travellers descend to get a bit of variety into their diet. We ordered a mix of veg and meat curries and, while yummy, the different dishes came out tasting pretty similar. Still, Deen’s adds some much welcomed variety to the Nong Kiaow dining scene and prices are very reasonable (15,000 kip and up for veg dishes, 25,000 and up for meat). WiFi here is free, but the owners are pedantic about its use and change the password multiple times per day – that is, you won’t be able to sit across the road and steal it by using last night’s password.

Next door to Deen’s is Vongmany, a long-running restaurant with a big menu of generic Asian and Western fare. It’s a dark and dingy affair popular with the local animals as much as backpackers. The food is just OK and there is certainly better in town.

Though it’s one of the newer spots in town, Delilah’s has shot to popularity with its specialty coffees and delicious baked goods, such as bagels. Close to the boat landing, it’s a great spot for a light meal, coffee and free WiFi. These days they also play host to the local Tiger Trail office.

On the dirt road leading to the cluster of bungalows on the eastern side of the river is Alex Restaurant. It’s operated by the mother of the owner of Delilah’s and the menu is a straight photocopy of Delilah’s. Mama, the affable chef, is helpful and happy and does her best to make you feel at home. She cooks great food at a good price, but since she usually runs the place on her own, you may well wait an hour and a half or more for your meal.

CT is on the eastern side of the bridge on the edge of the river and is fairly popular with those happy to pay a bit more for their meals. Quality here is slightly better than most others in town with tea in tea pots and coffee with milk on the side. Bizarrely, they cater to fried rice connoisseurs with 36 different varieties on offer. This is not a bad spot for breakfast.

Sunset Restaurant does up some of the most authentic Lao dishes in town like spicy salads and stews plus, as the name suggests, it has unbeatable views in the early evening. You also might be able to surf the internet as you enjoy your meal: ask the owner Church where the best place to sit is to access it.

Sabai Sabai is one of those cafes that have a new age vibe with a herb garden, massage room and sauna on site and a menu of great fresh food. It’s a nice little place to hang out and snack on one of the traditional Lao dishes or a Western alternative. Some of the staff here speak almost perfect English and are extremely helpful. This is a place where you will feel comfortable.

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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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