Nong Kiaow

Nong Kiaow

In that moment you’ll want for nothing

It’s not uncommon for visitors to let out an audible gasp when they first walk across the central bridge of Nong Kiaow. Straddling both sides of the Nam Ou River, the town has sprung up along the water’s edge, elegantly framed by immense, towering limestone mountains. The setting is picture perfect, every moment of it from first light to twilight.

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Nong Kiaow (also written Nong Khiaw and Nong Kiau) is located in Luang Prabang Province, a four hour local bus ride or just three hours by private vehicle from Luang Prabang town, making it an attractive two to three day side trip to tack on. As Luang Prabang has grown in popularity, so too has Nong Kiaow and in the last decade it had a boom town feel, with new accommodation springing up like mushrooms. Recently though, growth has simmered down and the sound of the saws and hammers you’ll hear are usually existing guesthouses adding rooms and squeezing more bungalows onto their plot.

What a setting. : Cindy Fan.
What a setting. Photo: Cindy Fan

Nong Kiaow’s tourist centre is like a Monet. It’s pretty from afar—and exceptionally pretty from high above at the incredible view point—but up close it’s an awkward slapdash, every angled stroke a guesthouse or bungalow vying for that coveted river view. Buildings block other buildings. What this means for backpackers is that river views do come at a premium while regular room rates are competitive. Even the cheapest room or bungalow has a private bathroom with western toilet and heated shower. Rustic, no frill bungalows are increasingly rare, replaced in favour of bricks and mortar modernity.

Luckily the Tetris-like tourist centre itself isn’t the primary draw. It’s about the jaw-dropping nature that surrounds it, the journey to get there and the rural villages found along the way. Nong Kiaow is the portal to guided treks, walks and bike rides to waterfalls and homestays, all via the “highway”, the ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,000 words.)

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