Care for a dip?
Published/Last edited or updated: 2nd November, 2018
Laos has plenty of waterfalls but Nam Nouan waterfall is special simply because so few make it to this corner of the country to see it. It’s on a dirt road running off of Route 6, the road from Sam Neua and Vieng Xai, a day trip or a worthy stop when shuttling between the two.
The turn off from Route 6 onto the dirt road is 19 kilometres northeast of Sam Neua, about 8 kilometres shy of Vieng Xai. Continue for just over two kilometres, then turn onto another dirt road that steeply descends to the river. When we visited in 2018, this road had been widened and graded. We were told the tourism department was trying to make Nam Nouan into an attraction, part of a countrywide “Visit Laos” initiative. Without paving it though, one rainy season could ruin the road.
There was no formal way to cross the river, which you’ll need to do to get up close to the falls. There’s a simple concrete ledge across that serves as the footpath, which would likely be under water during rainy season or after a bout of rain.
Then it’s walking upstream through brush, on rocks and over boulders to reach the falls. Nam Nouan is lovely: multiple cascades pour from a curved cliff shrouded with ferns and vines as the water makes its way into many smaller pools. The main pool appears swimmable in dry season.
The easiest way to get to Nam Nouan is on bicycle, motorbike or by taxi. If hiring a taxi for a transfer between Sam Neua and Vieng Xai or doing Vieng Xai caves as a day trip from Sam Neua, negotiate to include the stop. We had the tourism office write down our request in Lao, found a taxi and negotiated 250,000 kip for the full day trip.
By public transportation is trickier. From Nathong bus station 4 km east of town, take the first local bus/songthaew to Vieng Xai. As of 2018, it departs at 09:30 or when there’s enough passengers. The bus can drop off on Route 6 and it’s a hike to/from the falls. Again, it’s best to get someone to write “Nam Nouan waterfall” in Lao to show the bus driver. To return to Sam Neua, wait on Route 6 and flag down the passing bus. To give an idea, a Lao bus is due to pass through Vieng Xai at 13:00, a Vietnamese bus at 17:00 towards Sam Neua. As for the price, you are at their mercy. It should cost no more than 20,000 kip.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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