Peel yourself out of your hammock
Published/Last edited or updated: 4th June, 2018
It’s one thing to gaze at the river from your bungalow’s hammock, it’s another to take in a bird’s eye view of the Nam Ou snaking through jungle clad mountains. Is it worth it to get off the backside and get climbing? Yes.
There’s actually three viewpoints in Muang Ngoi. The one most travellers will opt for is sometimes referred to as Pha Noi Viewpoint (not to be confused with the lesser viewpoint at Pha Noi Cave). It’s a straightforward steep hike on a hillside trail: 30 minutes up to a bamboo platform and around 25 minutes down via a different path. The trailhead is at the north end of the village behind the temple. Open 08:00-17:00, ticket 10,000 kip.
The trail includes steps cut into the earth and about half of the way is over sharp rocks and some bouldering with wooden handrails that hikers can use to help hoist themselves up. This trail would be difficult in rainy season.
The scenery from above is sigh-worthy and after many sighs, allow for the scope to sink in for a deeper appreciation. There lies Muang Ngoi, a cluster of rooftops guarded by a fortress of mountains, its existence dependent on one of the most important rivers in Laos. The Nam Ou begins at the Chinese border and here it flows past and will continue all the way to Luang Prabang where it merges into the Mekong.
The Nong Kiaow viewpoint is arguably more spectacular than Muang Ngoi’s viewpoint but if you enjoy pretty vistas and stretching your legs like we do, both are well worth doing.
”Pha Noi” means “small mountain” and that will make sense if you decide to tackle Phaboom. Walk south down Muang Ngoi’s main street and it seems to run right into an enormous karst, a single jagged fang that looms over the village. With time, stamina and agility, it’s possible to climb to the top. The way is seriously steep and is not for people who are afraid of heights.
The first step is to buy the 20,000 kip ticket at Gecko Bar. We didn’t personally do this climb but these are the instructions that hikers receive from the owner. Hikers need to set out early for enough time to reach the top. At the base is the ticket taker, then it’s about one hour to the first level, 15 minutes to the second and 2.5 hours for the final push to the summit, which only a few people reach each year—the last section is the most difficult. The trail is open during rainy season but rainy season or not, the trail can be slick and parts require scrambling or use of rope handholds. We’d also like to add: Do keep in mind that there’s no rescue squad and you’re a long way from help. Of course, it’s always an option to go as far as the first or second level, by all accounts also a good view.
Finally, find a minor viewpoint at Pha Noi Cave (Tham Pha Noi). The entrance is adjacent to the trailhead for the aforementioned Pha Noi Viewpoint. It’s a 15 minute climb up and it’s included in the 10,000 kip ticket to the cave.
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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