A range of options are available
Published/Last edited or updated: 18th June, 2018
Jungle, karst, river, waterfalls, rural villages—this landscape is one of Nong Kiaow’s main draws. The natural surrounds and the Nam Ou river are truly stunning and to really appreciate it, travellers need to get outdoors and on the water.
Trekking and river travel has been a Nong Kiaow tourism mainstay for some time and unfortunately there hasn’t been many changes or any innovation on what’s being offered. The most famous is the “100 Waterfalls Trek”, introduced by Tiger Trails, the largest company in town. Other popular options include Tad Mork waterfall, visit to Ban Sopjam and Muang Ngoi.
In terms of trail conditions, the best time to go trekking is in dry season (approximately November to May), with cool temperatures November to February, extreme heat from April to June. Rainy season would be exceptionally pretty, especially when the rice fields approach harvest time in October, but expect conditions to be difficult, muddy and slick. It’s also buggier and there are leeches to avoid.
Some general tips: you’ll need a hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and decent shoes/sandals, footwear that can get wet if doing a waterfall trek. Women need a sarong for river bathing.
The four main companies, for better or for worse, have also remained the same over the years. All offer one-day or multi-day trekking with villages, waterfall, homestay and/or boat ride. They will advertise tours already booked and the number of people signed up. The more participants the lower the price per person.
Bearing confusingly similar names, NK Adventures and Nong Kiau Adventures are both locally owned, family run businesses. We’ve written about our positive experience with NK Adventures on the Tad Mork waterfall trek and we continue to use them for guides and booking transport.
On the opposite side of the bridge, Mr Mang at Nong Kiau Adventures speaks excellent English and is a charismatic salesman. Maybe he’s a little too enthusiastic about his claim that his 2-day, 1-night trek goes where no other company does. We examined the itinerary and perhaps it’s the walk through the jungle he is referring to but the overall route and an overnight stay in Ban Sopjam is not uncommon. In any case, the trip combines trekking through the jungle and a night in Sopjam, Mr Mang’s home village. The price is 600,000 kip per person, based on a group of two.
Headquartered in Luang Prabang, Tiger Trails is a foreign and Lao owned company and their Nong Kiaow branch is under foreign management. The marketing material is slick, and of the four, they are probably the most recognisable. They were the ones to “discover” and name the “100 Waterfalls” trek, which begins one-hour downriver, though the trip is not exclusive to them. Their price for that trek is 300,000 kip per person, based on two, including lunch, guide and transport. Those interested in getting into more remote territory can extend the 100 Waterfalls into a 3-day difficult trek up the mountains to stay in Khmu/Hmong villages.
Green Discovery is the only nation-wide company. It has a sales office and tours in every tourist town in Laos. Their prices tend to be higher and for a simple trek, there’s no obvious reason why you’d choose them over a less expensive option. However, their differential are tours with cycling and multisport with cycling. The 2-day “Muang Ngoi Multi Sport” which includes cycling, kayaking and camping beside the river is US$100, based on a group of three. They used to do rock climbing here but it is no longer running.
Overall, Nong Kiaow’s organised trekking and tour scene faces some challenges. Competition is tough with the companies trying to get a share of the market offering the exact same product, the ones with glossy brochures, maps and signage attracting more than the local operators. Business will only get tougher as the area continues to open up and roads develop. We still think an organised excursion is recommendable—Nong Kiaow’s stunning landscape and village life are worthwhile experiences. Just have realistic expectations: the path is beautiful, you may be alone on that path but many have tread there before.
All offices are clustered at both ends of the bridge. During low season, they may not operate on regular office hours.
Green Discovery: Ban Nong Kiaow (north side of the bridge beside post office); T: (071) 810 081; https://www.greendiscoverylaos.com/eco-excursions/nong-kiaw-muang-ngoi; Open Mo–Su: 08:00-20:30
NK Adventures: Ban Sophoun (south side of the bridge, at Sabai Sabai Restaurant & Herbal Sauna); T: (020) 2202 2555; (030) 548 1910; firstname.lastname@example.org
Nong Kiau Adventures: Ban Nong Kiaow (north end of the bridge); T: (020) 5537 9661; email@example.com
Tiger Trails: Ban Nong Kiaow (north side of the bridge, at Delilah’s Cafe); https://laos-adventures.com; Open Mo–Su: 08:00-20:00
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.
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