To the Mountains: Must Do in Nong Khiaw

Leaving Luang Prabang was like leaving a sort of comfort zone. Everything was accessible and my options for food and cafes with wifi were in abundance. I was also connecting really well with different local people and enjoying the take-it-easy, no rush lifestyle.

But I'm certainly not travelling to stay in my comfort zone and I'm here to follow my heart and discovery the many realities of how people live and what is being done to improve their livelihoods.

So, I packed up my bag and took off on the road again!

After a tight tuk-tuk ride and a 4-hour mini-van ride, we arrived at my destination in a town called Nong Khiaw, north of Luang Prabang. As we were driving, there was an abundance of open spaces filled with green pastures and rice fields.

The closer we were getting to Nong Khiaw, the more dramatic the landscapes were getting.

Rice fields

Nong Khiaw is really quite special. As someone who craves natural and open spaces, I felt a sense of 'home' here. Since the town is quite small, it's easy to get everywhere on foot. There are many options for accommodation from budget-budget to really nice, with fewer options for something in between.

I highly recommend trying Laap, which is the national dish of Laos. I had it here for the first time at Coco Restaurant (one of the best in town) but I'm sure the places you can get Laap in this country are endless. I also read that Lao Kitchen (well-known in Vientiane) is one of the best places to try it.

Laap is a delicious "salad" with meat (I had fish), combined with sauces, mint, spring onions and other herbs. Laap is often ordered with sticky rice!

Fish laap with sticky rice

Must Do: Hike to Pha Daeng Peak

Although I didn't have a lot of free time, I'm glad that I spent the late afternoon hiking to the viewpoint over Nong Khiaw. It was an incredible 360° view of the town, mountains and valleys. I timed the hike just right to make it up to the peak before sunset (actually I was jogging toward the end since I was worried I'd miss the sunset).

Watching the sun slowly fall and seeing the way light travelled between the spaces in the mountains left me speechless. The entrance fee was 20,000 kip (~2.00 USD) and it was well worth it to preserve the well-maintained trail.

I spoke to the ticket man, collecting the entrance fee, and he was simply swinging in his hammock and smiling at each passing guest. Honestly, when I start work, I want a hammock and enjoy my job as much as he does!

Summit with Laos flag
Sunset over Nong Khiaw
Resting area at the top of Pha Daeng Peak

The hike is so well maintained with ropes to help you on steeper sections. I highly recommend it if you have 3 or so hours to spare! I was told that the last time to go up is 4:30 pm and morning hiking usually starts around 5:30 am to see the fog lift off the mountains.

Over the next several days I will be participating in a 3-day trek in the north-eastern part of the country inside a protected area called Nam Et-Phou Louey.

Around me will be wildlife, wild landscape and nothing but the melodic sounds of nature. Stay tuned (subscribe) because I can't wait to show you the stories of hunters who have transformed their lives to become guardians of wildlife.

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