Short Hike to Nong Khiew Viewpoint
Nong Khiew or Nong Khiaw is a very small town in Northern Laos. Around 4 hours north of Luang Prabang. I stayed here for 6 days and there was a day wherein I didn’t see any tourist. That is how off-the-beaten it is, there was a day too that we were 20 tourists in one restaurant eating on a candle-lit dinner because the power was off. All pertinent information can be found at the end of the blog- where to sleep, eat and how to get there.
When you are in Nong Khiew, locals would always ask you if you have been to the Viewpoint or probably tell you to go there. It took me 3 days of convincing to finally take the short trek up. For one, even though I love the mountains, I’m usually not excited on hiking it. haha I’m more of a beach boy where when you get there no need to climb down. Plus my purpose in Nong Khiew is just to rest after too much partying and staying up late in Chiang Mai.
So anyway, the trek to Nong Khiaw Viewpoint is about 1-1 1/2 hours, 2 kilometers, depending on your physical capabilities. It took a chubby Korean 2 hours. The poster on top speaks perfectly, “Some things beautiful, nice and good we have to work for it. Too easy is boring.”
The route is kinda steep at the beginning then would somehow get easier the further you get up. The path is well-covered with tall trees about 75% of the time so it’s not that hot except if you climb from 10am-2pm. I even took off my slippers after 20 minutes since the path is not that rocky and I love the feeling of my barefoot kissing the ground. Although 10o meters during the final ascent the sharp limestone rocks would be visible so take caution.
I was planning a sunrise hike but since I overslept I left my room around 8am. I started trekking around 8:30am and arrived at the summit 9:30am.
I was speechless for about 15 minutes when I reach the viewpoint. I can’t even take photos since the experience was so special. At the viewpoint you see mini-terraced rice paddies especially on the east and north, the surrounding limestone karst of which why the town is being frequented by tourists and the chocolate river Nam Ou and the town’s bridge.
The 360-degree is just mind-blowing, the fog-covered hills, lush green mountains and the cluster of houses in town. It’s perfect space for some meditation- both walking up and at the top.
Lovely weather, great walking meditation along the trail. Enjoyed this 360-degree vista for 2 hours before I went back to town.
I was up there, solo, enjoying the beauty of Mother Nature for around 2 hours before going down. Incredible place I took an oath to go back.
True to my pledge, I went for a sunset climb the same day. Before the trek, I already saw dark clouds approaching which means that it would definitely rain while I hike but nonetheless I carried on. If you want to do a sunset hike, do start around 3:30pm and not later than 5pm, the caretaker discourages hiking up after 5pm. Anyway, I went up (you have to pay 20,000kips again) around 5:15pm and true enough it drizzle at the middle of the trail. In my mind, I already see that it would just make the scene more dramatic since rains make beautiful sunset. This gave me further motivation. This time btw I did a barefoot hike all the way up and then down.
After an hour, I was dumb-founded. Silence filled my being and the majesty of the place engulfed me. I didn’t took photos for about 15 minutes and just suck it all in. It was kinda sacred, intimate and the two other hikers was just there staring at the changing hues on the horizon, one French girl and a Jap. Magnifique! Utsukushīdesu!
It was starting to get dark when we went down. It took us almost 2 hours because the trail was a bit slippery and headlights not that strong. But we were happy and had a great dinner afterwards!
Here’s how far it is from where you would usually come from:
Chiang Mai Thailand – 19-21hours via Luang Namtha
Luang Namtha – 7-10hours depending on the road condition
Luang Prabang – 4-5hours
Vientianne – 15-16hours via Luang Prabang
Where to sleep in Nong Khiew: I rented a bungalow for 5 days at 40,000kips at Sunrise Guesthouse which is by the river. I think this has the most beautiful spot for sunset. The homestays and guesthouses are usually near each other. Starts from 30,000kips on a low season and 50,000kips when highs-season this is already good for 2 people.
Where to eat in Nong Khiew: I recommend the 2 Indian restaurants, I always order the vegetable thali. The restaurant in front of the Indian restaurant has good local food too. Order the Banana mint smoothie. Sunrise guesthouse offers good food too. Food are kinda expensive compared to Thailand. Expect to pay around 25,000-50,000kips for a meal. Drinks about 10,000-20,000kips.