Further down the Ou river (flowing into the Mekong river) lies the picturesque Nong Khiaw or Nong Khiao. From Luang Prabang we took a local bus where we ended up in the bumpy back. So after 3 or 4 hours we had to realign our spines but it was a fun ride.
The village itself lies next to the river and if you want, you can get a place to stay with an amazing river view. Even for a low to mid-range price! The village has a lot of places to stay so take your time to find your favorite. We stayed at a cheap basic bungalow at Mee Xai, which lays across the river and next to the small stream entering the Ou river. Here we had an amazing view and were looking towards the beautiful sunset.
A moderate but definitely worth it hike will start just a bit further down the road on the left. The sign says ‘Community project’ and I think it’s a great form of local eco tourism. If you’re up for a hike and love views from above then definitely do this one. The entrance fee is only a couple of bucks and the money goes back into maintaining the track and supporting the community.
VEGAN FOOD: NONG KHIAW
While I was here there was not really a vegan-oriented place to eat but as usual you can get vegan food at almost any place. How lovely this dish will be can differ though! Across the river you will find a couple of restaurants on both sides of the road, the left has two Indian restaurants and we mostly visited one.
Chennai (veggie-friendly) – $
While the first Indian place on the left can be found in the Lonely Planet, we went to the other one next door (the right neighbor). A bit smaller, very nice owner and the final thing that pulled us in was the ‘veggie tali’-sign.
The tali, which offered us many dishes in small, was very nice and the different palate of flavors after so much SE Asian food did us well. Their dahl, aloo and many other dishes were scrumptious! During our time in Nong Khiaw I got sick but found out that dahl (as take-away) was good recovering-food.
Next door you’ll find Deen:
THE ADVENTURE TOWARDS VIETNAM
Because challenges are part of traveling and to spice up this post, I’ll share how I got across the border of Vietnam!
After enough relaxing in the jungly Nong Khiaw we went onwards to Vietnam. We were able to take a smaller boat further up the Ou River towards Muang Khua. While Nong Khiaw was a good place to relax, the roosters at the middle of the night, early in the morning and during the day were making quite the noise to compensate. And as if the chicken-universe was laughing at our quest for tranquility, on our 6-hour boat trip the captain took a rooster with him, which was more than eager to share his existence with the jungle and villages surrounding us.
While boating through the jungle I saw something in the water coming towards us. After having seen too many action movies and video games I instantly thought it was a mini-torpedo, or something else very unlikely. But before I could identify the object it exploded! A splash of water followed by a screen of smoke! While you may think now, like I was doing, that I was in the middle of a civil war and rebels were taking over our small boat, it turned out pretty harmless. At least for us. The torpedo turned out to be a snake and although I will never know if he swam our way by unfortunate accident or as a strike to kill, the captain shot the snake with his big rifle. Sad for the snake but apparently most captains (or river people) hunt for snakes as food.
After a good night’s sleep in the tiny Muang Khua we took a local bus crossing the border towards Dien Bien Phu (Vietnam). The bus was made to carry 28 people but was filled up with 41 Vietnamese and one caged bird, truly traveling Vietnam-style. A good thing was that the border itself was very quiet and easy to cross. And entering Vietnam while passing many lush and green rice fields was worth the adventure!
If you decide to go to Vietnam through the North then don’t worry. Not every boat will be attacked by snakes and has a rooster as co-driver! ;) Enjoy!