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Wed 4 Mar 2015

Nong Khiaw, Laos.

Nong Khiaw, Laos.

My original plan was to travel north from Luang Prabang to Phongsali, where the best tea in Laos is grown. While reviewing my transport options I realized that to get there would require two days of overland travel over mountainous terrain. I wasn’t in the mood for this so I looked for places to go that were less cumbersome to reach.

The owner of my hotel in Luang Prabang suggested I consider Nong Khiaw, about four hours’ driving northeast of Luang Prabang. After reading the positive recommendation in my guidebook and other travelers’ good reports on the internet, I decided to give it a try.

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Dusk on the Nam Ou, near Nong Khiaw, Laos.

Nong Khiaw.

Nong Khiaw.

Nong Khiaw is a town on the Nam Ou (river) that is surrounded by dramatic limestone karsts. Lonely Planet said that it had only two streets, but when I arrived, I could find only one. Did this mean I was lost? After some thought, I decided I was not lost, since wherever I went, I still seemed to be in the same place. Nong Khiaw was indeed Very Small. (And, after some searching, I did locate the other paved street, and even a few smaller unpaved ones branching off from it).

Tham Pha Thok caves.

Tham Pha Thok caves.

Tham Pha Thok caves.

Tham Pha Thok caves.

Tham Pha Thok caves.

Tham Pha Thok caves.

Blending into the background.

Blending into the background.

Yesterday I walked a few kilometers east to find some caves nearby. After paying five thousand kip (63 cents U.S.) for a ticket, I climbed up a steep staircase to reach the hollowed out areas in the cliffs. Today I walked a good distance in the other direction along a wide unpaved road winding around the nearby hills.

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There was not a single Indian restaurant in Nong Khiaw; no, there was actually a pair of them! Two seemingly unrelated Muslim families from Chennai had set up shop next to each other, offering the typical “pure veg” and “non veg” fare. I tried them both, and was impressed.

There were several other local restaurants catering to tourists, and they were clearly family-owned enterprises. It seemed every dining room had a children’s play area, with toys scattered across a blanket spread in a corner. At one restaurant as I was looking around for the wait staff I felt an object being set on my knees from somewhere below. I looked down and there was a menu on my lap, and behind it, the near toothless grin of a small person with soft, wispy brown hair (I learned later that she was all of 27 months old). 

Sunset on the Nam Ou, near Nong Khiaw, Laos.

Sunset on the Nam Ou, near Nong Khiaw, Laos.

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6 thoughts on “Wed 4 Mar 2015

    • Hey Rick you’re a few days early but thanks for remembering! I’m in Yunnan, China now. Trouble accesssing & updating the blog from here. Looks like I’ve found a “workaround” so I should be adding to it soon. Hope all is well with you.

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