Nong Khiaw Mountain Viewpoint

Nong Khiaw Mountain Viewpoint | Always A Foreigner

Caren and Cazzie

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Nong Khiaw Mountain Viewpoint

Nong Khiaw Mountain Viewpoint, Laos

After recently re-reading a post we had done about how Laos won my heart in 2016, I realized that I had never written about the Nong Khiaw Mountain Viewpoint. The hike up to the viewpoint, the actual views overlooking the countryside, and the entire experience was something we’ll not be soon to forget. Here’s our experience with this wonderful landmark.

After spending a week in Luang Prabang, we wanted to switch it up and see some more of Laos. We decided to travel north to Nong Khiaw on a whim of mine. Most people head south towards Vang Vieng or Vientiane, but we weren’t too interested in that. I didn’t know anything about the town, except that it was on a sleepy river and the landscapes were supposed to be fantastic. To be honest, the promise of a good landscape and area hikes are usually enough to sway me. I had heard about a Nong Khiaw mountain viewpoint hike that was supposed to be beautiful. And so, we packed our bags and booked the four hour mini-bus ride from Luang Prabang to the north.

One of the major attractions in the entire region is the Nong Khiaw mountain viewpoint. Billed as an easy to moderate hike, the summitboasts 360 degree views of the northern countryside of Laos. This was definitely something that I was very excited to do.

Cazzie might be the world’s biggest American football fan, and my plan to hike to the viewpoint overlapped with NFL draft day. There was absolutely any chance he was missing draft day, so we settled on leaving for the viewpoint after the draft ended. Around 11:00AM in Laos, we finally we were on our way.

Hot, Hot, Hot

But if you know anything about Laos, the heat can make most things much harder to accomplish. For those who haven’t been, the hottest months of the year are March through June. We just so happened to be here during May, and it was extremely hot and humid the entire time. As the day went on, it only grew hotter and those who were smart retreated into any shade and coolness they could find.

By 11:30AM when we were finally on our way to hike, saying it was hot was an understatement. If you’re planning on doing this hike, go early! We bought two giant water bottles and put them in our backpack, and although they were heavy, we were very glad to have them in the heat.

Trailhead Location

The trailhead is located on the one main road in Nong Khiaw, and is easily marked by signs stating “Mountain Viewpoint.” A little old man sits in the booth at the trailhead and collects a fee of 20,000 kip per person, or a little under $2.50USD. We should have known we were in for a challenge of a hike when he pointed at the sun and laughed at us a little. Everyone knows to go before the hottest part of day, except apparently us.

Vietnam War Era Bombs

Making it abundantly clear to stay on the path, there is a giant Vietnam War era missile on display at the entrance. Laos was heavily bombarded by the United States and allies during the war, and the consequences can sadly still be found in the region. We made sure to heed its warning, but the path was well maintained so it was easy to not stray.

The Ascent

The beginning of the hike isn’t too strenuous and starts in a field setting that climbs gently into a green forested area. As soon as we were into the forest though, the real elevation change started. The trail gains 1,400 feet (428 meters) in a relatively short distance. To put it in perspective, we quite literally started our hike at the river seen in the pictures in the distance. Add the immense heat, and we were out of our league.

Cazzie’s face at one point was so pale, that we had to stop and rest for a while. I admittedly was ready for a rest as well, with my hair matted on the back of my neck in sweat. After drinking some water and plopping ourselves on a bench conveniently located along the side of the trail for about ten minutes, we were ready to start our journey again. The trail is actually really fun if you can get through the difficulty, with sections that have safety ropes to help pull yourself up. There aren’t many views throughout the trail, but the forest is extremely pretty to walk through. 

At the Top

As we approached the top, we were more than ready for the spectacular view that awaited us. When we finally arrived, we were not disappointed! There’s a small wooden hut at the top of the view point, so it provides some shade and a place to sit. It was quite enjoyable to relax surrounded by karsts and treetops at the top of the hike.

 

We stayed at the top of the mountain for almost two hours. The panoramic view was beautiful, with giant mountains of limestone rising from the ground as the Ou River snakes its way through the valley. The river winds through these megalith pieces of rocks, stretching on as far as the eye can see.

There was a dense haze that enveloped the area that morning, which made for a dreary day. Even with this though, the view was still very worth the climb. Popular times to embark on the hike are early morning or later at night. Be careful though and bring a flashlight if you plan on doing this. Without any sun to guide you down the steep path, things could get dangerous.

Lunch of Champs

Finally, it was time to head back into town. The only thing that made us finally leave the hut at the top of the mountain, was our hungry stomachs aching for food. After climbing carefully down, we ended our hike with a giant meal at the Indian place on the main road by the river. This was a much needed meal full of flavor and hearty goodness, and we left feeling full and satisfied. 

 

It was a wonderful day spent marveling at the beautiful limestone karsts that make up the landscape of northern Laos. They truly are magnificent, and even though the journey to the viewpoint was exhausting and sweaty, we were a part of a rare few that are able to see the beauty of the country outside of major tourist zones.

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10 Comments
  • What beautiful photos and narration. It looks warm and inviting there.

  • I can feel the heat almost. It is great that you ploughed through it. It must have been humid too? I think that is the bit I cannot stand. But the views certainly are worth it.

    • Always A Foreigner says:

      The humidity was the part that was the hardest. Dry heat seems much easier to manage, but we felt a little like we weren’t getting full breaths of air, and rather breathing a little water in each time. We are extremely glad we kept going though, because the view at the top was worth the trouble.

  • lexandneek says:

    Hello! Thank you for liking our posts! We’re definitely enjoying your posts too! The Nong Khiaw Mountain Viewpoint photos are breathtaking. It was amazing to see an old missile used as a warning sign – such a sad reminder that there are still dangerous relics around the area. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures!

    • Always A Foreigner says:

      Glad you like them! There are a lot of efforts in the area to clean up old war-era bombs, so it is looking up for the region. However, it’s still sobering that they do exist and it is a sad reminder of hardship the area went through throughout that time.

  • You talking about how hot it was makes the pictures look a little bit less pretty (if that’s even possible) although it looks like it was really humid. The bomb is really sad and definitely a good way to get your attention to be careful, although I probably would have kinda wanted to turn around and go home after I saw it lol

  • Tied for my favourite day of our 4 week trip was the day I climbed to this viewpoint. Unbelievably beautiful and not very hot doing it in the early morning. I wish I could have stayed up there longer but we were catching the 11 am boat to Muang Ngoi (kayaking there was my other favourite day). Hopefully I’ll get to blogging about these activities soon. Laos stole my heart too! Great post.

    • Always A Foreigner says:

      We should have listened to the advice and gone in the morning. I do think that this ranked very high up on my favorite days during our month long trip through Laos and Thailand as well. All in all, even with the sweat, it was well worth the climb. We didn’t have a chance to go to Muang Ngoi even though we had planned on it, but I hope one day to return and visit so much more of Laos.

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