🖐 In this travel guide we’ll share all our experience travelling to the towns of Muang Ngoy & Nong Khiaw (via Nam ou River), located in the North East of Laos. If this is your first time on Dronemade, we're a community of drone pilots around the world and thus like to share our travel experiences and how we see things from up there. Give a 👍 at the end of this post & feel free to share your experience or any updates you might have in the Laos Discussion Group. Keep in mind that the content below is updated to the best of our knowledge & does not replace official sources & your research.
This journey is a real adventure which will take you through some of the most well preserved places of South East Asia. Both towns of Muang Ngoy and Nong Khiaw are part of the banana pancake trail and worth a stop over for a couple of nights. Looking for the real stuff, this is the place to be with little amount of tourists and plenty of outdoor activities to do. It might be hard to reach this corner of the world but it is worth every effort.
Where is it exactly & how to get to Muang Ngoy & Nong Khiaw?
Depending on where you're travelling from, you can either start from Luang Prabang in the south or from Muang Khua if coming from the North (we personally arrived there from Vietnam, after completing the Ha Giang Loop).
🚌 From Luang Prabang: you will need to catch a minivan (no regular night buses available) which will drive you directly to Nong Khiaw. There are about 4 a day, departing every 3h more or less and should cost you about 60,000 kip. Be aware that the minivan will stop on its way to pick up locals (unless full) which might add delays to your journey. The road itself is in construction and pretty rough especially around Luang Prabang, with the dam constructions happening.
🚢 Once in Nong Khiaw, you can jump into one of the two boats living for Muang Ngoy every day (first one at 10 am and second one at 2 pm). The boat ride will take about an hour and cost you 20,000 kips one way.
🚌🚢 From Muang Khua: you will need to catch a boat that departs from Nam ou River Pier, (just down a turning road, appox, 3mins walk from the main road). The boast leaves at 10am or earlier if full, it can welcome up to 22 passengers which doesn't sound much but it is usually enough. You should be down the pier by 9am to be sure you have a seat and buy your ticket (selling from 9.30am).
The boat price from Muang Khua to Muang Ngoy will depend on the number of passengers. If on your travel day, you are:
4 to 6 passengers, then you ticket will cost 200,000 kip
5 to 7 passengers, then your ticket will cost you 150,000 kip
7+ passengers, then your ticket will cost you 110,000 kip
✅ The boat ride in itself cannot be seen as a simple transportation mean, the trip is well worth an excursion in the Amazon. You will cruise along a few rapids, isolated villages and tropical jungle, some parts being absolute untouched by humans. Most villages along your way do not have electricity so this is the real thing, a proper immersion in remote Laos on your way to Muang Ngoy.
🚨If you're going straight to Nong Khiaw without stopping in Muang Noy, then add 20,000 kip on these prices. You can also take the road with a minivan which will take approximately 3h (instead of 5h with the boat) 💡 But as you now guessed, we highly recommend you to take a break and enjoy the town of Muang Ngoy.
🚌 You can book most of your Laos transportation here (you cannot book the boat to Muang Ngoy in advance)
What to do in Muang Ngoy & Nong Khiaw?
Both towns are small and might look pretty simple on a first overview but there is actually quite a bit to be done in each of them if you like outdoors.
Hiking in Muang Ngoy
There are several day hikes to be completed from the small town centre, you will need two full days to complete them all:
hike to Ban Na: a flat dirt road taken by locals bringing you through small villages. You will find on your way Tham Kang Cave (10,000 kip entrance fee) where you can swim and explore the underworld (bring a torch and swimmers). Through the villages, you will be able to buy locally handmade beautiful scarves and small sculptures that help the local communities improve their daily lives (there is no electricity in these villages).
hike to Phanoi viewpoint: probably the best view of the town and surroundings, try to head there for sunset (gates close at 6pm, entrance is 10,000 kip). A little challenging but 100% doable for medium fit people, if you're lucky you will be alone up there and think how isolated you're right now.
hike to Pha Boom (upper view point): very challenging hike, recommended to experienced hijers only, the trail isn't clear and there are snakes on your way.. Bring a machete to clear the bush on your way, bring a lot of water. Allow 7h return to complete this steep climbing hike (entrance fee 20,000 kip to be paid at Gecko Bar)
Hiking in Nong Khiaw
There are two viewpoints quite famous, but we believe doing one of them is plenty.
Sleeping Woman viewpoint: a challenging 1h30 climb offering a 180 view on the town and the river coming by. This is to us the most beautiful view you can get of the town, especially if heading for sunset and see the sun disappearing behind the mountains and the dragon flies flying by dozens around you. (Entrance is 20,000 kip)
Phadeng Peak Viewpoint: a little less hard but still intense for non hikers, this viewpoint will give you a 360 view of the valley and the town. Much more famous, you will have a great time up there but feel a little less alone and adventurous than o the sleeping woman viewpoint.
Another option is to do an overnight hike in one of the remote villages, several guides offer this option from the town's centre. It will cost you about 1 million kip pp to book it with all included.
You will have many more options in Nong Khiaw and we advise you to stock up in town before heading elsewhere if needed. You will find a pharmacy, several grocery stores and a mechanic tool shop. Muang Ngoy has far less options but a few art-craft shops. 💡 Great to know, the ton has several backpack fix shops so feel free to offer locals a bit of work and fix your favourite bag for you.
Rent a scooter
Available in Nong Khiaw only, there is one place to rent them from (just next to Vinus restaurant on the south side of the river). Renting a scooter will cost you about 100,000 kips / day, we recommend to hit the road and visit the small surrounding villages following the 1C road. Be careful as the road isn't exactly perfect, however the little traffic there makes it very enjoyable.
Go to the movies
You've read us well, Nong Khiaw as a tiny cinema with one movie playing each night, a truly local and unique experience to have in the middle of Laos. Movies are generally in English or at least subtitled.
Rent a kayak
Available in both towns, you can organise a kayak day paddling downstream and arranging transportation to bring you and your boats back. However, renting a kayak isn't cheap and will come at around 150,000 kips for a full day but will give you some of the nicest views.
💡 If renting from Nong Khiaw, you can arrange yourself to paddle until 100 water falls and hike to them. The small village you have to enter has one shop for you to stock up on water and a few local snacks.
💡 if renting from Muang Ngoy, you can combine your trip with a fishing excursion and an overnight camping/bbq experience. You will need to book at least one night ahead to make it happen and should be at least 4 px or ready to pay for 4 px (approx 300,000 kips/ pp).
Where to stay & eat in Muang Ngoy & Nong Khiaw?
🚪 There are several affordable options, a couple of high end places in Nong Khiaw and a myriad of backpacker places thanks to the banana pancake trail passing by these two towns.
In Muang Ngoy, we recommend you check out Riverview Bungalows & Gh affordable with a nice view, its an easy all rounder located in the town centre. The owners speak a little English, enough to help you around.
In Nong Khiaw, we're hands down for Guesthouse Pho Sai River View, who offer clean river view bungalows. With a little negotiation, you can get them down for 70,000 kip / night (sleeps 2). Make sure to ask for the upper rooms who have terraces and a better view.
If none of these suit you or are available, don't be too sad, there are a myriad of other accommodation offers just next to these and most seem quite decent too. We found them using our hotel price comparative tool to make sure we booked at the best price.
🍴 You will have plenty of choices for food and drinks in both towns, in Muang Ngoy, we recommend you head to Gecko Restaurant (half price cocktails from 6 - 9 pm) which serves an excellent curry and delicious banh-mi too. In Nong Khiaw, your best value for quality and prices will be at Noymany Restaurant. This is a family owned business serving only fresh and local dishes made with passion and love; their dishes are the biggest we've seen in all Laos, a true gem.
Can I fly my drone in Muang Ngoy and Nong Khiaw?
🚨 Be aware of the airline you purchase to travel as some main ones will only accept your drone on-board if its batteries are detached & placed in a firecase during travel time. Most airlines will have a battery voltage limit based on the recommendation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). You can find more info about a specific airline here.
✅ Both towns are away from any aerial traffic so its relatively safe for you and others to fly your drone around. Be aware that both towns are surrounded by tall cliffs and winds can be different as you pass one to another. Try to avoid flying above the urban places and stick to the river or surroundings given you a greater view of the town too.
✅ In every case you should follow the Laos drone rules and laws at all times. Note that these can evolve within months and its always a good thing to double check upon departure.
What to think of Muang Ngoy and Nong Khiaw?
Well we don't like to write this part of the story so we've put together some of our coolest pics. If you don't feel like seeing them before heading there, we get it and won't be sad.
✅ Please leave a comment or update the Laos Discussion Group when you receive news and/or gain experience in Muang Ngoy and Nong Khiaw! Have fun over there and make a lot of good memories! #muang #ngoy #nong #khiaw #laos #travel #experience #city
Disclaimer: Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information researched, we take no responsibility for any loss, harm or damage caused as a direct or indirect consequence of relying on this information. It is your responsibility to seek advice from qualified local & relevant authorities for needed information about local drone rules and regulations.
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