Described as a beautiful rustic village on the bank of the Ou River in Laos. It is squeezed in between some of the most fantastic limestone mountains north of Luang Probang. Keen for a less touristy environment for a few days, we set off 4 hrs North by bus to visit.
It was an interesting & beautiful journey, much of it following the Mekong & its tributaries. Along the route, we saw two of the Chinese funded dams, mentioned by Sue Perkins in last year`s BBC2 Programme. It will be interesting to see what effects this will have on villages along the river & their livelihoods as well as the natural environment & wildlife.
I would note here that the road up to the dams are tarmac`d, but afterwards it is unmade or under construction. This leads to a bumpy, hot & uncomfortable ride.
Nong Khiaw is a stunning place, but already on the cusp of being over `touristed`. There are a mix of backpackers here seeking out rock climbing, tubing & kayaking experiences; and older tourists coming for the nature & hiking. It is also a stop off for tourists going further upstream to visit the indigenous people in the small villages.
The impact of tourism
Whilst I don’t want to go on here, & I do not have any facts, it made me think deeply about the dilemma of local people keen to encourage prosperity that tourism brings to their communities, against the feeling that the indigenous villages may become spectacles like zoos (with streams of tourists passing through, taking photos with individuals that they feel make good photo opportunities). Unfortunately due to the language barrier it was not possible, but I would loved to ask locals for their honest opinion.
The pace of life in Nong Khiaw is very relaxed (we waited 2hrs for enough people to fill the mini bus for our return journey). One of my favourite moments was watching Colin make paper planes with three local boys, and throw them off the bridge to see whose plane would fly the longest.
We stayed at The Vongmany Guesthouse which cost $16 night. Reasonably basic but fantastic views!
I hope Nong Khiaw does not become more popular, as right now, it is perfect.