Laos is a quite, peaceful country. Sure it neighbors Thailand, and there are definitely glimmers of its tourist friendly cities going wayward in a sad manner, but for the most part, it’s amazing. The landscape is beautiful, the people are gracious and traveling is still quite affordable.
While not quite completely part of the tourist loop in Laos at this point, one can find two gems in the sleepy mountain towns of Nong Khiew and Muang Ngoi. They are readily accessible and can be a package deal as they are only an hour away from one another by boat.
To get to Nong Khiew, visitors can either take a four-hour minibus ride on terribly bumpy roads from Luang Prabang, or they can opt for the more expensive but much more scenic and luxurious boat ride from the same city. Both leave daily in the morning and normally arrive in time to catch the second of two daily boats to Muang Ngoi.
A nice view of the Namou River
What makes these two towns so special is that they are both still authentic cities. Though they offer happy hours and WiFi in some areas, Laotian people still go about their daily lives and seem to genuinely like the small influx of tourists.
The two towns themselves are absolutely stunning. Nong Khiew is a bit larger, with a few paved main streets and consistent power. It is situated on both sides of the Namou, with a large bridge linking the two sides of the city. On either side of the river are immense limestone peaks and the town boats caves and waterfalls for touristic enjoyment.
Similar to the former, Muang Ngoi is also situated between stunning limestone peaks on the Namou River. It is much smaller than Nong Khiew, though, made up of only one small dirt road. There is only generator power, which normally is turned on from 6-10 p.m. (though this doesn’t stop a few bars from staying open via candlelight). The bungalows are a tiny bit more expensive, but the views are breathtaking. The town also boasts treks to waterfalls and hill tribe villages, with the opportunity to do a home stay in three different villages.
If you are coming to Laos, I highly encourage you to visit Nong Khiew and Muang Ngoi. With travel to Laos becoming more popular, the raw beauty of the two may not stay the same for long. Be aware though, one or two nights can quickly change to your entire 30-day visa.