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Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

Perth, Australia
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Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

We did this trip yesterday...a lovely day and very scenic particularly the first half of the trip.

The public boat is currently leaving Nong Khiau every day at 11am for Luang Prabang. There is also a daily service at 11am to Muang Khua. We were advised to be at the boat office by 10am by which time there was already a queue.

Mr M (M for Mafia is my guess) at the boat ticket office manages proceedings in a most authoritative manner. The boats have maybe four or six comfortable forward facing seats (dining chairs or bus seats in another life?) and the rest of the passengers sit sideways on wooden planks. The trick is to get the good seats but there is no way of eliciting the likelihood from Mr M before parting eith your 110,000kip for the ticket.

We ended up joint forces with four other tourists and chartering a boat for 1,600,000kip. Much discussion ensued in broken English and hand signals with Mr M to be able to view the boat before we paid our money. Just as well we did as there were only 4 seats for 6 passengers. Not a problem to Mr M it seemed but neither we nor our money was going anywhere without comfy seats for all. Eventually two seats were unbolted from another boat and secured on ours and we were happily on our way.

The day was great...beautiful views, villagers along the river and fun avoiding being splashed when going through the rapids (wet weather gear or a towel recommended). The journey took six hours including a drink/toilet stop at a floating restaurant and visit to Pak Ou Caves.

Highly recommended!

Alberta, Canada
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1. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

Thanks April,

That sounds like an adventure with negotiating the boat./ adding seats.

Won't have that choice when traveling solo. I'll have to depend on Mr M.

What I would like to know is if you think this boat would still travel in mid April, ie will there be enough water? Any other tips would be great.

I thought I would take bus or minibus to NK and maybe up to Maung Ngoi , I think 1 hr. further. Would that be advisable as trip down river from NK long enough?

Is it easy to find a place to stay in NK, low budget?

USA
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2. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

Thanks for the report! Great bargaining skills!

Perth, Australia
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3. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

The Nam Ou river was quite low in parts so could be a problem in April especially on the public 16 people plus all kinds of cargo making it much heavier than a charter boat. I'm guessing there will be less tourists in April too as it will be the hot season so maybe nit enough for a boat every day.

The young European guy who co-owns and manages the Nong Khiau riverside resort seems to know all about the boat service. Perhaps if you emailed to enquire about accommodation there you could ask about the boat too. The Riverside Resort is by far the best place to stay in town for anyone who can afford it...great bungalows, great quiet location right on the water and very handy to all the restaurants etc

Nong Khiau has mostly budget rooms. So many options for less than $10 a night with ensuite and sometimes balcony. No need to book. Better to check the room first as some are pretty grotty. From the bus station just head across the big bridge over the Nam Ou and all the budget places are clustered together.

Perth, Australia
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4. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

You can also see the spectacular Nam Ou river scenery by taking the one hour public boat up river to Maing Ngoi Nuea The very best scenery is just north of Maung Ngoi Nuea as seen on tours upriver from MNN to the weaving village or for kayaking or tubing. I'd suggest an overnight stop in Nong Khiau and then head up to Maung Ngoi Nuea for at least two nights,preferably three, where tour and activity options seemed to be much cheaper. The river is fine for swimming in which should be welcome in the heat of April. Loads of accommodation in Muang Ngoi Nuea, all low to lowish budget.

For those with the energy a nice option from MNN back to NK is to take the kayak tour. You will have a guide who will organize your luggage on another boat back to NK. Kayaking back takes about six hours including stops. The kayak tour is also a good day trip from NK if not staying in MNN.

Tours are very expensive in NK compared with Vang Vieng presumably due to less competition.

Amsterdam, The...
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5. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

Ah it is even better to take a boat all the way up to Hat Sa! What an adventure as the river is getting shallower and shallower. If you want to charter a boat, it is better to ask your guesthouse owner to do the negotiations for you. It will be cheaper! The owner of the Nam Ou River Lodge helped me with arranging a boat. Can't remember the exact price, but it was cheap for sure.

Northern Laos is the best place in the world :)

Deepest Devon
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6. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

Will there be plenty of water in the river at Christmas? Does anyone know how booked up things get then?

uk
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7. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

i just did the boat journey. The 'insufficient' numbers to run the boats seems to be a general scare put around by tour operators so they can sell you a private boat. The Nam Ou owner said he runs a travel agency so he has an interest to sell you a private boat. When i was in NK it was obvious there were quite a few westerners looking for the boat trip. The cost of the boat trip is 110,000 by normal boat. There were at least 2 boats maybe even a third on the day I travelled. I counted about 12-14 on my boat....the man at the ticket office told me they need 10. If you compare that to the 1,500,000 for the private boat it seems about the right number. The private boat runs at the same speed as the standard boats, but they do have more comforatable seats for the 5 hour journey. If you ask around the tourists the day before you are sure to get an idea of who wants to go. NK is very small!

On a general note, for those of a nervous disposition or worry about safety, you should know that the river is not as calm as you imagine. I did the trip in early November and the boat has to travel past several sections of fast flowing and choppy water. Quite a bit of water comes into the boat and as there was no sign of any life jackets. It must be even more fun in the rainy season!

Deepest Devon
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8. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

Thanks UKrandomtraveller, that's very helpful. We are thinking we might skip the first boat part and get a car up to Nong Khiaw. Did you go any further up the river, and if so, was that just as rough in places? We have now had to arrange other parts of our trip, and I have allowed three days/two nights for exploring the Nam Ou, starting and ending at Luang Prabang (having given up the idea of going on to Dien Bien Phu) so I am hoping that is enough.

Cologne, Germany
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for Cologne, Laos
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9. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

With three days and two nights, I would recommend to stay in NJ for two nights. If you take the bus to NK, you arrive around lunch time, which gives you 1 1/2 days in Nk, before taking the boat trip to LP. If you want to head further north you have hardly time to see anything from the areas.

Unless you take the afternoon boat to Muang Ngoi on day one (leaves around 2pm, and takes one hour) and return to LP from MN via NK on day three.

But overall I would highly recommend to stay at only one place.

Deepest Devon
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10. Re: Nong Khiau to Luang Prabang by boat

Thank you Scotsman 79. Sorry, I should have said we intend to do the first section in both directions by road, if we can. We think the first part is a bit long for us old crocks !

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