how to spend a girls' weekend away in Nong Khiaw

When you think of a girls' weekend away, you probably think of brunch in New York or 

As someone who typically has more male companions than female, let me say how truly refreshing it's been to be in Laos surrounded by women, reminded of the power of female community. 

This is the story of three women who decided they needed to get the heck outta town and spend a quick weekend soaking in the underrated beauty of the country surrounding them. So that's exactly what they did. 

Nong Khiaw is listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook as a place not to be missed by those traveling through Laos. However, until this past weekend I had managed to completely count it out. Touk suggested we head to Nong Khiaw. This suggestion was followed by messaging Dora, who is currently out working in Nam Thuam, to meet us at the bus stop en route.  

Here are all the details for 

1. Transportation

There are daily "buses" that run from Luang Prabang bus station to Nong Khiaw. Except for the express "bus", most stop in Nam Thuam. Word of warning: these are actually either tuk tuks or mini-vans sans air conditioning. Laos is really hot, in case I haven't said that on this blog before. Our tickets cost 74,000 kip {around USD$10} for the 6 hour round-trip ride. 

2. Accommodation

We booked the Sengdao Guesthouse Bungalows. You can look forward to two full beds, a private bathroom with hot shower, and an adorable front patio to look out at the river. The bungalow had a fan as well and we each received soaps and a fresh towel. Each of us paid approximately {USD$6.75}. It could be worth it to note that the bungalow did not have WIFI {one of the reasons we booked it specifically} if that's a necessity for you. 

3. Food

Food prices seem to vary judging by what we saw on the menus posted street side. However, we only ate at one place over the weekend. A Swiss man and his Lao wife own a beautiful garden restaurant with a river view. I had vegetarian spring rolls at lunch that were some of the best I've ever had in my life. Touk had out of this world Beef Chili Laap and Dora filled herself with Pumpkin Curry soup. After trying some of Dora's soup, we all agreed we wanted to come back for dinner. After dinner, we all knew where we would find a killer breakfast. The soup and bread, which I couldn't finish, cost just less than USD$4. You can definitely find Lao food for around USD$2.50, as per usual Lao noodle soup standard. 

Now that you have the information needed to plan your own trip, I have to share what a special experience Nong Khiaw was for me personally. I got to spend the weekend laughing my ass off with two women I appreciate on a deep level. Without them, Laos would not be the same. It would be sorely lacking in inside jokes. Once again, I have found myself surrounded by women who lift one another up instead of cutting each other down. How lucky am I? Touk and I have to work closely together towards the same goal every day. If we hadn't gotten along, it would have been hell. Instead, we found ourselves to be kindred spirits {more on this in a later post}. Dora is actual sunshine. I've never met a more positive human being. Together the three of us took on the weekend without an itinerary. 

We got to let our hair down, disconnect, and share in each other's company surrounded by lush mountains and too many free-roaming chickens to count. Upon arrival and after consuming lunch, we decided to head off to see the caves. 

It costs 10,000 kip to walk across a rice field and up into the caves once you get there. Helpful hint: don't walk here in the heat of the day without sunscreen. It was a 6km roundtrip walk from our guesthouse {which we didn't know prior to setting out} and we all came back saturated in our own sweat. We also didn't really get to enjoy the caves...

Like many developing countries with little holes for tourists, we were warned that some of the local teenagers might follow us into the cave acting like they were giving helpful advice for our stay in the town then ask for money at the end of the caves. Payment for being a "tour guide." Touk had had this happen in India and Nepal. Dora had experienced this in Cambodia. Sure enough, a teenager stumbled up to the caves and tried to warn us about the bats in the caves, how slippery the path was, etc. 

Luckily, because we're three gals with experience under our belts, we outplayed the scam artist and not only got him to leave us alone, but managed to not pay any more than our 10,000 kip entry fee. However, the whole thing sort of dampened the caves for us, so we decided not to investigate further than the first big cave on the path. Also, Touk and I are afraid of the dark and neither of us had torches with us.

The mountains and rice paddocks surrounding the caves, though, could not and were not ruined. 10 out of 10, would recommend. 

The seasons are heading into winter here in Laos {I type under a fan, sweating}, which means the sun is setting around 6 p.m. The best free place to watch the sunset in Nong Khiaw is from the bridge. You can't miss it. It is literally the only big bridge in town, situated perfectly over the river running serenely between mountains on each side. 

For those of you interested in the sunrise, we paid 20,000 kip {USD $2.50} to hike up a mountain {after a night of way too many cocktails} to take in the Nong Khiaw viewpoint. It did not disappoint, guys. But beware, binge drinking the night before is not recommended as it's a steep 90-minute hike to the top. We were all feeling the burn.

I brought only my Saltwater sandals and managed just fine, but trainers might have made the jaunt up safer. There was a cloud cover when we first arrived. However, like anything else, if you wait for the timing to be right and let mother nature do its get a stunning view well worth the physical exertion. 

I could have used some more time in the peaceful setting which Nong Khiaw provided, but it was time to head home to Luang Prabang and have a proper shower {or six}.

Which reminds me, I need more shampoo... 

Regardless of the dirt I found in my elbow creases, the weekend was needed. I left Nong Khiaw refreshed and ready to take on another week with a clear head after rum induced life chats. Get your butts to Nong Khiaw, guys! I'm telling you, it's the business.