Aug 29, 2009

Nong Khiaw / Tiger Trails / Fair Trek

The bridge at Nong Khiaw Riverside Lodge seemingly resting on bridge.

Last winter while wandering through northern Laos I spent the night at Nong Khiaw (Kiao, Keeow, etc) a river crossing town on the Nam Ou above Luang Prabang. I wasn't walking well so my big excursion was a stroll over the bridge and looking at town from the other side of the river. Nong Khiaw seems to be split by more than the river, the west side seems older and where the major portion of the houses are as well as the bus stop. The east side has all the newer river bungalows and I think a different name, Ban Sop Houn.

Pill box on west side of bridge

There was a trekking company in town with it's doors open and no one home, there was even a side entrance from my guest house. I usually stop in at any trekking company while I'm in a town to say hello to the guides. They're a great source of info about the local area and usually speak good English. I made a mental note to myself to stop by later and see what was up.

I'd read a warning online from the owner of the Riverside Guest House that Muang Ngoi Nuah, the tourist destination upriver and the small Hmong villages close by do not have ATMs. I guess some of the people headed to this idylic roadless Shangrila are caught unaware by the lack of machines spitting cash. When I hobbled over to the restaurant lobby the owner seemed pre occupied with the internet connection which had been out for 3 days.He probably makes a lot of his income via prebooked tour groups and desperately needs the internet. In any case I put on my best lost tourist look of despair and asked if any of the Hmong villages had ATM machines. After a couple more minutes of small talk he asked me if I were really serious. I really do sound as dumb as I look.

Veiw of Nong Khiaw from Riverside Lodge

If anyone stops by the Riverside please perpetuate the stereotype by asking if there are ATMs upriver. Check the price before ordering much in the restaurant. Flashpacker territory.

That evening I met the young manager of the local Tiger Trails office, and also a guide who had come down from Luang Prabang to check things out. I talked to both of them for a couple of hours. The young manager appeared to be in his young 30s. Good English, self assured, business like. He was 21, a very mature young fellow, one of those people whom you meet and think to yourself, "this guy is going to go far in this world".

Tiger Trails / Fair Trek / Nong Khiaw

His story as best I remember is that he had been taking people out on walks on his own initiative when a couple of satisfied customers mentioned him to the owner of a Trekking company in Luang Prabang. The owner went up to Nong Khiaw, they went on a couple of excursions together and worked out a few basic itineraries. What most interested me was the walk they took for a few days in the Hmong villages in the hills east of town. When I was there no one other than the owner of Tiger Trails and his now local manager had done this walk. I am still very interested.

I read on their web site that they now have a lodge in one of the villages and are working on a store to sell local handicrafts.

No comments: