Northern Laos Part II: Hike to Phadeng Peak Viewpoint, Nong Khiaw

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At the Nong Khiaw viewpoint—C.Helbig

If you only do one activity while visiting Nong Khiaw (other than lying in a hammock admiring the view) it should be hiking to Phadeng Peak viewpoint. I heard lots of excuses for not doing it: it’s too hot, cold, difficult, steep, early, late…Mike used a combination of these to talk himself out of the hike. I remember the regretful look on his face when he scrolled through my photos. He hadn’t expected the views to be that stunning (nor had I). Don’t miss out on this activity when you’re in Nong Khiaw. It’s well worth the roughly one hour uphill grunt, and the effort needed is not nearly as bad as many reviewers make it out to be.

I only had a small window of opportunity for the hike—early morning, as we were catching the 11 a.m. boat to Muang Ngoi that day. When my phone alarm went off at 6:30 I was starting to talk myself out of it: Do I have enough time? Should I be doing this on my own? I tried convincing Mike one more time but he wouldn’t budge. Something pushed me on, and off I went to fill up my water bottle and grab a banana from the breakfast buffet.

Early morning in Nong Khiaw is not terribly appealing. It’s cool and damp and foggy (in February anyway). However, there are at least a couple of reasons why this may be the the best time to hike to the viewpoint. The comfortable temperature and absence of scalding sun makes the uphill slog quite bearable versus waiting until later in the day. But the best part is the mystical view at the top where the mountain peaks are bathed in clear morning light and the valley floor is blanketed in clouds.

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The rewards of getting up early—C.Helbig

The trailhead is located on the east side of Nong Khiaw along the main road and is well marked with signs. It’s a short walk from the bridge and not far beyond Deen’s Restaurant heading out of town. The signs indicate that the hike takes 1 1/2 hours going up and 45 minutes down. If you’re reasonably fit it shouldn’t take more than an hour to reach the top. The trail is steep but very doable. There’s nothing technical, and the path is well maintained and easy to follow (it would be almost impossible to get lost).

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It’s hard to miss the trailhead for the Phadeng Peak viewpoint—C.Helbig

There’s a house at the start of the trail where you buy your ticket (20,000 Kip/$2.50). The sign claims that admission includes a bottle of water but they had apparently run out. Bring your own water; you’ll need it.

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The ticket “office”—C.Helbig

The path winds its way past a few houses and then quickly gets into the jungle where the hard-packed dirt trail goes relentlessly uphill. In a few particularly steep sections there are ropes that provide assistance (I needed them more on the way down). I was in such a rush to get up and then down again (after spending maximum time at the top) that I didn’t fully appreciate the journey and only took a few (bad) photos.

The jungle scenery is quite impressive with thick, ropy vines and massive bamboo stands. The trail was quiet and I didn’t run into other hikers until at least three quarters of the way up. I had lots of time to think and obsess about giant Burmese pythons…do they cross the border!?

There are really no views to speak of until you get to the very top, and then they are beyond stunning. The sharp peaks are a dramatic contrast to the fluffy white clouds that obscure the valley. I felt like I was on top of the world, in all kinds of ways.

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Incredible view at the top of Phadeng Peak—C.Helbig

There’s a covered platform that invites hikers to linger. It’s the perfect spot to relax and stretch and drink in the beauty.  I was very surprised to be sharing this wonderful place with only three others.

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A sunny, comfortable place to relax—C.Helbig

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The photo ops are endless—C.Helbig

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I was told that the clouds usually lift by 9:00 a.m. I figured that I could stay at the top until 9:15 and have enough time to make it down, have a quick breakfast, and get to the boat launch before 11:00. I was desperate to see the view of the town and the Nam Ou river valley, but by 9:15 there were only a few tiny breaks in the cloud carpet. I stretched it out a little longer thinking I could run most of the way down (which I did). By 9:30 I had to pack it in. I learned from the gal in the photo (two up), who I bumped into in Muang Ngoi, that the clouds didn’t lift until after 10:00. Despite missing out on the “open” view I was 100% thrilled with the mystical cloud cover view. The hike to Phadeng Peak was one of my favourite activities of the entire trip.

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Nong Khiaw from viewpoint—www.boboandchichi.com

In case your wondering about the view once the clouds lift, here’s a photo I “borrowed”.

I made it to the boat, and I apologize to fellow passengers that I had no time to take a shower.

I have a couple more posts coming on our adventures in Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi.

 

 

 

Categories: Activities, Hiking, Laos, Places | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments

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37 thoughts on “Northern Laos Part II: Hike to Phadeng Peak Viewpoint, Nong Khiaw

  1. Awesome place!…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Spectacular and beautiful. Sounds like a good training walk for trekking. And you know what Caroline? Typical me and knowing your Canadian trekking posts, I was wondering if leeches might be a hazard of the trail. And then you mentioned the pythons! Your bears sound like a better option. The climb is definitely on the list when we get there. Thank you for the information in the post it’s very helpful. In fact I might start cutting and pasting some notes for the trip. Louise

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was too dry for leeches, but I imagine they are out in wet season. I am deathly afraid of snakes, even the harmless little ones we have here on the rare occasion. I’ll take a bear over a python (no idea how common they, or other snakes are in this part of Laos and best I didn’t find out). Most certainly put this trail on your list!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Always a Foreigner

    I loved this hike, and the views were fantastic. Glad you had a chance to do it. My boyfriend was very against the idea, but when we both got to the top we were blown away by how pretty it was. Great pictures, I wish I was still in Nong Khiaw!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you can relate to this amazing experience.I suspect that almost everyone would love this hike once they take in the view. So glad I didn’t talk myself out of it.

      Like

      • Always a Foreigner

        Same. We even accidentally left midday and almost turned back while hiking due to the heat. So glad we didn’t though.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Northern Laos Part III: A Perfect Day in Muang Ngoi | Writes of Passage

  5. The mist seems to add more depth to the landscape and I love how lush the area looks in your photographs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Looks like it was definitely worth the early wake up! So impressed you did this solo too, that is awesome. Those views are other-worldly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m usually fairly cautious about doing things on my own in a new place but my need for a good workout and the friendly/safe vibe in this village sent me on my way. So glad.

      Like

  7. That is beautiful and I can see that it was worth waking up early for. The thought of being one a cool mountain sounds awesome as I melt in Bangkok right now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Caroline, first off am so impressed that you got up early, solo, to go and hike uphill on no breakfast and with time constraints. That determination certainly paid off! Your photos are absolutely glorious and make us wish we were back in Laos to have made it to the exact spot in your photo of that gorgeous deck overlooking the stunning view. I intend to have breakfast there one day.

    Looking forward to more of your posts on Laos. Great!!

    The view after the clouds clear, is very reminiscent of the view we had when we climbed to the top of a hill in Luang Prabang which has a 360 degree view. Did you see this? The serpent like thread of the Mekong River is so stunning…. Is this the Mekong in the photo?

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peta, I like the idea of having breakfast on that deck and not having to rush back down. It would be a very enjoyable reward! The river is the Ou, a tributary of the Mekong. They meet up a bit north of Luang Prabang. Yes, we climbed to the top of the hill for that glorious view in Luang Prabang. We did it midday when it was very hot and hazy. My photos did not turn out great. I agree with you that the snaking paths of the Mekong (and the Ou) are stunning. Wonderful country! Cheers, Caroline

      Like

  9. becksplore

    Wow! Amazing pictures, for that view it must have been worth it getting ab at 6:30am 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow – gorgeous! This makes me want to visit Laos!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your photos are amazing! Beautiful views! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh that looks *totally* worth it. I’m sure I would have wanted to stay too in order to see the view after the clouds lifted but I must say I love your photos with the clouds hanging there.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Nice photos of the foggy temperature inversion! We get these a lot in the Helena Valley during the winter. Sometimes the fog stays for days. The fog in your photos probably burned off by late morning. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Yes, that’s the general weather pattern there, at least in the winter months—clouds hang out until mid-morning giving way to beautiful clear skies. I was surprised at the large temperature fluctuation between early morning and midday.

      Like

  14. Mike Hohmann

    Wish I could have hiked to the top with you! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Stunning photos! It looks like your hike was well worth the early rise and rush. I have only spent a few weeks in Laos, mainly doing Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, but ever since it has been on my list for places to return to. When I finally do make it back I will keep this hike in mind!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for dropping in and commenting. I know what you mean about Laos being on the list of places to return to. It is really wonderful country with great people. Hopefully we’ll both get there again.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. What stunning photos. I am so glad you did not miss out on this. Through you, I get an idea of what goes into my list. Mike sounds like my husband 😉 But I badger the man so much that he does not stand a chance of not being dragged along, tee hee. Btw I will never do this alone lest I meet a giant python. The very thought does things to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, I think Mike has become immune to my badgering, and I probably did not do the best “selling job”. We have lots of steep, relentless uphill stuff where we live. I mistakenly made reference to a popular hike here called “The Grouse Grind”, which he hates. Turns out that the Nong Khiaw hike is relatively mild compared to that and he would have been fine. Thankfully I met no reptiles or animals of any kind except for some cute baby chicks in the village at the bottom. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Grouse Grind. I like the sound of it. Kill me with the stairmaster kinda climb. I just looked it up. I doubt Adi would ever do that! Or I can just imagine the grumpiness I would have to sustain.

        Liked by 1 person

    • My husband takes a lot of badgering to get going in the morning too! It’s hit or miss as to whether I can convince him or not.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. For completely selfish reasons, I’m so glad you didn’t talk yourself out of Phadeng Peak–oh, that gorgeous view! The valley view is lovely, too, but I’m enamored of that mystical cloud cover. The bamboo reminds me of several local trails, though the ropy vines lend a distinctly exotic feel…of Burmese pythons, lol?! Yikes, is there python encounter protocol? Lingering on that platform merits top Lonely Planet billing in my book–I’m sold. My son is more convinced than ever that we need to journey to Laos. You’ve reignited SE Asia fever here in a big way (though we’re looking at a timeline of 5 years from now at best); I may have even priced out plane fare to Bangkok! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • My 2014 Lonely Planet Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos does not even mention this hike or viewpoint—maybe that’s a good thing. I suspect that like my hubby many visitors get scared off by the perceived difficulty. Hopefully it will remain relatively peaceful when you do this 5 years from now! I’m glad I’m responsible for reigniting SE Asia fever in your household. I know the bear and cougar encounter protocol, but pythons, no idea! They don’t like the chilly mornings though, right?!?!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Steven Hunt

    Gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. It was tempting to stay under the warm covers, but I’m very happy I didn’t talk myself out of this one. Cheers,Caroline

    Like

  20. Oh this was so worth it. As you say – fabulous views. It’s always the reward for climbing, though I totally relate to the inner argument about whether to go or not when the alarm rings at 6.30.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

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