Muang Ngoi Neua is a small riverside village in Northern Laos wedged in between karst mountains at the confluence of the Nam Ngoi and the Nam Ou rivers. In the last few years it is beginning to appear as a destination on the Banana Pancake Trail as a backpacker favorite. Nevertheless, it remains a low-key destination in a stunning location. Interesting hikes can be made to tribal villages in the area.
From the south
Three minivans per day travel from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw (3½ hours, 09:00 & 11:00 and 14:00 (40,000 kip when bought at the North bus station, 80,000, including tuk tuk, when bought from your hotel). From there, take the connecting 1-hour boatride (daily, 11:00 & 14:30, 25,000 kip).
From the north
Grab the 5-hour boatride from Muang Khua (120,000 kip, 10:00 if at least 10 people; 150,000 kip for 6 to 9 people, but often operators will charge whatever they think they can, especially in low season).
- 1 Tham Kang Cave and Tham Pha Kaew Cave (from the main street, take the second street left, cross the wooden bridge and soccer field and continue straight). These caves were bomb shelters during the Vietnam War. North of town, about 50 min by foot and can be found without a guide. There is a 10,000 kip toll to enter, to see the village, or to walk past the village. It is claimed this money is for a bridge, though it's dubious. Continue past the caves for about 45 min to reach Ban Na village for lunch. 10,000 kip.
- Nam Ou Beach. At the end of the dry season when the water is low, take a cool splash in the Nam Ou or sip from a cocktail on a bamboo chaise longue.
- Phetdavanh Book Exchange. Change your old books for new ones at this 2-for-1 book exchange with more than 300 titles.
- Visit Surrounding Villages (Bana, Huay Bo, and Huay Sen) (to Bana, walk ~30 min past Tham Kang Cave. It's on the left side across the rice fields; to Huay Bo, you'll need to walk another 20 min past Bana by crossing the river; to Huay Bo, follow the sign to Konsavan Guesthouse that'll lead you across the river). There are guest houses in all 3 villages, costing 5,000-15,000 kip for a bungalow.
- Phanoy Lookout Point (from the main road, take the road opposite of the boat landing, then turn left - there's a fence and gate a few metres further, which leads to the lookout trail). 08:00-17:00. A steep climb leading to a lookout platform with great views over Muang Ngoi, the Nam Ou and the surrounding mountains. The trail consists mainly of limestone rock, and bamboo rails have been installed for safety and easier climbing; while steep, it is not difficult and most people only need 20 to 30 minutes to reach the platform. The land owner will collect the entrance fee once you passed the gate. There's a different path down which is easier and signposted when descending. 10,000 kip.
- Phaboom Lookout Point (Walk to the southern end of the main road and turn left besides the bar entrance. A short forest path will lead to a stream; cross it, walk onto the farm road and turn left. After a few metres, you'll see a fence and gate, which marks the start of the trail). If the Phanoy Lookout Point doesn't cut it and you're up for a little challenge, you can ascend the limestone mountain immediately south of Muang Ngoi. There will be a villager collecting the entrance fee right at the gate. The first hour is a steep, slippery climb, with plenty of roots serving as steps, and there are ropes for assistance. You'll come out at an average lookout point with limited views over Muang Ngoi; from here, a more difficult path (taking about another hour) ascends to the peak of the mountain. This part is even steeper in places, more slippery with less holds and no ropes to hold onto save for a few near the peak. Wear shoes with good grip, go slow and make extensive use of the bamboo, trees and stones to avoid falling. Do not go alone unless you have experience with this kind of environment. The effort is rewarded by a magnificent view over the valley behind the mountain, with the Nam Ou river slowly disappearing in the foggy mountains in the distance. A few metres to the right when reaching the peak, you can climb to a flag which provides another fine view over Muang Ngoi. 20,000 kip.
All restaurants on the main road of the village cater pretty much exclusively to tourists, hence menus are in English only. Perhaps surprisingly, prices are (so far) mostly on par with what you would pay in Northern Laos' towns, maybe a bit more for certain dishes. Most guesthouses also run a restaurant. Lao and Western favourites are readily available, but service is often slow - consider it part of the overall atmosphere.
In the mornings and evenings, you can find the odd street stall with a few locals gathered around it; the food (often barbecued meat) seems to be poor value though, as you might be quoted 10,000 kip for a single sausage.
- Aloune Mai (halfway down the main street on the right). Good Lao food and cold Beerlao. Makes its own bread and pizza dough. Closed during off season.
- (immediately left of the boat landing). Open all year. Solid and clean. Boasts big wooden balcony and marble table seats on the grass.
- Meen Indian Restaurant (at the far part of the main street, look for the black sign on the left side). Tasty Indian and Lao food.
- Nicksa's Place (in the middle of the main road on the right-hand side). Nicksa's Place has 2 restaurants, 50 m away from each other on the main road. The furthest one offers good prices and a very quiet view on the river.
- Ning Ning Restaurant (left of the boat landing stairs take the path passing the boat office). Open all year. Big open-air terrace overlooking the Nam Ou. Best view in town.
- Phetdavanh Guesthouse. 07:30 - 10:30. All-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Food in buffet is not anything special but good quantity for the money. 2 cocktails for 1 during happy hour. First house on the main street with a stone step. 35,000 kip.
- Vita Restaurant (a few metres south on the main road from Nicksa's Place, on the right side). Run by a friendly local couple. Deck with nice wooden tables and chairs, but not much other decoration. Free WiFi. While the menu is not as extensive as other restaurants in town and the atmosphere is lacking, the food is of fine quality and good value for money.
- Bee Tree Bar. 17:00 - 22:00. Nice spot completely at the long end of the main road on the left. Bar with stools, couches and fireplace. Great Italian red wine.
- 1 Gecko Bar & Restaurant. A nice bar/restaurant, good (if not the same every day) music selection. Friendly owner and staff. 20,000 kip for a cocktail during the happy hour. Their Lao food (or Lam, Suzy, etc.) is also great, ask for spicy (if you can tolerate it) for a more authentic experience.
- (On the main street as well as close to the river). Upmarket choice. Hardwood bungalows with en suite bath, nice garden and good restaurant. 80,000-60,000 kip.
- 1 Niksa's Bungalows (halfway down main road, on the right). Riverside bungalows with attached bath, and two hammocks for each bungalow. Wi-Fi at the reception as well as a restaurant. Friendly staff. Seems to be one of the best budget options. 80,000-50,000 kip.
- Ning Ning Bungalows. Clean wooden bungalows overlooking the Nam Ou. 300,000 kip.
- Phetdavanh Guesthouse & Bungalows (far left of the boat dock). Bungalows with private bath, comfy beds, and superb view over the river. Has a big book collection in the guesthouse on the main street. 50,000 kip low-season.
- Rainbow Guesthouse. 3-storey concrete building with restaurant overlooking the river, close to the boat steps, tallest building in town. Basic rooms with fan and mosquito net. Better take a look on the mattress before checking in, they are not necessarily cleaned on regular basis (if ever). 80,000 kip a night (feb 2015), 60,000 low season (May 2017).
- Aloune Mai (look for the sign on the main street half way through on the left). Private bungalows with hammock in a hidden away spot deep inside the village. Great outdoor seating with bar & restaurant. Restaurant closed during low season. Bungalows come with basic bathroom, hot shower and mosquito net. 50,000 kip.
- Lertkeo. Solid and clean bungalows with riverview about two thirds down the main road, turn right at Meen restaurant. 50,000 kip.
- Veranda. Offers 3 bungalows with river view, down the main road. Spacious and clean bungalows, with mosquito net, attached bathroom, balcony and hammock. 60,000 kip (high season) for the biggest bungalow (two persons in a three beds room). Now also have four rooms in a concrete building with a veranda, with nice views. In low season 50,000 kip for concrete bungalows, 40,000 for wooden ones.
- Aloune guesthouse. Offers bungalows with river view, mosquito net, fan, attached bathroom, balcony with hammock, 60,000 kip, not to be confused with Aloune Mai above.
In the off season the number of empty guest houses can see prices fall as low as 30,000 kip/night.
- As of June 2018, there are still no ATMs in Muang Ngoi. Make sure to bring enough cash with you. If you run out of money, you will have to take the 09:30 boat to Nong Khiaw and return on the 11:00 boat. As of August 2019, you can get cash with a credit card and 5% fee at Riverside Bungalows.
- Bring a torch with you at night as there are little to no street lights and most of the town goes to bed after sunset.
- Bring boots/old shoes if you arrive in rainy season, as roads are unpaved and can get muddy.
- Wi-Fi is available in most guesthouses and restaurants, but is generally slow to painfully slow.
Take the public boat south to Nong Khiaw (daily, 09:30, 25,000 kip) the onward boat service from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang has been discontinued due to the construction of a dam, or north to Muang Khua (may be not available on every day if there's not enough demand; 09:30, 5 hours, 100,000 kip) for further overland connections to Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, and the northernmost Phongsali province. It is also possible to make a one-day hike or kayak trip back to Nong Khiaw.