Nongkhiao is a gorgeous riverside town three to four hours' drive from Luang Prabang. Its view is one of the most picturesque in Laos. It is set between colossal green-blue karsts.

Once in Nongkhiao you can stay and explore local caves, perhaps staying the night in one of the many simple guesthouses, or you can transfer fairly directly upriver to Meuang Ngoi by boat.

To reach Nongkhiao, you can take a bus from the northern bus station or buy services of private minivans available in town.

Travel the entire distance between Luang Prabang and Nong Khiao by boat along the Nam Ou River is also possible. The narrow, shallow waterway is lined with searing rock cliff-faces, jungle-clad mountains, small sandy beaches and bamboo shack villages.

The journey up or down river from Luang Prabang takes around seven hours. The journey is simple, and is rewarded with the beauty of the view and the experience of dangling your feet in the gold-dust sprinkled water after a picnic lunch on the beach.

Nongkhiao definitely merits a night or two.