Laos is natural and simple, its people are kind and pure; and yet its beauty and history are complex and heartbreaking. Every single person we met here was friendly and every street was lovely despite being in the most bombed country in the world.
After a week in Luang Prabang, we took a short trip to Northern Laos to visit Nong Khiaw. This tiny village is very remote and undeveloped. Laos is still relatively untouched by tourists, much unlike its neighbors, and it’s clear that this is beginning to change and will continue to do so at a more rapid rate over the next years. We appreciated the opportunity to visit at a time when the landscape and people are still untainted by tourism, and we tried to respect our place as Western visitors.
We enjoyed walking down the streets of Nong Khiaw, observing the relatively simple way of life of its inhabitants and marveling at their happiness. They were certainly less enthused to see Western tourists on their roads than the people we encountered in Luang Prabang, and this is understandable. They likely realize the threat that tourism poses for them, their families, their way of life. Yet the people in other areas of Laos mentioned the positives that come along with change: opportunity for more work, the chance to connect with people from other cultures.
Nong Khiaw is beautiful. We experienced this as we strolled through the town, watching the children run to school, hearing the roosters all through the day, seeing the mountains reflect in the river. We saw its beauty during our hike up to the viewpoint deep in the jungle. And during our peaceful afternoon laying in hammocks overlooking the river.
We wish we could have spent one more day here, especially since the four hour drive to and from Luang Prabang was a bit scary (very fast driving on bumpy, windy roads), but we were happy to return to Luang Prabang. It will be interesting to see what happens to this village and others like it over the next many years. But it’s certain that despite what transformations may come, the natural landscape will continue to inspire.