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Boat journey down the Ou River in Northern Laos

A few photos and brief description of a boat trip down the Ou River northern Laos.

The Nam Ou (Ou River) flows south from Phongsali Province in the far north of Laos, to join the Mekong at Pak Ou, (famous for its cave temples), just up-river from ancient capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site Luang Prabang. The river is far less frequented by visitors than the Chiang Khong to Pak Beng to Luang Prabang, Mekong route so beloved of backpackers yet is, to our minds, at least if not more, scenic.

Nam Ou at Nong Khiaw
Nam Ou at Nong Khiaw

The old slow boat down the Mekong has sadly become almost as much of a Southeast Asian travellers’ ritual as tubing in Vang Vieng or full-moon parties on Koh Pha Ngan whilst the infamous speedboats have suffered a lot of bad press, (statistically, the slow boats are just as dangerous). Unfortunately, these days that stretch of the river has become something of a circus to the extent that some operators are now offering ’boutique’ cruises on private boats to avoid the often overcrowded public ones, the drunken backpackers and frequently squalid accommodation at the Pak Beng halfway point.

Nong Khiaw village
Nong Khiaw village

Well, why not think out of the box and do a local-style boat trip but on a river less travelled? So you’ll no longer see Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang on our Lao itineraries but you will see Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang down the Ou River instead.

Dusk arrival in Luang Prabang
Sunset arrival in Luang Prabang

Anyway, we’ll let the scenery speak for itself so here are a few more excellent pix of the journey down the Nam Ou taken by Wi.

Nam Ou
Nam Ou


Nam Ou 2


Nam Ou 3


The Ou River Northern Laos

Could add dozens of pretty pix of the photogenic Nam Ou plus some of the villages we stop to visit on the way, not to mention the spectacular Pak Ou Cave Temples at the confluence of the Ou and Mekong, but that’ll have to be for another post.

The Ou River Northern Laos. Sunset on the Ou
Sunset on the Ou

Please note since we originally wrote this post a dam has been constructed on the central portion of the river so our boat trip on the Ou River northern Laos,  now heads north out of Nong Khiaw instead. Probably the most scenic stretch of the river though not so practical for getting to Luang Prabang so, for now, our Laos tour involves a day boat trip and then a road transfer to the ancient capital the following day.