Muang Ngoi Neua is one of the less well known tourist locations in Laos but it has experienced something of a small boom in recent years. This doesn’t mean a huge amount compared to overall tourist numbers to Laos, but it does mean that you will find more amenities here than in recent years and this is now even said to be a stop on the famous (or infamous) Banana Pancake Trail around Southeast Asia.
One of the big draws of this part of Laos is that Muang Ngaoi Neua is located on the Nam Ou River and also has the Nam Ou ‘Beach’ which is a riverside beach where you can spend time taking in the relaxing scenery.
There is not a huge amount to do in the town itself, but this is all part of the laid back experience, and you can go trekking in the rural areas that border Muang Ngoi Neua.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Muang Ngoi Neua…
1. Try a traditional herbal sauna
If you want to relax while you are on holiday in Laos then you need to try a traditional herbal sauna.
The premise of a Lao traditional Sauna is that patrons sit in a steam room which also contains traditional herbs which have medicinal properties.
These cleanse the body as you steam and leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
Many saunas also include a massage as well as soothing herbal tea and sometimes a hot tub.
2. Sunbathe on Nam Ou Beach
Nam Ou Beach is located on the banks of the Nam Ou River and is a great place to come if you want to relax in Muang Ngoi Neua.
The best time to come to the beach is in the dry season as the beach stretches out to the receding water and you can go for a dip or sunbathe on the beach itself.
The beach is also lined with a few vendors who will rent you a bamboo sun bed and plenty of places also serve cooling drinks which are the perfect thirst quencher on a hot day.
3. Visit Tham Kang Cave
Tham Kang is located just outside of Muang Ngoi Neua and you can walk to the cave in less than an hour.
To get to the cave you need to take a boat and you can then hike to the cave from the main landing, which requires you to cross a rather unsteady bridge, so don’t attempt it if you don’t have a head for heights! Tham Kang Cave was known for being used as a bomb shelter during the wartime period in Laos and you can walk through the cave to get to a pretty waterfall if you just walk in the direction of the gushing water.
4. Visit the local villages
There are a number of villages around Muang Ngoi Neua which make for a great day out.
These are Bana, Huay Sen and Huay Bo and they are located close to the Tham Kang Cave.
The villages sit in the middle of glowing, jade rice paddies and you can walk around them to get a glimpse of rural life in Laos.
To get to the villages, many travelers choose to rent a motorbike and ride out from Muang Ngoi Neua.
5. Hire a bicycle
One of the great charms of Muang Ngoi Neua is that you can explore the areas around the town relatively easily.
This means that this is the perfect place to hire a bicycle and you can speed around the countryside and take in all the sights that way.
You can rent a bicycle from most guesthouses in Muang Ngoi Neua or there are also tours that you can sign up for that will take you out and show you the encircling villages and other aspects of local life in Laos.
6. Take a boat trip along the river
The river Nam Ou flows through Muang Ngoi Neua and it also offers you one of the best ways to take in this part of Laos.
You can hire a boat and sail past the little beaches at coves that sit in the twists and turns of this waterway, and also see how the local communities use the river to fish.
One of the best things to do is take a boat along the river and then stop off at one of the beaches here to have a cooling swim in a hot day.
7. Stay in a local village
If you want a night away from Muang Ngaoi Neua then you can consider staying overnight in a homestay located in one of the traditional villages.
Many of the homestays are still built in the traditional style and you can also learn how to fish in the local rivers and how to cook over an open fire.
Also make sure to check out how the villagers use water power from the river to operate small turbines.
8. Have a Beer at Gecko Bar
If you want to grab a bite to eat and stock up on some local souvenirs at the same time then head to Gecko Bar & Shop.
The bar area serves drinks and food such as curries and noodle dishes, and you can dine looking out over a pretty patio.
The main reason to come here however is to stock up on souvenirs as they also sell woven handicrafts which are all made by hand in the local area.
You can also buy tea for a taste of Laos when you get home.
9. Eat and Drink in a beer garden
One of the most famous beer gardens in Muang Ngaoi Neua is called Bamboo Garden and is known for its serene atmosphere and cool drinks.
You can get beer and cocktails as well as food.
They do a good selection of Lao plates such as the national dish of laab or laap which is a salad made of minced meat.
10. Tour the rice fields
Muang Ngoi Neua is surrounded by rice fields and one of the best things to do when you are in town is to get out into the countryside and explore.
You can walk around many of the rice terraces here (providing you stick to the paths between them) and this allows you to take in the stunning views and cool breezes at the same time.
To get to some of the ethnic villages and guesthouses around Muang Ngoi Neua you will need to cross the rice paddies which are half the fun, but even if you are not staying in the countryside, try to find the time to come here and check out all the lush greenery.
11. Dine next to a cave
If you are visiting Tham Kang Cave then you may also want to swing by Cave View Restaurant which is located on the other side of the bamboo bridge.
You can get food and drink here and there is also a small handicraft store on site.
The owners make their own scarves and other printed textiles at Cave View Restaurant which also makes it a top place to stock up on souvenirs.
12. Trek to Nong Khiaw
Most people move on from Muang Ngoi Neua to neighboring Nong Khiaw.
The easiest way to do this is to take the bus, but there are other alternatives if you are looking for a bit of an adventure.
As well as getting the bus, you can also take a boat, but for a real workout you can hire a kayak and paddle your way down the river to Nong Khiaw.
You can also trek through the jungle if kayaking doesn’t sound appealing, and the guided hike to Nong Khiaw takes about a day.
13. Have a drink on the beach
Muang Ngoi Neua is known for having river beaches, and one of the best ways to end a day in town is to go down to one of the little ‘beachfront’ bars.
One of the best known is Riverbeach Bar which sits next to the main boat landing in town and you will find terraces here that overlook the water.
You will also often find a camp fire here right on the beach which adds to the atmosphere.
14. Walk to Tham Pha Kaew Cave
Tham Pha Kaew is located close to Tham Kang Cave and most people visit the two at the same time.
You can walk to the cave from the town and it is located, as many of the caves are in Laos, in a karst formation.
One thing to bear in mind when you come here is that you will need to bring a torch or flashlight as you probably won’t be able to hire one at the cave.
Also make sure that you have a head for heights when you come here as you need to cross a small bamboo bridge in order to get to both Tham Pha Kaew and Tham Kang.
15. Dine on Laotian favorites
If you want to get a taste for the local cuisine in Muang Ngoi Neua then you could do a lot worse than head to Meem Restaurant which serves up plenty of Indian and Lao dishes.
As well as curries, you will also find delicious barbecued duck which is something of a delicacy in Laos.
They also serve vegetarian dishes and plates such as fragrant tomato curry so this is a good pick if you want to skip the meat and load up on plant based goodies.