In a recent Lonely Planet article, Tony Wheeler described his visit to northern Laos to hike the 100 waterfalls trek. It had only been discovered (for non-locals of course) in 2008, and a local ecotourism company Tiger Trails was taking small groups of visitors to the falls. We love hiking, we love waterfalls: we just had to go.
The day starts in the small town of Nong Khiaw, set against a magnificent backdrop and straddling the Nam Ou river. From here it was around 45 minutes walk to the start of the waterfalls. As we approached the falls and heard the sound of the water tinkling over the rocks, those who were still wearing hiking boots changed to their sandals or flip-flops, ready for the climb ahead.
There aren’t actually 100 waterfalls, and there isn’t one spectacular view of a giant drop or funnel of water. What we did find was a continuous waterfall, stretching for maybe 2km, up which we scrambled for around 90 minutes. At some stretches we walked gently along the river bed, at others we pulled ourselves up using the rocks that scattered the landscape. In a couple of very steep places there were even bamboo ladders in place to help us up to the next level.
The rocks had a remarkably good grip, and I don’t think any of us slipped during the hike. Technically it is a fairly easy hike and the fresh running water provided blissful relief against the heat of the day, although thankfully much of the hike was in the shade of the surrounding jungle. With the constantly changing scenery and the excitement of walking through a long and varied waterfall, the time we spent hiking up the fall flew by.
At the top of the falls our guides pulled out a couple of giant banana leaves which served as a tablecloth, and we were given a delicious lunch of cooked eggplant, fresh salads and omelette. It was a wonderful spot to stop and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
If you are staying in Luang Prabang and have a couple of days to spare this is a highly recommended trip. Nong Khiaw is around three hours from Luang Prabang so will need to allow a day to get there and a morning for your return, but it will be a hike that you will not experience anywhere else.