We left Nong Khiaw at 9am and drive 4.5 hours to Muang Hiem (formerly and still referred to as Viengthong) is a district and a town in Houaphan Province in north-eastern Laos. The town was known to be dangerous for its many tigers, so the town was called Muang Hiem (“muang” means town and “hiem” means to beware). The Nam Khan River in Muang Hiam is the same river that flows through Luang Prabang meeting the Mekong River.
Muang Hiem is a small town and is the gateway to the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area – our destination tomorrow. Nam Et-Phou Louey is home to a number of endangered species. Their office is located in Muang Hiem town.
On the way into town, we stopped at Meuang Hiam (thermal hot springs) about 1 km from the town. If you are walking, cross the bridge over the Nam Khan River and take a right on to the dirt road, you will arrive at the hot springs located about 10 mins from the main road (passing the Nam Et-Phou Louey office on the left).
The water reaches 100 degrees celsius and we spent a few hours here bathing in the 3 dipping pools. Each pool is a different temperature and there are changing rooms and showers available. Please remember to wear appropriate clothing. The entrance fee is 10,000 kip.
This is one of the hottest natural springs in Laos. It’s so hot you can boil an egg in it. You can purchase eggs at the entrance and they supply spoons and a bamboo basket. You can even buy Knor (a seasoning powder popular in Laos)..
A small stupa is situated on top of the hill in town. It amazingly survived the heavy explosions during the war and is worth a visit. There is a small temple there as well with views over the town.
If you have the time today can be a relaxing day preparing for the adventure in the protected area tomorrow as you have to overnight in order to start early in the morning. So it adds a few days onto your itinerary but it is 100% worth it so take the time and enjoy one of Laos amazing eco-tourism experiences and support a great cause.
After having travelled for a few days now, we took the opportunity of some pare time in the late afternoon to travel down one of the roads out of town to return to a restaurant bar we passed on the way in. This was true local Lao-style service, great snacks, beer and smiles, a wonderful place to chill and experience Lao hospitality.
There are few eating places in town and if you leave it too late you might end up with noodle soup, we chose this on our way back to the guesthouse, noodle soup is usually a delicious and safe choice of meal.