Laos Visitors: If at First You Don’t Succeed

Last May, we attempted summiting Pha Ngeun, but the mountain had other plans for us. This time, we brought reinforcements.

Goodmorning hikers! Are you ready to share a wonderful day?

(Okay…maybe one too many reads of Good Night Grand Canyon to Noe lately…but seemed fitting enough)

Certainly don’t mind waking up to this view in Vang Vieng every morning at Champa Lao bungalows. Especially on a day like this!

You may remember that in May we packed up the babe and headed up what we thought was supposed to be a 30 minute hike to a viewpoint. You may also recall that the hike ended up taking much longer, it was a particularly hot day, and the last slog to the top was more strenuous than we had planned for. As a result, we ended up with far less water than we needed and ended up turning back a few dozen meters short of the viewpoint.

Above, looking west at Pha Ngeun with the town center in the foreground. Below, looking east, from Pha Ngeun back towards town.

This weekend, we’re here in Vang Vieng with our good friend Bekka, who is visiting Southeast Asia from the U.S. for a couple of weeks. After a tasty breakfast at Maylyn (where we happened to also run into Lori’s boss who had recommended the place and happened to also be visiting from Vientiane), we set out to the mountain.

Our main issue in May was water — we had just one small bottle between the three of us, and no snacks. This time, we weren’t going to take any chances. Today, Lori’s carrying Noe and I’m carrying snacks, baby accouterments, and a 3-liter bladder filled with water for the three of us (Bekka’s got her own water). We were stunned when Noe intuitively figured out the bladder bite nozzle instantly, which meant we didn’t have to carry an extra sippy cup for him. Now, if only we could get Noe to carry the bladder for all of us!

The hike started out well. Temps were a bit cooler, humidity a bit lower, and foot traffic less than last time. They had finished the trail maintenance that had been started on the day of our last hike and the trail still looks awesome (I suspect they did some touching up after the end of the rainy season). New stone and concrete steps, firm rails, and clear paths.

The great thing about this trail is that it is covered in dense jungle nearly the entire way — definitely a plus in the tropics. The trail does break out occasionally into small clearings before quickly shooting you back into the jungle.




The moment of truth arrives when we come to the fork. This is where I left Lori last time to see what I could see and report back. It’s important to note that the distances on this sign aren’t necessarily hiking distance, but literal distance (as the crow flies). Like the majority of hikers on the trail, we’re only attempting the lower First House this time around. After we’ve conquered that one, we’ll set our sights on the Second House at a later date.  It’s midday and it’s hot, and somehow climbing another 1,000 feet doesn’t sound appealing right now. But we can do 100 feet…

…straight up!

…and up…

…and up…

…and up!

And…we’re here! And yes, the cold beverage shack promised at the beginning of the hike does indeed exist, though “cold” is certainly debatable.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for — the view from Pha Ngeun!

Only 800 feet of elevation gain over an hour, but a strenuous and well-earned 800 feet. The majestic views of the karst cliffs, however, make it feel much higher than it actually is.


At the end of the ridge is a small shelter where most hikers are camped out, taking in the views. We let Noe stretch his legs [carefully].



We can barely make out the shelter of the Second House, still high above us. An adventure for another day.

Looking east, back towards Vang Vieng town.



No “toys” at the top, so we’re improvising with readily available materials.



We asked a guy to take a pic of the four of us. As we were all getting situated, the “rail” that Lori and Bekka were holding onto snapped, causing our photographer to almost lose hold of my phone. In a single moment, I almost lost Lori, Noe, Bekka AND my phone into the abyss. You’ll be happy to know that all FOUR escaped unscathed.

Finally, it was time to make our way back down the mountain. It was also nap time for Noe. He fought hard for the first third of our descent before ultimately succumbing to the sandman. Wish someone could have carried me down the mountain napping as well.

After the hike, we rewarded our little victory with sandwiches at Luang Prabang cafe.

Where else in Laos can you get a friggin salami sandwich like this??? Answer: NOWHERE.

After lunch, Noe found a reindeer and collapsed, almost as if he had just climbed a mountain and eaten an entire salami sandwich himself.

He’s been enjoying lounging around in comfy spaces lately, particularly when it gets hot. Sounds good to the rest of us as well, but the long drive back to Vientiane beckons.

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LoriJAN FULLERTONGramps Recent comment authors
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So thankful everyone was okay during the “snap,” even your camera!


We are too! 🙂


Great photos of a successful trip glad that everybody made it down safely including your Camera.

Thanks again for introducing us to the sites in Laos!


It was quite a moment of mountain-top excitement/drama!