The Nam Ha National Park is home to various exciting and fulfilling activities, including trekking, homestays, and kayaking – and if you book the right tour, you can fit all of those into a multi-day itinerary! We went on one which consisted of a trek and a Sambayler homestay on the first day, and on the second day: this kayaking adventure through the beautiful Nam Ha River.
After you’ve finished your homestay, there are two different ways you can travel in order to get back to the starting point – either by trekking all the way back all over again, or by kayaking through the Nam Ha river. We personally went for the kayaking option. Also, a fun fact about the Nam Ha river is that it is actually clearer than the Luang Namtha river, thanks in part to the lower population density and minimal amount of pollutants in the area – you’ll see for yourself the stark difference when you’re nearing the end of the kayaking trail, and the two river water streams merge into one another. The Nam Ha river is evidently clearer and more transparent, while the Luang Namtha river exhibits a more opaque, muddish color.
After finishing up our traditional Lao breakfast and packing our things, our designated inflatable boats for kayaking finally arrived by tuktuk. The boats were small but comfortable enough considering the number of people, especially since we weren’t required to bring our bags along for the ride – the tuktuk drivers that brought in the kayaks can hold onto the bags and return them to you back at the ending point of the river trail.
We went on this excursion during the dry season when the water level is usually low, so low in fact that it’s knee deep on average and even only up till your ankles in some spots! Because of this, it was harder to maneuver the boats and keep them from getting stuck – so we took longer as we normally would have if we went during the wet season, where kayaking runs much more fun and smoothly. But, you do have to know how to ride well to be able to flow alongside the water current with ease. Thankfully, we didn’t need to struggle and traverse through the river alone since each of us had a helpful guide with us who would be the primary rowers – we booked them through Discovering Laos.
I don’t know much about the hiking option since we didn’t get to try it, but it seems similar to our trek to the village.
Also, those who want to do the kayak without booking an overnight homestay or going on the multi-hour trek can do so if they so wish – all you have to do is drive out to the village (where we slept) and start kayaking from there instead.
There are 3 villages along the Nam Ha River. Two of them are Na Lan and the last one is a Lanten village.
What to see in Nam Ha River Laos
The kayaking experience isn’t just limited to a boat ride upstream, but there are also many sights and stops you can make along the way to make your time in the conservation area even richer and more educational. Here are some great spots worth taking a couple of minutes or more to visit:
Nalan Nuea Village
This is quite similar to the Nalan village, albeit smaller with only 138 people residing in the area. Nalan Nuea, in English, actually means “Nalan South.” You can do a quick walk around the village grounds and say hi to the friendly locals.
Nam Koi Village
Nam Koi Village is even smaller than both Nalan and Nalan south villages. Here, the locals specialize in the beautiful craft of dyeing fabrics into many distinct and colorful patterns. The villagers have some of their work up for sale as well, and you can purchase a few to help support their local livelihood.
After a while of rowing, you can stop over at an island to have another traditional Lao lunch made with ingredients found in the jungle and hanging from the trees – a great way to replenish some of the energy spent rowing.
Golden Hour Views
Kayaking at the Nam Ha river is a particularly fantastic sight for the eyes, especially in the late afternoons just before sundown hits, engulfing the river and greenery with a warm orange tint. Bringing along a camera to snap a few of the memorable views is ideal.
What to pack for Kayaking Nam Ha River
- Dry bag for clothes
- Mosquito repellant
- Top and shorts ( rash guard would be good)
What to expect while kayaking
- Remember to amp up the sun protection as you’ll be exposed to direct noon/afternoon heat for a minimum of 4 hours (We personally finished the kayak in 5 – thanks to the low season state of the river).
- Bring along a top and shorts to cover up during your kayak – no bikinis and swimsuits as the Lao people have a conservative nature rooted in their culture.
Best time to Go:
Laos, like most other Asian countries in the area, has two primary seasons: dry and wet. There are different pros and cons to each season when going trekking and kayaking, so it helps to weigh out those variations when deciding on your trip date. After all, it’s always nice to plan ahead in order to make the experience as fun and comfortable as possible -especially for the beginners.
- The cons of going during the dry season include rough and dusty trekking roads where sediment and sand can blow onto your face while hiking. In addition to that, the sun during the dry season is much more merciless, and you really need to get as much sun protection as you can. In addition, trekking is harder because the water level is lower, making it murkier and slow-moving.
- The pros of going during dry season are less slippery tracks, resulting in easier to traverse trails.
- The cons of going during the wet season include slippery, muddy tracks making it hard for inexperienced hikers to traverse. Adding to that, there are a lot of leeches in the jungle during the rainy season.
- Higher water level in the rivers for an easier and faster kayaking experience.
There are many different tour companies in Laos to help you arrange your very own homestay and kayak experience, but the one we went with was Discovering Laos, one of the most highly-rated and commendable companies available for booking.