Nam Xay Viewpoint, Vang Vieng: A Motorcycle on Top of the World!

In my mind 2 images pop up when I think of Laos: The Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang and a lone rusty motorcycle on a cliff, high above the surrounding karst mountains and flat paddies.

This is about the latter – the Nam Xay Viewpoint. It’s a hill near the popular backpacker town of Vang Vieng and is one of Laos’s most recognizable viewpoints.

Contrary to what the dramatic scenery may lead you to believe, it’s quite easy to reach – a steep but short hike and you will be sitting on one of the motorcycles at the top, ready to awe your followers on Instagram.

Simon "riding" the motorcycle on top of Nam Xay Viewpoint

Nam Xay Viewpoint Quick Facts

  • Open daily from 6:00 to 18:00
  • 8 km from Vang Vieng, reachable by tuk-tuk or motorcycle
  • 20.000 LAK (1$) entrance fee
  • 350 meters long. Takes about 30 minutes one way.
  • 130 meters elevation gain
  • Height at the top: 600 meters above sea level.

How to get to Nam Xay Viewpoint

This iconic viewpoint is near Vang Vieng – a backpackers’ party town, desperately trying to rebrand as an adrenaline junkie’s wet dream. And to some extent, it has done so, but that’s a story for another time.

Reach Vang Vieng

So to reach the Nam Xay Viewpoint, you must first get to Vang Vieng. If coming from Vientiane, I suggest you take a minivan/bus. The road is in perfect condition and as straight as an arrow.

If you’re in Luang Prabang, it’s best to take the new Laos-Chinese train. The minivan route is arduous, long and will leave you feeling like a boiled vegetable at the end.

Vang Vieng to Nam Xay

Now you have 4 options:

  • Walk the 8 km
  • Rent a tuk-tuk for around 150.000-200.000 LAK (7-9 USD). Meet other backpackers in your hostel in Vang Vieng to share the cost. The driver will wait for you down and bring you back to VV afterwards.
  • Rent a bicycle for around 30.000 LAK (1.5$).
  • Rent a motorcycle for 130.000-180.000 LAK (6-8$). That’s my recommendation since you can also explore the rest of the valley.
View from the top of Nam Xay Viewpoint
View from the top of Nam Xay

Opening Times

The Nam Xay Viewpoint is officially open from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

What happens if you go before 6:00? There will be a barrier that you can easily jump over and enter. There won’t be anybody to collect your entrance fee. If you do go very early in the morning, consider paying your entrance fee on the way back – the money goes towards the maintenance of the track.

I see no reason for going after 18:00 – it will be dark, making it both dangerous and pointless view-wise.

Entrance Fee

A wooden staircase
Your entrance fee goes towards the maintenance of the infrastructure. It’s not the best but at least there is something!

The entrance fee for the Nam Xay Viewpoint is 20.000 LAK (~1$).

You pay just before you enter. The locals that man it will give you a cute little ticket.

Parking is free and safe.

Hiking to the top

The hike is somehow both easy and short as well as demanding and exhausting.

On one side, it’s only 350 meters. Just put one foot in front of the other about 500 times and you will be there. 30 minutes with the breaks.

On the other, you have to gain 130 meters of elevation. Putting one foot in front of the other is a lot more difficult when going up is involved. The path is big boulders, rocks, mud or earth, rarely any steps.

In some places, ropes, bamboo handles, and wooden stairs help with the hike.

Every 100 meters signs note the remaining distance – 300, 200, 100.

A couple of benches will allow you to rest every now and again on the trail.

All in all, I would rate the difficulty of the Nam Xay hike at 3/10.

Yulli sitting on a bench
Yulli disagreed with my 3/10 rating but was happy when we got to the top

“Riding” a motorcycle on top of the world!

“Wait, what? There is a motorcycle at the top?”

That’s what I thought when I saw it.

It’s a bizarre sight. A rusty motorcycle with a metal “Indonesia” tag in front, with the Laotian flag on a wooden stick is the main attraction on the top.

Imagine my awe when I saw the other one! Yes, that’s right – there is not 1, but 2 motorcycles planted at the top of Nam Xay.

Who carried them up there? Did they carry them in pieces or as a whole? We will never know.

My guess is that it’s a ploy by the locals to bring more backpackers to the viewpoint. It’s working. It’s easily one of Laos’s most recognizable and memorable places.

Yulli on the motorcycle on top of Nam Xay Viewpoint
An Indonesian on an Indonesian motorcycle, holding the Lao flag in Laos

Going down

If you have weak knees, you might find going down more challenging than going up. Take your time and be careful with the boulders! Some of them can be slippery even in dry conditions.

In total, a trip to Nam Xay Viewpoint takes around 90 minutes:

  • 30 minutes going up
  • 30 minutes savoring the view from the top
  • 30 minutes going down

Other nearby attractions

Going to the Nam Xay Viewpoint is not a full-day affair. On the contrary – I left Vang Vieng at 9:45 on a scooter, started hiking at 10:05, and was back down before 12:00.

But there are other places you should visit nearby which will indeed make it a packed day-long itinerary!

Blue Lagoon 1

Blue Lagoon 1 near Vang Vieng
Blue Lagoon 1

Just before Nam Xay, there is an optional turn to the right which leads to Blue Lagoon #1. It’s an azure blue pool of water (swimming is allowed!) with a restaurant nearby and a smallish cave called Phu Kham. This Blue Lagoon is super popular!

Wondering why it’s #1? Because there are at least 8 more in the valley around Vang Vieng. If you want to experience a lagoon with smaller crowds, go to Blue Lagoon #5.

Phapoungkham cave and viewpoint

As you look northeast from Nam Xay, you will see another jagged hill with a gazebo on top. If you look closely you may see an airplane.



An airplane on top of the hill at Phapoungkham cave and viewpoint
No Photoshop!

Very near is the Phapoungkham cave where a trail leads all the way to the top. At this place the locals really outdid themselves. There is an actual airplane! Like, who? Why? No, we shouldn’t ask.

There is also a Pegasus statue on the other side of the same viewpoint. Truly bizarre.

Parting Words

If you go to Vang Vieng, don’t miss Nam Xay Viewpoint. Skip the stupid tubing and move those legs a little bit – the view is worth it.

Oh, and don’t forget to wear good shoes – going up the mud and rocks in flip-flops is a recipe for disaster!

Wanna know why my pictures from the top look a little hazy? The Burning Season in Laos is to blame.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *