Luang Namtha town is situated in a huge rice and river covered valley; surrounded on all sides by stunning emerald green mountains. The mountains are where the Nam Ha NPA is located (and most can’t be biked up because there are no roads), but there are plenty of local attractions to see by bicycle or motorbike in the valley around the town. You can even head north through the NPA, which is one of the most stunning drives in Asia to the cultural melting pot border town of Muang Sing which is 60km away.
There are about 4 or 5 places in town to rent a bicycle, mountain bike, automatic and semi-auto scooter or even a big dirt bike. Bicycles can be rented for as little as US$1.20 per day and the bigger fully manual motorbikes go for around US$6 per day. Some places have virtually brand new bikes in excellent condition. Luang Namtha is a great place ride a scooter or motorbike because there is very little traffic and the main roads are in very good condition (actually Luang Namtha province has the best roads in Laos!), but beware many of the roads and lanes off the main roads can be dirt tracks which can be slippery in wet season.
Exploring the local scene:
There are Bamboo bridges over rivers to traverse, rice paddies to meander past, many different ethnic villages to explore, temples to chill out at, scenic Beer Lao restaurants to laze around at and many friendly locals to be met around Luang Namtha by bike.
Here are some of our top picks for local bike trips:
- Go about 5 km out of town to the Lanten minority village of Ban Nam Dee, where the villagers still wear their traditional indigo dyed costumes and make bamboo paper. There is also a waterfall close to their village which makes a nice side trip.
- Trip through the rice paddies towards the chinese border, if you like the idea of chilling out in a rice paddy hut looking at the mountains behind an expanse of about 20km of seamless rice paddy this one is for you. If you time it right the sun setting over the mountains behind the rice paddies makes for an amazing photo opportunity.
- Go down to explore the Tai Dam (Black Tai) villages on the Nam Tha river; the stunning river scenery is made more interesting by wandering through the villages’ agricultural crops on the river bank, you can see traditional plots of mint, chili, lemongrass and many other local food plants.
- Ride a motorbike through the NPA to Muang Sing. This journey goes through about 20km of the pristine national parks’ forested mountains with eye-popping scenery. There are some interesting villages and a waterfall to explore on the way.
- Mountain bike the back roads out to the ruined stupa and the Black Tai Lao Lao (rice whiskey) village that has huge stone urns of sticky rice fermenting into whiskey by the stream.