Although I would love to be able to tell you all about what I am sure is the beautifully quaint, friendly town of Muang Sing, I’m afraid I can’t. I never made it that far. The farthest I got was the stupa, which sits upon a hill watching over the town, giving an incredible view allowing you to look into both Myanmar and China.
You are probably wondering why I didn’t go into the town if I was so close, and I have two reasons for that:
1. I was dangerously low on petrol, and was worried I may not make the return journey without having to beg, borrow and steal in order to get back to Luang Nam Tha.
2. The ‘Road to Muong Sing’ is all about the road, you don’t go on it for the destination, instead you go on it for the journey.
I, or in the wonderfully descriptive words of Drei “George the intrepid explorer,” set off from Luang Nam Tha at 11am; a little later than I had hoped because it was my first day on a semi-automatic motorbike and I needed to get used to it before the hours of riding that lay ahead of me.
The 30 minutes of necessary training had stood me in a very mediocre position as I grappled with the gears getting up the hills leaving Luang Nam Tha, but after another half an hour I was feeling much more confident and happy riding.
The scenery is spectacular as you snake your way through the jungle and villages, so spectacular in fact that you often have to stop to truly appreciate your surroundings (and also importantly have some water and apply more sunscreen). A word of caution though, these narrow winding roads are used by large trucks and reckless drivers, so always be aware and stay far to the right hand side of the road.
After almost two hours of riding I arrived at the Stupa outside Muang Sing, a temple with a viewpoint that rivals some of the best I have enjoyed in Laos
This is me having just arrived at the Stupa and I decided to Journey on a little further, and why not if you can get a view of 3 countries like this:
After my journey up to the Stupa it was time to turn round and head home, but not before a bite to eat and stopping by one of the most picturesque waterfalls I have ever been to.
I attempted to buy lunch at a restaurant near the Stupa, but when my attempted miming for a menu and food fell through I thought I would just concede and get a coke. Everyone knows the word coke right? Wrong, and all I could keep saying was the word coke in more accents I imagined possible and probably looked like an absolute buffoon. I even started pointing to the pepsi sign and started to say pepsi but then quickly gave up and realised this naive ‘falang,’ myself, couldn’t be more British- so I thanked them, even more British, and left.
It took about half an hour on the return to get to the waterfall as I carefully watched my petrol needle go up, as I traveled down-hill, and down, as I traveled-up hill, moving either side of the half-way mark. ‘I will make it’ I thought, even though I knew I would be cutting it incredibly fine.
The waterfall itself is stunning, and for 10,000 kip it is well worth a visit as long as you are prepared for the potential leech. I would recommend having a swim and, do I dare say it, take a ‘selfie’ if you’re enjoying your own company because, if you’re as lucky as I was, you have the pleasure of the waterfall all to yourself.
After some good food and chatting to travelers at the nearby cafe, I began my long journey home, hoping that my fuel would last the hour ride back. After about 20 minutes of watching my needle drop closer and closer to empty, despite the hills being in my favor, it eventually hit the dreaded E. I thought well, no point worrying now, I might as well ride till it till it gives up on me or I make it to the closest petrol station minutes out of Luang Nam Tha. Miraculously despite being empty for more than half an hour I made it back in the nick of time with no problem save some very sunburned forearms and knees.
As I was arriving back into town Drei recommended I take a left at the roundabout and keep driving for another 15 minutes, and I highly recommend this to anyone as dusk approaches.
One of the most beautiful sights I have seen so far on my travels.
by George Wilcox
p.s. and remember always wear sunscreen