Archives for : Luang Namtha

Luang Namtha’s Jungle Food Challenge

Masterchef in the jungle? Food in northern Laos gets serious…

Recently Forest Retreat Laos was lucky enough to get 2 volunteers for a month, who not only taught the Lao staff there a lot about hospitality but were so excited by the abundant fresh produce available at Luang Namtha’s famous morning market, that they decided to put their cooking skills to the test and embark upon Luang Namtha’s first “Jungle Food Challenge“!

Laos most unique and fresh selection of ingredients

The main cause of Jack (from Spain) and Cass’s (from Australia) excitement was the fresh seasonal produce from the jungle (which you can read many posts on), which Luang Namtha is famous for, many of these fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, roots, leaves, shoots and flowers cant be found ANYWHERE ELSE in the world!

Northern Laos food challenge

Jungle food Challengers: Jack and Cass

So essentially Jack and Cass wanted to try cooking fusion dishes using ingredients that most likely no other westerner in the world has used before, and the results were delicious! This challenge went on for 6 days, usually with Forest Retreat’s Bamboo lounge being full of customers, that were skillfully being wined and dined by the Lao staff at the same time this challenge was going on (one of the rules was the customers come first!).

Jack Cosson has trained as a chef in Europe and Cass Hay is a “foodie” from way back and has managed cafe’s in Australia. Jack with his professional training and euro-cooking style ‘vs’ Cass with her Asian heritage (her mum is Chinese-Malaysian) and life long passion for creating good food…an excellent match!

Challenge 1: Tomato theme:   who can come up with what amazing Tomato themed dish using Luang Namtha delicious local Tomato?

The results: Jack came up with a ultimate gazpacho featuring stuffed tomato and Cass came up with a play on choo chee fun (a Chinese dish of steamed, filled fresh rice paper rolls); fresh rice paper filled with tofu, mushrooms, lentils, a tomato lemongrass and lime leaf sauce, and banana flower, tomato, Thai basil and balsamic garnish

Luang Namtha Tomato dish

Cass’s tomato Choo Chee Fun

Luang Namtha Tomato dish

Jack’s Ultimate Gazpacho

Challenge 2: Mushroom theme:   Luang Namtha has an amazing array of mushrooms, with a constantly changing seasonal stock from the jungle as well as shitake, wood ear, oyster, enoki, straw and many other species available all year round. So who can use what mushrooms to create the most interesting and tasty dish?

The results: Jack came up with a mixed mushroom terrine, spiced pumpkin and sesame tofu. Cass created a tofu steak, bed of lentils and tsi mushroom, fried enoki, roast oyster mushrooms, shitake sauce and kim chee combo.

Northern Laos mushroom jungle food dish

Cass’s mushroom combo

Luang Namtha jungle food dish

Jacks mushroom creation

Challenge 3: “Childhood memories”  theme:  this nights concept was to come up with a dish that you remembered or were influenced by in childhood, an inventive one!

The results: Jack decided to create an edible ode to his Granddad Rudi which was crispy potato pancakes, Bolognaise sauce and picked cucumber garnish. While Cass came up with 3 memories from her youth consisting of a ginger fragrant mushroom and sesame rice congee, followed by proper baked beans over sticky rice and coconut cream, and to finish, a caramelized sweet potato and jackfruit curry tucked inside and baked in banana leaf; Lao style!

Lao fusion cooking using Luang namtha jungle foods

Cass’s trio of congee, baked bean “pizza” and baked curry

Luang Namtha jungle food fusion dish cooking

Jacks potato pancakes, bolognaise sauce and cucumber

Challenge 4: Any 10 jungle ingredients, 20 minutes and no prep time challenge:  this means Jack and Cass could choose any 10 ingredients from the Luang Namtha fresh market, but the had only 20 minutes to do all the preparation and cooking!

The results: Jack created local watercress soup with fresh peas and tsi mushroom. Cass countered with coriander and mint pesto on fresh rice noodle sheets, toasted endamame (soy beans) and cherry tomatoes. Cass also made it with 30 seconds to spare on the clock, while Jack was over by 1.5 minutes. Not bad considering Forest Retreat was packed out with fascinated customers at the time!

Luang Namtha, northern Lao jungle fusion food

Jack: a simple watercress soup with all the trimmings

Lao fusion cooking using northern Lao jungle foods

Cass: pesto, noodles, beans and tomatoes

The Final Challenge: for the last competition, Jack and Cass would choose ingredients for the other to make an amazing dish out of!   This means the selection of a combination of ANY of the weird and wonderful ingredients from the Luang Namtha fresh market, including insects, internal organs, spices, Bamboo rats..the possibilities were endless. But Jack and Cass were kind to each other (kind of).

The results: Jack came up with the following from what Cass chose for him a cauliflower, roasted banana flower and tamarind puree, roasted baby eggplant, courgettes, sautee’d green amaranth pods, fried tofu and tofu noodles. And finally Cass created this from what jack chose for her: charred chili, garlic and mandarin sauce feat. jungle olives, sweet potato and dill mash, spiced roasted eggplant, bitter melon with garlic and banana chips.

Luang Namtha northern Lao jungle fusion food dish

Jacks final creation!

Northern Laos jungle foods

Cass’s final jungle food masterpiece

So this was it the end of Luang Namtha’s first ever jungle food challenge. Both Jack and Cass came out with some truly delicious dishes many times using ingredients they had never seen or cooked with before. There can be no clear winner; Jacks professional training and slick style was given a really good run for its money by Cass’s imagination and ability to put together some damn good flavors.

In conclusion, there really is some AMAZING fresh foods to be found in Laos, especially Luang Namtha. Go into Forest Retreat Laos and see what the changing specials of the day are!

15 Reasons Why Luang Namtha Province Is The Best Of Laos

After traveling all around Southeast Asia, Laos is definitely a highlight for many, but for us coming back to Luang Namtha really hits home that this northern province is the best of Laos! Here’s why:

1. We have the BEST roads in Laos making transit far easier than the rest of the country and self guided tours on mountain bikes and motorbikes much more user friendly;  think flat, well paved, wide roads…not rock strewn, cratered, dusty and uncomfortable dirt lanes (except in tiny villages).

2. We have the most accessible National Park in Laos , which is called the Nam Ha NPA = National Protected Area ( also abbreviated to NBCA = National Biodiversity Conservation Area) with a huge range of genuine, highly regulated eco-tourism adventure activities and cultural immersion experiences to be had. The Nam Ha NPA is one of the top 200 important eco-regions of the world with tropical rainforests in the valleys and cooler montane forests higher up making for staggering biodiversity of plants birds, insects and animals. The most interesting of which are the clouded leopard, tiger and leopard.

Kayaking in northern Laos

Kayaking in Luang Namtha’s NPA

3. The people are so nice! The nicest and kindest people in Laos. This is partly because of the ethnic diversity creating a culture of tolerance, but also because local attitudes are so laid back, westerners get treated the same as local people!

Luang Namtha ethnic tribal experience

Luang Namtha has the nicest people in Laos!

4. The climate is fantastic with perpetual cool nights and sunny days, because of the altitude (700m above sea level) it never gets too hot for comfort like southern parts of Laos.

5. Luang Namtha is a natural travel crossroads between Thailand (180km away), China (50km away), Myanmar (130km away) and Vietnam (the city of Dien Bien Phu is 280km from Luang Namtha), this makes overland travel (the best way to see Southeast Asia) the logical choice.

6. Luang Namtha has the best and most varied Lao food, and is famous for its quality and huge variety. More species of jungle fruits, nuts, roots, seeds and vegetables than you can shake a stick at, combined with delicious dishes from different ethnic tribes and the most lush growing conditions. Luang Namtha even has access to cold climate (as well as tropical) fruits and veggies like apple, pear, broccoli, cauliflower and potato all year round.

 

Amazing food in Luang Namtha

The blend of culture and nature in Luang Namtha makes the food the best in Laos!

7. Close proximity to Thailand and the brand new friendship bridge, make overland traveling from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to Luang Namtha (and south) much faster and more comfortable than ever.

8. One of the cheapest provinces in Laos. Most accommodation in town is 80,000 kip per night for a decent room with free water and WiFi, local food can very cheap from the night market and even award winning pizzas, salads and pastas from Forest Retreat’s modern Bamboo lounge are much cheaper than they would be in Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

9. The most ethnically diverse province. There are over 19 different minority tribes in this province making it the most ethnically diverse part of Southeast Asia! Go and explore these villages, the people will be very happy to meet you. And walking through a village and being interested about the culture and their way of life is empowering to them and teaches them the importance of preserving their culture.

Visit to a Yao village in Luang Namtha

You can visit up to 19 different ethnic minority tribes in Luang Namtha

10. Chilled out atmosphere, lots of traveler interaction. Most people go to Luang Namtha to join groups for eco-tours, but when you’re not in the jungle, Luang Namtha is a great and scenic spot to chill for a while and meet some new friends if you want to.

11. Fastest internet in Laos; especially at Forest Retreat Laos! The proximity to China and Thailand and good infrastructure make for some of the fastest connections in Laos. Sweet!

12. Beautiful mountain and rice paddy scenery. The best place to see this is to head north out of town 2km, hang a right at the roundabout and cross the bridge, travel about 5km up this straight, flat, well-paved road and after you pass Thong Dee village (Ban Thong Dee) start looking for a good chill out hut on your right in the 30 square km “park” of rice paddies, completed with its own Eco-system! Walk out through the rice and witness an amazing sunset over 6 layers of mountains in every direction!

 

Luang Namtha rice paddies

Close to town, yet one of the most serene places I have ever been.

13. Get immersed into local tribes village life, Luang Namtha is the best place in Laos to base yourself then go and visit these tribes and experience different cultures and ways of life. Our record is 7 different ethnic tribes on 1 day on motorbike! In a small range of distance you will come across many different tribes living in separate villages, very cool to experience.

14. There are so many different eco-tourism tour options, all highly regulated by the local government using Luang Namtha’s award winning eco-tourism model. You can do: trekking, kayaking, cycling, rafting, motorbiking, cultural immersion experiences, fishing, cooking, homestays, forest retreats… Forest Retreat Laos is the only and most awarded eco-tourism company (other providers are agencies) who gives the most back to the local community and takes people deep into the Nam Ha NPA for amazing experiences.

Luang Namtha trekking

Trekking in the primary forest of Luang Namtha’s NPA

15. Amazing friends you will make when you do an eco-tourism tour in Luang Namtha. Nothing gets strangers bonding and makes fast friends like trekking around in the jungle for a few days! Many lasting friendships have been forged in the wilds of Luang Namtha…especially when topped off by a few cocktails when the group returns.

We hope you liked our reasons why Luang Namtha is so great, why dont you come and check it out for yourself!

Dokchampa Hotel

 

Room rates: 60,000 kip – 160,000 kip
Breakfast included: no
Free wifi: yes
Laundry service: yes
How to book: just show up at the hotel, or call +856 86 260003
Website: www.dokchampahotel.com

Dokchampa is a big Chinese hotel in the centre of Luang Namtha. It is located on the main street, where you will find the Night Market, many restaurants and trekking agencies.

Dokchampa has 61 rooms in total. They offer single, twin, double and double VIP rooms with fan or air-conditioning. All the rooms have ensuite bathroom with hot showers and coffee or tea making facilities. Try to book a room on the third or fourth floor (on the back) to have nice mountain views.

The big lobby is furnished with big wooden couches and a fish tank. Behind the hotel there is a big parking lot for customers to park their car or motorcycle.

Room prices

Double VIP: 130,000 kip (fan) / 160,000 kip (aircon)
Family Room: 100,000 kip (fan) / 130,000 kip (aircon)
Double or Twin Room: 80,000 kip (fan) / 100,000 kip (aircon)
Single Room: 60,000 kip (fan) / 80,000 kip (aircon)

 

Adounsiri Guesthouse

 

Adounsiri is a family run guesthouse in the centre of Luang Namtha. It is located on the street parallel to the main street, only a five-minute walk. On the main street you can find the night market, trekking agencies and many restaurants.

Adounsiri has thirteen rooms in total. They offer twin, double and family rooms. All the rooms have a fan and ensuite bathroom with hot shower and western style toilets.

Outside the rooms there is a green garden sitting area. Remember that at night the guesthouse’s gates will close between ten and eleven o’clock.

Room rates: from 60,000 kip for a single to 100,000 kip for a family room
Breakfast included: no, but free coffee and tea in the morning
Free wifi: yes
Laundry service: yes
How to book: just show up at the guesthouse

Tribute to the Yellow Moth

Hopping into Laos

 

Exploration of local biodiversity starts even before you set off to one of the many tours available in the surroundings of Luang Namtha.

Today we would like to introduce to one of the small creatures that you’ll spot anywhere if you only stop for a second and look around. Arthropods, insects and spiders in particular, are often frowned upon or considered disgusting in the Western world, but actually they represent one of the biggest and oldest branches of the Tree of Life. They play an essential role in pollination among other things and they are also an excellent source of protein, which could make us reconsider Lao’s insect-based cuisine.

We will keep an overview of mouth-watering insect-based recipes for another post, as we would like this post to be a tribute to the dying Yellow Moth spotted on the wall of Forest Retreat Laos this week.

The Yellow Moth, Dysphania sagana, is a geometrid moth from Southeast Asia, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo and has been reported in Northern Lao. Its larvae have been observed feeding on plants of the Carallia species, which, especially Carallia brachiata, is also an important source of nectar food for bees. As descripted by Wikipedia’s “moth writers”, the basal half of the forewings is chrome-yellow, while the outer half is bluish black, crossed by two bands of semitransparent white spots. The hindwings are chrome-yellow with a black spot at the end of the cell. The apex and a submarginal row of spots are black. The head, thorax and abdomen are yellow.

Dysphania sagana

Luang Namtha is a preferred destination for enthomologists, who come here on exploration and often leave with one or more species named after them, because the rich arthropods local biodiversity has been little studied and much has yet to be identified. This encourages all of us to go out with our cameras and big eyes to spot the universe of biodiversity that the surroundings of Luang Namtha have to offer.

Here a small collection of the hundreds of arthropods we have photographed and that we need help in identifying! More to come!

The antennae of the Indian luna moth detects a single sex pheromone molecule from more than six miles away due to extremely sensitive olfactory receptors.
[source The Encyclopedia of Life]

Luna moth

Common Mormon

Papilio palinurus, common name Emerald Swallowtail, Emerald Peacock, or Green-banded Peacock, is a butterfly of the genus Papilio belonging to the Papilionidae family. It is native to southeast Asia.

 

After mating, often female mantis eat their partner. This will give them extra proteins to tend their eggs.

Forest Retreat’s Bamboo Lounge Restaurant = real western food

Its official; Luang Namtha now has its own wood-fired pizza oven, it is even painted green and is decorated with Buddhas eyes, so you cannot miss it…

This iconic wood fired oven made from local clay has now served up thousands of authentic Italian (and not-so-Italian) Pizzas to travelers and locals alike. The wood fired oven now baked fresh bread rolls and loaves daily as well as cakes and Lao Banana breads.

Northern Laos best pizza oven

The worlds most enlightened wood fired oven

So when you are in northern Laos if you get sick of sticky rice, or fried rice or rice noodles (it can actually happen ;) ) and you are craving the comfort foods from home or have just got back from a 3 day trek in the Nam Ha NPA dreaming of cheese and bacon for the last 2 days…then Forest Retreat Lao’s Bamboo Lounge restaurant can help you!

Forest Retreat Laos is rated Luang Namtha’s #1 restaurant according to Tripadvisor, it has also won an excellence award for 2013 and an International Star Award for Quality.

Northern Laos best western food

BLET baguette; really good eating!

The concept behind  Forest Retreat Laos tour company and restaurant is that it is a Lao and western collaboration. Western managers teach Lao staff English language, hospitality, customer service, hygiene and western standard cooking skills as part of their employment. Lao staff teach westerners about their culture, way of life and traditions.

Birthday cake

Even the locals enjoy real western food

Forest Retreat specialises in authentic western dishes. The drinks menu features a range of fresh roasted and ground espresso coffees, freshly squeezed juices and excellent western standard cocktails (with either local Lao lao rice whiskey varients or the real stuff).

Northern Laos best cocktails

Fresh fruit cocktails

For food you can have all day breakfasts, sandwiches on home made bread, authentic Italian pastas and wood fired pizzas or salads and other goodies like chat potatoes and risottos.  Their menu has many ingredients are either sourced from abroad or made from scratch like tomato pizza base, soups, pasta sauce, pesto, hummus and olive tapenade.

real cheese and bread? In Asia?

Mmmm,tuna melt on homemade bread…

There are many plants from the jungle (hence “Forest Retreat”), fast WiFi and the comfiest chairs and sofas in town. The service is quick, smiley and professional.

Northern laos best pizza

Pon cooks like an Italian!

So if you find yourself in Luang Namtha craving some REAL comfort food from home, follow the smell of freshly baked bread to Forest Retreat Laos.

The Luang Namtha Welcoming Party

Author: Ryan Crossett
The Akha  people are a large ethnic group with populations in Lao, Thailand, Burma and China.  Here in Luang Namtha Akha women provide a service unlike any other.  They will give you the opportunity to shop for souvenirs while you are dining, visiting the night market or out walking.  They peddle an assortment of handicrafts including bracelets, belts, hats and bags.
Akha sales women in Luang Namtha

But you DO want a bracelet!

If you’ve never met an Akha woman, you are almost certain to when you visit Luang Namtha.  There’s even a good chance you’ll be welcomed to Luang Namtha by one as you climb out of your tuktuk.  However, if you don’t meet one right away, no need to go looking for them, they will come and find you.
Akha handicrafts are easy to find in Luang Namtha

Welcome to Luang Namtha; would you like a hat, belt or bag with that?

The Akha ladies employ a unique sales tactic, taking “don’t take no for an answer” to an all new level.  The reason they can do this is because they know what you want better than you do.  They break through any communication barrier using their universally understood sign language to make sure you don’t leave empty handed.
Akha woman in Luang Namtha

No means yes right?

At Forest Retreat’s Bamboo Lounge we have a special deal with the Akha saleswomen, no soliciting for free water and phone calls.  This has also given the staff here at Bamboo lounge the chance to enjoy getting to know the local Akha saleswomen. They can be a lot of fun and may even bust a move if they like the music.
Elu queen of the Akha

Its all pleasure and no business for Akha at Forest Retreat Laos!

If you’re lucky, and you probably will be, there will even be a few ladies around to bid you farewell as you leave Luang Namtha to continue on your journey.  “Thank you for shopping with us!”

Go for the real local culinary experience

Hang out at Luang Namtha’s night market and enjoy local food and drinks

You cannot leave Luang Namtha without spending at least one evening at Luang Namtha’s night market. If you want to experience an authentic local night out, this is the place to be.

The night market of Luang Namtha opens every single day around five in the afternoon and usually stays open as long as there are customers. In the wet season they might close around 21.00 and in the dry season this means around 23.30, since nearly every bar and restaurant has to be closed by that time.

Nonetheless, the night market is the very spot to hang around at night if you want a real local experience! Late afternoon, the tribal sales women arrive at the market place and start to display their goods. You can find some souvenirs here – like traditional Lao skirts, other handicrafts or CD’s with popular Lao music – but the night market is mainly about food. And drinking.

Luang Namtha is known for it’s local specialities that you cannot find anywhere else in Asia. Village people collect vegetables, herbs and spices from the jungle and use these in their traditional dishes. At the covered section of the night market, you will find long tables with all these dishes displayed.

And of course you will find some crazy stuff here as well. What about deep fried grasshoppers, a salad of silkworms or little snails to go with your sticky rice? You can either take away the dishes you like in a plastic bag, or select the plates you want and find yourself a table at the centre of the market. Or, if you’re not craving exotic foods, just grab a Beer Lao and share it – local style – with the people sitting next to you.

If you want less adventurous food, there are enough options as well. Get yourself some Lao style spring rolls for an appetizer, a spicy noodle soup as main dish and some fried banana’s for dessert. And if you’re ready for the drinking, which is part of the social life at the night market, you can choose from a wide variety of Lao Lao, the locally brewed rice whisky.

When you don’t get too hammered on the Beer Lao’s and the Lao Lao’s, you will notice that the night market gets quit messy after a few hours. It is usual for local people to throw their food waste on the ground and to leave their empty beer bottles on the tables. Don’t feel uncomfortable and do as the locals: soon the stray dogs will eat the food from the floor and the food stall holders will take away the bottles.

So the next day, people can come and make everything dirty again!

Luang Namtha’s morning market

Run into some crazy stuff on your stroll through the morning market

Visiting Luang Namtha’s morning market is one of the best ways to get a glimpse of Lao local life. People from Luang Namtha and nearby villages come here to buy their fruits and vegetables, new clothes or tools like machetes. People from villages near the jungle come here as well to sell jungle meat and edible plants that they’ve foraged from the jungle.

If you go to the market by bicycle or motorbike, you can park your vehicle in the ‘parking lot’, near the main entrance, for a mere one thousand kip. Directly behind the parking lot, you will find Lao women sitting on little stools next to a mat on which they’ve displayed their produce. Bananas, spring onion, coriander, cabbages and other local vegetables, fruits and herbs are for sale here. And don’t forget to have a look at the local delicacies, like these fried silk worms!

When you enter the covered section of the market, you will immediately pick up the fragrance of numerous different spices. Stroll along the stalls to find dried noodles and cooking oils next to the spices. Here you will find a lot of small containers filled with all sorts of seasoning, like fish or chilli paste. And what would be a better way to kill time if it’s not busy than watching soaps?

Those with strong stomachs can continue walking on the far side of the market there they will find the meat section of the market. Intestines, buffalo skin and even pigs’ faces can be found here. The sales women keep themselves busy shooing away the flies with plastic bags attached to the end of thin bamboo sticks.

A little bit further down are basins with live fresh water fish.  Other live animals for sale here include chicken and duck. Local people choose the fittest, or the fattest, chickens and ducks for their dinners.

In the back, by the huge sacks of rice, are minority people, who have come from out of town to sell their edible plants and leaves that they’ve foraged from the jungle. And next them, the seamstresses are sitting at their sowing machines to repair clothes.

Getting hungry from all of this shopping? By now you will have reached the stalls with local dishes. Treat yourself to a noodle soup, some freshly prepared jungle food or fried bananas. You can also try a typical Asian dessert: fluorescent coloured jellies served in a plastic bag with sweet coconut milk.

 

If you happen to have have run out of toiletries, go and have a look at the tiny shops at the right. Here you can stock up on toothpaste, shampoo and soap.

Do you want to get yourself a souvenir other than the bracelets the Akha-ladies sell on Luang Namtha’s streets? At Luang Namtha’s day market you can get yourself handicrafts made from rattan, like tiny boxes to serve sticky rice in or a handmade wooden mortar and pestle.

But of course you can also treat yourself to a freshly brewed bottle of Lao Lao, the local rice whiskey that Laos is famous for.

Looking for something a little more crazy or funny? Go inside the market on the right and get lost between all the Chinese clothing and shoe shops. It won’t take long for you to find all kinds of hilarious T-shirts and flipflops. And honestly, who doesn’t want to go home with these?

A Luang Namtha River Experience

You really should consider a kayaking trip on your South East Asia holiday to northern Laos.

Laos kayaking, Luang Namtha kayaking, South East Asia kayaking

The lovely Nam Tha river

Here in Luang Namtha for most of the year the days are warm and sunny and its nice to take to the water for an outdoor adventure passing through impressive dense and uninhabited jungle, stopping at different ethnic minority tribe’s villages dotted along the opposite riverbank and of course going through a few rapids and having a swim at the end!

Trekking is a major draw card of Luang Namtha’s ecotourism, but to combine that with a kayaking trip adds a cultural and scenic element to your Nam Ha national protected area tour. Trekking is all about being immersed in the nature and challenged by the steep accents and descents (the Nam Ha NPA is mountainous), surrounded on all sides by trees. Kayaking allows a more laid back scenic experience and gives many stunning photo opportunities of  the jungle and river vistas and the unique villages you pass by.

 

Some highlights of kayaking the Nam Ha NPA:

  1. Visit 3 or 4 different riverside ethnic minority villages; Lanten, Khmu, Khmu Rok or Tai Dam or Tai Lue villages. Park up your kayak on their little beach and learn about the similarities and differences of these ancient cultures and their unique way of life by touring their various villages with your guide.
kayaking Laos, kayaking Luang Namtha, kayaking South East Asia

Village girls fishing in the Nam Tha

  1. Eat awesome jungle and local northern Lao food on the river, either in a village on on a isolated riverbank surrounded by nature, your guide will cook for you and you also have the choice to learn how to cook Lao jungle style!
  1. Traversing the river by kayak or raft, is really fun and makes for a great group activity to meet some new friends, the scenery is stunning and the river (except in the middle of wet season) is gentle with some small but fun sections of rapids. The river is a grade one by western standards for most of the year.
  1. Taking photos of the jungle and river from your kayak make for some excellent holiday snaps, and jungle, village vistas.
  1. Kayaking is easier than trekking, so it is a pleasant way to explore the Nam Ha NPA without putting in too much effort, but still getting some exercise!
Kayaking Luang Namtha, Kayak Trip Laos, Kayak in South East Asia

Parked up at a riverside village

Things to know about kayaking in Luang Namtha:

  1. Check the kayaks; are they good quality, will they be waterproof and stay inflated? All Luang Namtha kayaks are inflatable, so they can still go down the river in dry season. Make sure your tour provider has a good product and is able to provide life jackets and/or helmets if you want them (recommended in wet season, in dry season the river is not very deep or current very strong)
  1. Where exactly is your tour company/agency taking you kayaking? It should be SOUTH of Luang Namtha on the Nam Tha or Nam Ha river, not north of the town (where the river terminates at a dam surrounded by rubber trees) or behind the town where there is little jungle and the water is too low to go in dry season. 30km south of Luang Namtha is where the boundary of the Nam Ha NPA starts and so does the dense jungle and idyllic villages. In this stretch you can kayak ALL YEAR ROUND, if you are told you cant, go to another tour provider!
  1. You should be provided with a proper 10 or 15 litre dry bag for your camera and other possessions you don’t want to get wet, make sure it is not a plastic bag! A good tour agency/company will transport your daypacks to your destination so you don’t have to worry about keeping them dry.
  1. Take hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, shorts, swimwear, tee-shirts and jandals (flip flops or thongs to you non kiwis ;) as well as you camera safely stowed in a dry bag. Don’t let the dry bag float in the water for the whole day, this is asking for trouble.
  1. Make sure you can swim!

For a quality and fun kayaking experience that gets great reviews on TripAdvisor check out Forest Retreat Laos and their kayaking and combination trips.

 

 

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