Archives for : Travelling Laos

The Road to Muang Sing

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

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 Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant 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!

New Friendship Bridge Makes Travel From Northern Thailand To Nothern Laos A Breeze!

Want to get from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Chiang Kong to scenic northern Laos as fast and comfortably as possible?

Well now instead of the tiring routine of taking clunky buses, spluttering tuk tuks and then hauling all your belongings onto a longtail boat across the Mekong, then hiking them up a steep hill on the Lao side….the Lao/Thai “Friendship Bridge 4″ has just been opened!

New Border Crossing from the Lao side

The brand new bridge spans the Mekong river from Chiang Kong (Chiang Rai province) in Thailand to Huay Xai (Bokeo province) in Laos. The bridge is connected to Laos’ best sealed highway that goes through Luang Namtha to Boten (the Chinese border crossing) then down part of the way to Luang Prabang before the road gets less sealed (i.e. more bumpy) 3 hours south of Luang Namtha.

Northern Laos/Thailand  border crossing

Getting the flash new bus to Chiang Rai

The best features of the new bridge border crossing for the traveller are:

  • The many immigration offices on the Lao and Thai side (instead of just one each at the old river crossing), streamlining entry and exit; meaning you will spend a LOT less time queueing for stamps in your passport.
  • The nice new VIP buses transporting people from the Lao side (Bokeo province)  after you have  been stamped out, straight to Chiang Kong and Chiang Rai quickly, regularly and comfortably. When we last crossed there was a bus to Chiang Rai every 10 minutes or so for 220 Baht  each!
New buses from Thailand to Laos and Laos to Thailand

New buses from Thailand (Chiang rai) to Laos (Bokeo) and Laos to Thailand

  • The new VIP buses from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to the border crossing (the buses wait for you to get stamped in and out on the Thai and Lao side) to Bokeo provinces international bus station.  There are 2 companies; Green bus and the Transport Company. Now you can get tickets all the way to Luang Namtha and Luang Prabang from Thailand.
  • The ability to now drive across the Mekong for people with their own transport (many rental places in Thailand will give you the documents to take a car or motorbike to Laos) or on guided tours.
  • The much more regular bus connections on new buses, less waiting and now the trip to Chiang Rai takes about 2 hours from the bridge border crossing, instead of up to 3 hours plus on the old shaky red buses from Chiang Kong.

So, for people travelling from Chiang Rai to Laos via the bridge, simply catch a bus from Chiang Rai bus station 2, (the new one, outside of town – you can catch a shuttle there from the old bus station in the centre of town for 15 Baht).  There are VIP buses that leave at 6am, 9am, 12pm (I was told this time, but didnt see it written on the sign), 3pm and 4.30pm for 22o Baht. These buses all go directly to Bokeo international bus station, where you get off and get connections to Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, China etc

To get directly to Luang Namtha, you get the 9am bus from Chiang rai and get transferred to a Bokeo 2.30pm bus that will get you to Luang Namtha by 6pm; all for 590 Baht!

For Lao-bound buses departing Chiang Mai, there are also numerous buses, but as of yet I dont know the times, s0 watch this space…I know there is a Green bus that goes to Chiang Kong every day at 9am, but I will write more info, as it comes to hand!

Thanks Lao and Thailand, for making it so much easier, faster and safer to traverse the Mekong!

New bridge crossing the Mekong at Chiang Kong/Huay xai

Over the Mekong by VIP bus…better than leaky longtails and a series of tuk tuks!

 

The Slow Boat vs. Northern Laos

There are 2 popular ways to get to Luang Prabang, Laos from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in northern Thailand:

  1. The slow boat; a crammed, diesel chugging, sweltering jaunt down the increasingly developed Mekong river including passing through dams and sitting on hard wooden seats for 2 days solid.
  1. Venturing overland via Luang Namtha through mountainous lushly forested scenery dotted with rice paddies and different tribal villages on the best roads in Laos, then down to the stunning riverside town of Nong Kiaw, where you can boat the rest of the way on the much less developed Nam Ou river through the jungle clad riverbank to Luang Prabang.

Northern Lao scenery

Homestay village in Luang Namtha

Many people are pre-sold on the idea of a leisurely slow boat cruise down the mighty Mekong river from Chiang Kong, Thailand/Huay Xai, Laos all the way down to the popular world heritage city of Luang Prabang.

There are many vendors in Thailand who will sell you this option and tell you it is by far the best way (or even only way) to get to Luang Prabang…seeing as they make commission from ticket sales.

Unfortunately the reality is for many people quite different from this romantic vision of river scenery and old world comfort.

 

Thailand to Laos via the Mekong. Ready?

What to expect from the slow boat:

  1. The slow boats seating capacity is limited to 60 but it is often packed to way more than this forcing people to sit in the engine room or even hang off the side of the boat! This makes for a packed, noisy and uncomfortable journey.
  1. You will most probably be sitting on a hard wooden seat for 2 whole days meaning most people arrive in Luang Prabang far from refreshed and relaxed. Some people just drink the whole time just to get through the journey!
  1. It’s true there is some nice scenery but the mighty brown Mekong has gone through a lot of development on its banks (especially the Thai side), so the journey will be far from an insight into authentic rural Lao culture, so don’t be mistaken.
  1. You will need to pre-purchase all your food and water before the journeys to ensure you have enough, the toilets although western are very far from clean.
  1. The fast boat may seem like a better option as it does the whole trip in about 7 hours, but the cramped conditions and scary ride due to high speeds and submerged logs and debris make it a dubious choice.
  1. Queuing and crowding to get a good seat on the boat and accommodation in Pak Beng can be a real test on patience.

 

What to expect from Northern Laos, overland:

  1. You will get to experience northern Laos amazing mountain scenery, ethnic diversity and famous hospitality first hand away from the maddening crowd and heat of the Mekong. This is the most forested and ethnically diverse region  of South East Asia.
  1. Buses and minivans depart Huay Xai daily for Luang Namtha every couple of hours (no hard seats!) and take about 3 and a half to 4 hours through stunning jungled mountains dotted with different tribes villages, for a scenic introduction to Laos. This is also Laos’s newest best-sealed road.
  1. From December 2013 you will be able to simply get a connection to Luang Namtha from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai as the new friendship bridge across the Mekong will be opened for border crossings, making getting to Laos much faster and easier.
  1. Luang Namtha is a great place to trek, kayak, raft or mountain bike in the immense and very scenic Nam Ha national protected area, from the pleasant town with many accommodation and dining options you can visit different ethnic minority villages by yourself, explore the stupas, waterfalls or rice paddies.
  1. Luang Namtha is emerging as the hottest new eco-tourism and trekking destination in SE-Asia because of its highly regulated Nam Ha national protected area. This community based eco-tourism set-up has vastly different and intriguing tribal villages and wild untamed jungle and beautiful pristine rivers.

Luang Namtha valley

  1. Travelling south to Nong Kiaw sees you going through more of Laos most beautiful scenery, to a stunning riverside town on the Nam Ou surrounded by limestone karsts, it takes 5 and a half hours to get there from Luang Namtha, you get to stop in the Chinese influenced town of Oudomxai for lunch.
  1. From Nong Kiaw you can get a daily public boat (or hire a private boat – there are always people looking to form groups to hire a boat) for the very scenic 6 hour trip to Luang Prabang through jungle and mountains. Or you can chill out for a few days and venture up river to the increasingly popular and very quaint Muang Noi.

The boat to LP from Nong Kiaw

In our opinion and the opinion of hundreds of travellers we have met, if you are missing out on northern Laos, you are missing out on the best part of coming to Laos.

So consider wisely before you blindly sign up to that slow boat ordeal :)

 

How To Get To Luang Namtha?

Naturally beautiful and ethnically diverse Luang Namtha province is situated at the northwest tip of Laos with Luang Namtha town and the famous Nam Ha national park at its centre.

It is a town with many choices for accommodation and places to eat and provides an excellent base to get out and explore the surrounding nature and ethnic villages either on a trekking excursion or by yourself on 2 wheels. Luang Namtha’s nature and ethnic minority villages are much more untouched, unspoiled and authentic than places such as Pai, Chiang rai and Chiang mai in Thailand and Sapa in Vietnam.

Beautiful Luang Namtha

Luang Namtha is placed at the natural crossroads of the major routes to Thailand, China, Vietnam and soon Myanmar, which makes it a natural entry/exit point into or out of Laos from other countries:

Luang Namtha surrounded by mountains

Proximity to China: Luang Namtha is 50km from Boten; the Chinese border town; this is an overland border crossing to China that tourists can travel through to get to nearby Jing Hong and Kunming in Yunnan province and also nearby Sichuan province.

Proximity to Thailand: Luang Namtha is also 180km (along the best road in Laos)  from Huay xai the Lao border town across the Mekong river from Chiang Kong, Thailand. Chiang kong is a 2 minute boat ride across the Mekong from Huay xai and is a 2.5 hour bus ride from Chiang rai (and 5 hours from Chiang mai), with buses departing every 30 minutes. In the next few months a friendship bridge will be completed across the Mekong linking Huay xai to Chiang Kong in Thailand. To get from Chiang mai to Luang Namtha it takes 10 hours by bus and can easily be done in 1 day.

Proximity to Myanmar: Also a friendship bridge across the Mekong from Xieng kok in Laos to Kainglap in Myanmar is currently being built in the north of Luang Namtha Province this should be completed in the next 2 years with overland border crossings between Laos and Myanmar able to be done then.

Proximity to Vietnam: Northern Vietnam borders Phongsali province (the province to the right of Luang Namtha) and the major overland border crossing is into Dien Bien Fu from Muang Kwa in Laos. There is now a daily bus that departs Luang Namtha at 7.30am for Dien Bien Fu where you can easily bus or fly to Hanoi or Sapa.

Proximity to the Rest of Laos: Huayxai (Thai border) is 180km or 3.5 hours from Luang Namtha with buses going there at 9am and 12.30pm (buses come from Huayxai to LNT at 9am, 12.30pm, 2pm and there is a VIP bus at 5pm, minivans also leave in the morning too).

Oudomxay is 120km or 2.5 hours away, there are buses at 8.30am, 12.30pm or 2.30pm. There are quite a few buses that depart to LNT from here each day. Oudomxay is where you have to go to get to Phonsali province and Muang kwaw to cross into Vietnam.

Luang Prabang is 300km away or 9 hours by bus.  Buses leaves Luang Namtha at 9.30am, 2.30pm, 5pm (VIP) or a night bus at 9pm (VIP). There are various buses departing LP each day for LNT and Huayxai.

Nam Tha river and the Nam Ha NPA jungle

Nong Kiau (Pak Mong) is 180km or 6.5 hours away you can leave to get there at 9am, 2pm, 5pm (VIP) and also 9pm (VIP). There is a daily bus and minivan from Nong Kiau to LNT each day at 8.30am and 9am as well as the daily buses from LP passing Pak Mong on the way to LNT or Huayxai

Vientiane is 700km or 20 hours away! Buses leave to get there at 8.30am or 2.30pm. There is also a flight every day to Vientiane at 2.30pm

If you need any further information about how to get to and from Luang Namtha please contact us at info@foresretreatlaos.com :)

10 Reasons To Choose Luang Namtha

Laos is a very spread out country so, if you come to Laos for a holiday there are many options of places to visit. This is why you should seriously consider choosing to come to  Luang Namtha in the countries far north:

1. The food! The food of forested northern Laos is some of the most delicious and exotic in Laos; due to the abundance of jungle produce, lush growing conditions and cultural melting pot of ethnic tribes in the area. Luang namtha is famous for its Kao soi (noodle soup with pork mince and fermented peanut paste), local fried rice and many, many other dishes.

2. Close proximity to other countries: Luang Namtha is very close to both the Chinese border (Boten; near Kunming and Jinghong in Yunnan provence) and Thai border (Chiang kong; near Chiang rai and Chiang mai) perfect for onward travel.

3. The Namha NPA: Think a stunning 222,000 square hectares of  mountains covered by pristine jungle with rivers running through it. This huge national park is home to a huge biodiversity of plants, animals, insects and birds. The best part of it is that you can trek and kayak through it with a guide and homestay at some amazing villages that that have had their livelyhood tied in with the jungle for centuries. A truly awesome experience.

4. Affordable and chilled out town: The town of Luang Namtha has many good guesthouses, hotels and restaurants (and even 2 disco’s), it is a chilled out place to base yourselves for a while you explore the surrounding area. It is one of the cheapest towns in Laos to eat and stay at. The roads are the best and the internet is the fastest in the country. You can be sitting enjoying the espresso and WiFi from a soft chair and 5km away be chilling in a bamboo rice paddy hut or walking through a tiny ancient village by the river.

5. Self guided adventures close to town: Its easy to rent a bicycle or motorbike for a day or more and explore some nearby minority tribe villages, rice paddies, temples and other local attractions all within a few km of the town centre. For the more adventurous why not motorbike father afield to cultural attraction Muang Sing or Vieng Phouka with its cave and  “off the beaten track” trekking.

7. The rice paddies: the middle of Luang Namtha valley is a 30 km stretch of seemless rice paddies surrounded by 360′ of mountains on its borders.  It is very beautiful and a great place to base yourself to watch the sunset over the mountains. Witnessing nature  from a small bamboo hut in the middle of the paddies for a few hours is a priceless experience.

8. Trekking, kayaking and homestays in the Nam ha NPA: There are a lot of  unforgettable authentic adventures to be had in the mountainous national park. Meet some new friends as you form a trekking group then go out into the wild to experience jungle life and stunning natural beauty with your guides.

9. Fantastic cultural diversity: If you like the idea of visiting many different ethnic minority villages and learning about their contrasting way of live and belief systems Luang Namtha is for you. There are about 20 different ethnic tribes that call Luang Namtha province home, in just one day it is possible to visit up to 10 different minority villages where different costumes are worn, different languages are spoken and different traditions and ways of life are adhered to. Most of these tribes live as they have for many hundreds of years, making it a really authentic experience especially when compared to more developed countries like Laos’ neighbours.

10. Nice relaxed pre or post trekking ambiance: Luang Namtha really is a pleasant place to hang out for a few days. The local  people are very nice and kind, the weather is temperate and mostly sunny, there is an amazing fresh market where you can see jungle produce and local fruits, vegetable and herbs on display, there is also a daily night market where you can sample all the local foods and even seasonal favourites like bats and Rhinoceros beetles. You can visit some really cool chilled out villages and temples. There are also some cool places to chill out in town that have super fast WiFi, serve great cocktails and excellent western food like Forest Retreat. Hang outs like these are great places to chill out and meet like minded travellers and discuss trekking options and share travel experiences.

Luang Namtha By Bike

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.

The road to Muang Sing

Riding around Luang Namtha, northern LaosRenting a bike:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Rainy Season in Luang Namtha

Rainy season sunset over the rice fields

Rainy season has well and truly arrived here in Luang Namtha, with the days generally being warm to hot, and then being cooled by a welcome rain that usually lasts less than an hour. We don’t get the monsoon rains here that many other parts of South East Asia get, our wet season means that the rain cools us off, and we get to see a lot of cool insects!

This is definitely the time of year entomologists visit to discover new insects; we’ve been told that this is the place to come if you want to have something named after you, simply because there is such a diverse range of yet unclassified insects here.

It is also the time the rice fields begin to become green again; you can see farmers ploughing their fields, planting their rice, and the ocean of rice becoming whole once more.

Most tourists come to South East Asia during the winter months of November – March, which also means than coming at this time of year means you get everything to yourself.  Don’t want to share the stupa?  Come in wet season.  Here in Luang Namtha we are really lucky to have a much milder climate than the rest of SEA, being only 1 hour from China and 700m above sea level, we enjoy medium – hot days in summer (25-35 deg C) and it gets really cold (5 deg C) overnight in winter.

This week has seen another influx of intellegent travellers – they know it’s not too hot this far north and are taking advantage of the low season.  So if you’re wondering where in Asia to go in summer time, come see us in Luang Namtha.

Spider eating Gecko

OK, just a really quick post today; just thought this was awesome!  We were eating dinner and saw the plant next to us moving…. because this spider was eating a gecko!  Awesome stuff.  I love this country!

Spiker eating Gecko - Laos is awesome!

Nam De Waterfall

About 5 minutes out of Luang Namtha town is a pretty waterfall named Nam De, meaning Good Water.  It’s a popular place to visit because it’s so close to town yet so far away – once there you feel like you are a million miles from any kind of modern conveniences and you’re surrounded by nature and beauty.

Nam De Waterfall in Luang Namtha, Northern Laos

Next to the waterfall is a small Lanten minority tribe village, Ban Nam De.  The Lanten people here are super friendly and are always willing to have a chat with whoever passes through.  (You will have fun trying conversations using hand and body movements and lots of pointing at what you might be talking about – there is pretty much no English spoken in the village but that’s no barrier to dancing around a bit and getting your message across!)  They are seen wearing the traditional Lanten dress of hand woven fabric dyed with plants from the forest to a dark indigo blue, and bring pink strings tied beneath the waist.  You can also stay overnight in this village, but the only way to do this is to arrange it through a trekking agency in Luang Namtha town.

Walking through the village and up to the waterfall is a scenic and easy walk; there are some well-placed, flat stepping stones across one part of the river and small bridge, and the rest of the walk is fairly flat terrain up to the waterfall.

In dry season there isn’t a huge amount of water pumping out, but it’s still a pleasant and scenic and peaceful spot to spend some time.  You can swim at the waterfall too, if you want to.  In wet season there is a lot more water, and the look of the waterfall can actually vary from day to day depending on the amount of rain the day before.

Some photos of the lovely Nam De waterfall are here.

 

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