Many people who come to South East Asia seek to find that unique cultural experience of an idyllic little village tucked away in the misty jungle clad mountains where people still live the way they have for thousands of years…living in bamboo and grass huts, hunting and gathering in the forest and growing seasonal crops…
Many people go to northern Thailand or Vietnam or Malaysia to try to get this insight into a traditional way of living before Facebook, media saturation and Smartphones cluttered up our lives. Disappointed travellers have told me that in these places the villagers hurriedly put down their ipads and turn off their plasma TV’s and don costumes to put on a “touristy” show about a life they have long left behind…not exactly an authentic hill tribe experience is it?
If you really want to experience people living in misty forested mountain villages exactly as they have done for thousands of years you should come to Luang Namtha in northern Laos! Unlike Thailand who has had tourists for 100 years northern Laos has only had tourists (and electricity!) for 10 years, it is much less developed than its wealthier neighbours, more densely forested and is also the most ethnically diverse part of South East Asia, a real cultural melting pot with over 20 different minority tribes; which means you can go to numerous tribes’ villages in a single day and witness the striking differences in culture, tradition, belief system, architecture and agricultural practices.
Why should you choose Luang Namtha for your hill tribe experience?
- Because these local people really do want to be part of the Nam Ha eco-tourism initiative and gain a sustainable income from arranged homestay visits and handicrafts such as silk weaving. To even stay the night at a village the entire village agrees, via a village meeting, to apply to become part of the eco-tourism project. If the government approves them, then they will be given some training and then you will be able to stay. This eco-tourism empowers them to preserve their tribal culture and encourages them to protect and preserve their natural environment. The original model homestay is the Khmu village of Ban Nalan another amazing jungle village on the river is the Tai Lue tribe’s Ban Sin Oudom.
- Many of these tribes live in the Nam Ha national protected area (NPA) for example Khmu, Ahka, Tai Lue and Lanten minorities and so have become the caretakers of the national park. This means you can tie in an amazing cultural immersion experience with a trekking/kayaking/rafting tour in the national park.
- The UNESCO sponsored Nam Ha NPA eco-tourism initiative ensures that a hefty proportion of the tour costs go directly to the villagers themselves and to conserving and protecting the national park.
- Because it really is untouched! The nature is stunning and the villages and their inhabitants really are authentic minority tribes living in a self-sufficient way that is relatively unchanged for thousands of years.
- Luang Namtha province is ideally situated close to the overland border crossings of Vietnam (Muang Kwa), Thailand (Huay xai) and China (Boten). Making it very easy to get to, It also has the best roads in all of Laos!
- Luang Namtha needs your support! Eco-tourism is a priority for the local government and many people benefit from your visit. Coming here will help the local people protect their valuable natural and cultural asset for years to come.
So make your patronage count and ensure that if you do do an Eco-tour in South East Asia; you find one that is the “real deal” and gives a good percentage of the money directly to the local community.