Most cities in the world have public parks with grass, a few ponds, maybe some ducks; all very landscaped and not really very natural looking…boring!
Here in Luang Namtha, our “public park” (not to be confused with our huge jungle clad national protected area) is a dead flat 30 square km series of rice paddies linked by small raised clay paths and randomly dotted with small thatch and wood shelters. Our park also comes complete with its own eco-system of creatures.
This “park” has been around for at least a few thousand years as it is the only vast flat area in a mountainous terrain close to the river, so ideal to grow Laos staple food; stckey rice! Our “park” feeds the entire city of Luang Namtha with stickey rice, and all villages and villagers having seperate or communual plots.
The rice is planted each year at the end of March/April then is harvested around December. Nature has had centuries to adapt to this cycle of agriculture and many species of fish and frogs bury themselves in the mud come harvest time and wait for the lands to become flooded again next season before the new rice is planted. There are a myriad of insects, butterflies, dragonflies, song birds, snakes, lizards, birds of prey, fish and mammals that call this place home. The natural inhabitants vary with the seasons and the development stage of the rice plants – it is the perfect harmony between man and nature.
All this makes for a very enjoyable and scenic place for us humans to commune with nature for a while. The rice looks its most luxuriant between June and November. You can see up to 6 layers of mountains in every direction and it is the very best spot in Luang Namtha to see the sunset.
So jump on a bike or scooter and find a little path leading off the road heading towards the Boten (Chinese border) turn off and venture out into the paddies to find your own uninhabited hut (the huts are only used by the locals as sun shelters during planting and harvesting time), there will be only you, the occasional farmer checking his crop, maybe the odd person searching for crabs, snails or fish and miles and miles of natural beauty and native wildlife.
The best time to view the rice paddies is from June to November, when they are at their most lush. So take a packed lunch, a book, yoga mat and go and make your self at home for a while in one of Asias most stunning natural attractions.
If you would like to go on a guided walking tour of Luang Namtha’s fabulous rice paddies, complete with nature watching, traditional lunch and hut chill out contact Forest Retreat Laos which is the only company that does this. Guided meditations deep in the rice paddies can also be arranged.