Real Asia

Louang Namtha Travel Blog

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After a disappointing experience trekking in Chaing Mai I had high hopes that the rumors of a more authentic experience in northern Laos were true.  I met five good people at the border town of Hyuay Sai.  During the three and a half hour long windy minivan journey we determined that we all had similar trekking plans.  We chose Nam Tha Ecotourism Project of the two possible trekking outfits in town and were not disappointed.  Unlike the gimmicky tours offered in Thailand, the Laos equivalents are the real deal.

Moisan, our Mohng tribal village born guide, was happy to satisfy our thirst for knowledge about everything in the area.  The trekking was fun and constantly up and down slippery wet clay slopes through dense foliage.

  We walked about five hours a day but there were plenty of stops and a old spanish style siesta after lunch so beginner trekkers should not be scared off.  There were several streams to cross on the last day.  It was hard not to get the feet wet but it had been raining on us anyways so it didn't matter.  The views were fantastic but the real gems of the three day adventure were the people in the five villages that we visited along the way.

The inhabitants of each village had varying degrees of contact with "westerners" in the past.  All the locals were very shy and not used to foreigners although some were much more so than others.  The chief came to speak to our group through translations of our guide in every village that we stayed in.

  They were interested in our countries and customs and were interested in leering about the outside world.  They always gave us passage to roam around their animal filled villages to say hello to the families.  Most people, especially the children, were equally curious and shy.  Most seemed to want to be photographed but would cover their face giggling as they ran away at the last moment.  Technology was surprising in one of the villages.  They had built their own dams and installed self purchased small hydroelectric generators which provided electricity to some of the buildings.

The meals were ok but do not any any rice for a few days before hand because you will get your fill on this trip.  There was always too much food covering the large leaves laid down on the floor of the open walled huts where we ate.

  The veggies and meat were tasty but there is only so much sticky rice that one can eat in three days.  I was glad that we had a smilly group so there was no complaints throughout.

We did not have the best luck with the weather.  It had started to rain back in Thailand and was off and an for about a week.  The fist day of the trek was nice and sunny but we had rain for good portions of the last two days.  This transformed the steep clay hills into slick deathtraps.  We all spent some time on our asses but no one was hurt.

I can not stress enough how much better and more authentic the hill tribe village treks are in Laos compared to Thailand.  If you are going to both places and trying to decide on one or the other it is a no contest.  Laos is it.

Other than trekking there is not a lot to do in town so we headed south the day after our trip.

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Louang Namtha
photo by: edsander