Luang Namtha

Overview

Tucked in the northwestern corner of Lao PDR, Luang Namtha covers an area of 9,325 square kilometers with more than 85% of its terrain being low calciferous mountains that rise to between 800 – 2,000 meters above sea level. The highest point (2,094 masl) is found in Vieng Phoukha District and several peaks that approach 2,000 meters can be found among the province's central mountains that separate Namtha and Muang Sing. Like the rest of the country, Luang Namtha's weather pattern is characterized by a rainy season lasting from May to October followed by a cool dry period from November to February. March and April are the hottest months. On average, daily temperature is a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius but during the cool season it can dip to zero on the coldest nights.

To the north, Luang Namtha shares a 140 kilometer land border with the People's Republic of China and its northwest frontier with Myanmar follows a 130 kilometer stretch of the Mekong River. Administratively, Luang Namtha Province is divided into 5 districts including Namtha, Nale, Vieng Phoukha, Long and Sing (Muang Sing) that are further divided into 380 village units. The provincial capital, which is also called Luang Namtha, is in Namtha District and is the most heavily populated town with nearly 45,000 inhabitants. Total population in 2005 was 145,310 with 78% classified as rural and 40% less than 14 years old.

Luang Namtha's main industries are agriculture, wood processing, lignite and copper mining, handicraft production, transportation and tourism. In 2005 per-capita GDP stood at US$ 280 and grew at an annualized rate of 7.7%. In terms of employment, most people are engaged in agriculture, planting rice, corn, vegetables, cassava and peanuts. Other important agricultural products are buffaloes, cattle, fish, chickens, rubber, teakwood, watermelons, sugarcane and peppers. Forest products such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms, rattan, cardamom and ginger are also key sources of income for the rural population.

 

Archaeological evidence including stone tools found in the Nam Jook River Valley in Vieng Phoukha and cliff paintings near Nale suggest that Luang Namtha Province was inhabited as early as 6,000 years ago. The first local written account of the province's history appears in the Xieng Khaeng Chronicles that recount the founding of Xieng Khaeng on the banks of the Mekong River in the early 15th century by Chao Fa Dek Noi, a Tai-Lue that originated in the court of Chiang Rung. Xieng Khaeng grew into a modest principality that later found itself under the influence of the Lanna Kingdom of Northern Thailand until the early 16th century and then become a Burmese vassal from the mid 16th to the early 19th century. Beginning in the first half of the 19th century, Xieng Khaeng fell under Siamese domination and suffered from numerous conflicts. In 1885 Chao Fa Silinor eventually led more than 1,000 Tai-Lue subjects to what is present day Muang Sing for both strategic military reasons and in search of more expansive agricultural land.

South of Muang Sing it appears that there were considerable population movements taking place from the 16th to the 19th century as well, in both the Nam Tha Valley and Vieng Phoukha. In 1587 a group of 17 Tai-Yuan families arrived in the Nam Tha Valley from Chiang Saen, settling near present-day Vieng Tai Village. By 1624 Muang Houa Tha was established under the traditional Tai Muang administrative structure, ruled by 4 nobles of the Saenhansulin family. In 1628, Pathat Phoum Phouk and Pathat Phasat were constructed as symbols of friendship and neutrality between Muang Houa Tha and Chiang Saen. The original Pathat Phoum Phouk still exists and is located south of Luang Namtha Township. The ruins of Pathat Prasat, on the other hand, are north of town near the source of the Nam Dee Stream but have almost completely disappeared.

Vieng Phoukha was also prospering by the 17th century, with the construction of dozens of Buddhist monasteries and pagodas in the Nam Jook and Nam Fa River valleys. Evidence of what must have been a large population in Vieng Phoukha can be seen just north of the district capital, where an extensive khou vieng (earthen rampart) surrounds the ruins of sprawling Wat Mahaphot and many smaller pagodas.

Though Muang Houa Tha enjoyed peace and stability through most of the 17th century, beginning in 1709 a series of natural disasters weakened the Muang and it briefly came under the influence of the Sipsongpanna Kingdom centered in southern China. A population exodus to Muang Sing, Muang Nan (Thailand) and Muang Ngern (Sayabouli Province) ensued, eventually causing the Nam Tha Valley to become nearly completely abandoned for 155 years. During the late 1700's prior to the reign of Chao Fa Silinor, one of the first main population movements into Muang Sing began with a group of Tai-Lue from Xieng Khaeng, led by a woman named Nang Khemma. Nang Khemma was the widow of Xieng Khaeng's ruler at the time and went on to commission the construction of That Xieng Teung Stupa in 1787. Today, That Xieng Teung remains highly revered by Tai-Lue Buddhists throughout the region and is believed to contain a sacred relic of the Lord Buddha.

In 1890, the Tai-Yuan returned to the Nam Tha Valley under the aegis of Chao Luangsitthisan to re-establish Muang Houa Tha. Vat Luang Korn, one of Luang Namtha's largest, was constructed shortly thereafter in 1892. However, the newly resettled Muang Houa Tha was to enjoy its independence for only two years. In 1894, following a meeting between the French, British and Siamese colonists, it was agreed that Muang Houa Tha would be administered by the French and the Mekong from the northern reaches of Muang Sing to Chiang Saen would serve as the border between French Indochina and British-ruled Burma. Not long after this divide took place the first group of Tai-Dam arrived from Sip Song Chou Tai in north western Viet Nam and established Tong Jai Village on the east bank of the Nam Tha River. At about the same time the Tai-Dam arrived, migrations of Tai-Neua, Tai-Kao, Akha, Lanten, Yao and Lahu originating in Sipsongpanna, Burma and northwest Viet Nam began to migrate to the area's fertile valleys and the forested mountains surrounding them.

By the late-1950's following France's withdrawal from Indochina after their defeat at Dien Bien Phu, Muang Houa Tha again found itself embroiled in conflict - this time between the US-backed Royal Lao Army and the resistance government's communist inspired Pathet Lao forces. On 6 May 1962, Muang Houa Tha came under control of the Pathet Lao and was renamed Luang Namtha Province, while the area between Houei Xay and Vieng Phoukha was called Houa Khong Province, nominally controlled by the Royalists until the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975. Between 1975 and 1983 Houa Khong and Luang Namtha were administered as a single province and then partitioned into what is present day Luang Namtha and Bokeo.

Outdoor Activities

Trekking

  • Ban Nalan Trek: Embark on two day/one night trek along the Nam Ha River, up mountains with spectacular views of Luang Namtha, and through pristine forests to Ban Nalan for an overnight stay in the village lodge.
  • Nam Ha Forest Camp (Nammat Trek): Trek in the Nam Ha NPA with Akha and Khamu guides, and spend the night in a bamboo and wood camp built by the villagers.
  • Piang Ngam Trek: Head off on an easy day-trek that stops at intersting ethnic villages, and observe their way of life and varied traditional practices. Overnight stays in Piang Ngam are available.
  • Phou Sam Yot: Spend three nights on Sam Yot Mountain (Three Peak Mountain) and stay with three different ethnic groups on this journey into the culture of Luang Namtha.
  • Akha Trail: Trek along the Nam O River and up an old Akha trail to the mountain top Akha Phouli village of Ban Nam Lo for an overnight stay, before heading through a bamboo forest to a limestone cave on this two day adventure.
  • Khmu & Lahu Trek (Nam Pa Man): Wander the trails around Vieng Phoukha with a local guide and learn about the plants and wildlife in the forest on this 2-day trek with an overnight stay in a Lahu lodge.
  • Phou Mot & Ancient Ruins: Head out on a full-day forest walk to the Khou Vieng archaeological site in Vieng Phoukha.
  • Trekking in Muang Sing: Embark on a choice of one, two and three day treks around Muang Sing with a local English speaking guide leading the way, and stay overnight in ethnic villages.
  • The Akha Experience: Immerse yourself in The Akha Experience on this three day trek to eight Akha villages, and spend a couple of nights, learn Akha customs and participate in village activities.
  • Ban Nam Yang Trek in the NPA: This one day tour into the Nam Ha National Protected Area winds through forest and upland fields. This tour has broad open vistas of the area. Along the way you will see villagers collecting forest products, tending livestock or working their upland fields. Before returning to the valley, the tour visits an Akha village at the highest point of the trek.
  • New Trekking in Nam Ha NPA: On this trek we stay for three days entirely within the forests of the Nam Ha National Protected Area, an ASEAN Heritage Site. It is a trip for those who want a true 'forest experience' and to immerse in the beauty of the jungle. The first night you will camp in the heart of the jungle.
  • Nam Ha Valley Trek: (2 day trek, all seasons) this trip takes us through three Lanten Villages and two Khmu villages. Ban Nahom (former Nalan tai), a Khmu village, and Ban Nam Goy, a Lanten village, can only be accessed by foot or by boat. This trail climbs a ridge near the Nam Ha River and goes through forested areas bordering the Nam Ha National Protected Area.
  • Trek on Old Falangs Trail: To explore real nature, trek through overgrown of forest (the center of Nam Ha National Protected Area) on the old Falangs trail (50 year ago road Muang Sing to Luang Namtha), hike to higher mountain 1,900 meters from sea level to see marvelous view of the mountain, that wide as far as the eyes can see, some on the top of wide cogon grass you can see unlimited view, that make our entranced and that area was place of the old French army, to see beautiful sunset and sunrise.
  • Ban Pha Kha-Nam Daet Mai Trek: Easy trek through agricultural fields visit different ethnic groups in Muang Sing valley such as: Akha, Yao, Tai Lue and learn about their culture and tradition.

Caves

Kao Rao Cave

Vieng Phoukha District is surrounded by karst Limestone Mountains that have many interesting and beautiful caves. Formed by centuries of weathering that has gradually carved huge caverns out of the porous limestone, Vieng Phoukha's caves have some of the most beautiful underground formations in northern Laos. During prehistoric times many of the caves might have been inhabited by people, but today they primarily support nesting swifts and thousands of roosting bats of over a dozen species. Some of the most accessible are the caves near Nam Eng Village (Tham Kao Rao) and the network of caverns at the base of the Phou Prasat limestone formation near Tha Luang Village.

Nam Eng Cave

Nam Eng Cave, or Tham Kao Rao, is among the longest mapped underground labyrinths in northern Laos. Though no one has reached its finish, spelunkers once spent eight hours wandering some 1,000 meters, only to return claiming, "There is no end in sight." The subterranean system includes "wet" and "dry" caves, both of which are fairly well lit. Limestone columns serve as geological gateways to chambers unveiling gours (dry floor pools), stalactites, stalagmites, and stone-rimmed wet pools with cave pearls. The network is generally narrow but easily passable, and acts as a natural air-conditioning system offering a cool respite from the heat outside. The 30-hectare Nam Eng Cave area is currently being developed to include a small roadside market, and better lighting and interpreted walkways inside the caves. The project has also prepared preliminary architectural drawings for a restaurant and nature resort.

Location: Ban Nam Eng is located on Lao Route 3 about 13 km north of Vieng Phoukha Town, and 46 km south of Luang Namtha Town.


Cycling

  • Excellence Biking Tour Visit Minority Groups: Experience the life of minorities groups in Muang Sing valley such as: Lolo, Tai Dam, Tai Neua, Hmong, Akha, Yao, Tai Lue… Participate in the production of weaving, Lao Rice whiskey and Noodle soup. Good views temples and That Xieng Tung Stupa.
  • Cycling Tour Through Luang Namtha Town Valley: Meet at the office and select your bicycle, before visiting the Luang Namtha Museum. Then, continue cycling to Ban Thong Chai Neua, a Tai Dam village, and watch the local women weave and observe the traditional architecture.
  • Biking From Luang Namtha-Vieng Phoukha: Visit villages of different ethnic groups located on road No. 3 such as the Khmu, Tai Dam and Tai Lue; see the Kao Rao Cave, and Nam Ha NPA (Nam Ha National Protected Area) and stay overnight in a Khmu family.
  • Biking from Luang Namtha-Muang Sing: Visit ethnic groups are settled along the road, a waterfall, bike through Nam Ha NPA, stay overnight at an Akha lodge, have breakfast in Muang Sing's morning market, visit the Muang Sing Museum (open Monday-Friday only) and Xieng Tung Stupa.
  • Biking From Luang Namtha-Vieng Phoukha-Nalae Town: Visit ethnic groups on the main road No. 3 from Luang Namtha to Vieng Phoukha (Khmu, Tai Dam, Tai Lue village), visit the Kao Rao Cave, cycle through the Nam Ha NPA; stay in Khmu family house and Tai Lue family house; visit small villages at the bank of the Namtha River while cycling on the dirt road from Nale town to Luang Namtha.
  • Luang Namtha Valley Tour: This 30km tour around the Luang Namtha Valley includes visits to villages of Tai Dam, Tai Leu and Lanten ethnic minorities. You will see silk production and silk weaving with natural dyes, a Lao alcohol distillery, mountain vistas, and expanses of rice paddy as well as visit a small waterfall. In the cold season learn about Lanten paper making. Coming back to town, stop at the provincial wet market before riding on to That Phoum Pouk Stupa.
  • Muang Nalè Cycling Tour: This is an overnight trip to Muang Nalè along the Nam Tha River. The tour follows the at times rugged Nam Tha River road through Tai Dam, Lanten, Khmu Rok and Tai Leu ethnic villages. You will be able to see silk weaving in the Tai Dam villages and paper making during the cold season in the Lanten villages.

Kayaking

  • Nam Ha Experience: The Nam Ha National Protected Area takes its name from this river. The Nam Ha Experience can be one of rapids and white water in the rainy season but for most of the year the verdant forested banks, colorful water birds and the occasional troop of monkeys are the main attractions. You will be paddling exciting but manageable 2 to 3 grade rapids. Low water levels from January to June may make kayaking rocky.
  • Nam Ha Multi-Sport 2: The first day of trekking takes you through 2 Lanten Villages and a Khmu Village. Ban Nalan Tai, a Khmu village, and Ban Nam Goy, a Lanten village, can only be accessed by foot or by boat. This trail climbs a ridge bordering the Nam Ha River and goes through forested areas bordering the Nam Ha Protected Area.
  • Nam Ha Safari: The Nam Ha National Protected Area takes its name from this river. This Nam Ha Experience can be one of rapids and white water in the rainy season but for most of the year the verdant forested banks, colorful water birds and the occasional troop of monkeys are the main attractions. The Nam Ha River awaits the kayakers and rafters with numerous exciting 2 to 3 grade rapids.
  • Nam Ha - Nam Tha Confluence: This 4 days tour takes the paddlers down two scenic rivers, before moving up the Mekong towards Thailand in a motorboat. In the forests of the Nam Ha National Protected Area, there's much to learn about the local flora and fauna. Encounters with the diverse ethnic groups of the region are just some of the unique experiences along the way.
  • Nam Tha Adventure: The Nam Tha River is the transport artery of Northern Laos. Heading south from Luang Namtha, the river cuts through parts of the Nam Ha National Protected Area, revealing some rare stands of old growth forest and passing villages of different ethnic groups.
  • Nam Tha Challenge Kayaking: This tour is for people who want to enjoy the river and visiting the village Visit three different ethnic groups as Black Tai, Mien Hmong and Mon-Khmer. The tour for those who want a pleasant day paddling and exploring villages along the banks of the Nam Tha River. Wild life can be seen while paddling because after 2 km of paddle on your left hand side is Nam Ha NPA with many exciting rapid.
  • Nam Tha Explorer: The Nam Tha River is the traditional water borne artery of North-West Laos. Heading south from Luang Namtha, the river cuts through sections of the Nam Ha National protected Area, revealing some beautiful stands of old growth forest.
  • Nam Tha Insight: This tour is just the tour for those who want a pleasant day paddling and exploring villages along the banks of the Nam Tha River. Wildlife can be seen while paddling.
  • Nam Tha River Kayaking: The Nam Tha River is the artery of North-West Laos. Heading south from Luang Namtha, the river cuts through parts of the Nam Ha NPA, revealing some rare stands of old growth forest and passing by villages of diverse ethnic groups. A two-day kayaking trip - closely observing the flora and fauna of this region - offers a unique experience in the naturally diverse landscapes of Northern Laos and Visit four different ethnic groups as Black Tai, Mien Hmong and Mon-Khmer and Tai Lue.

Cultural Visit

Wat Mahaphot

Wat Mahaphot and an ancient city are located on hilltop just south of the main town. This and other abandoned Wats in Vieng Phoukha are believed to date to the 16th-17th centuries. Surrounding this abandoned temple is a series of ramparts called Kou Vieng in Lao. Many people believe that these ruins are protected by spirits and if you take anything from the ancient sites you will suffer sickness and perhaps death.

That Xieng Teung

That Xieng Teung (Xieng Teung Stupa) is the most important stupa in Muang Sing. It is said to contain the adam's apple of Buddha. To the left of the stupa are some stairs which lead to a sacred fountain and a sacred stone. If you follow a path to the right of the stupa (be careful!) downhill you might be able to find the old moat and wall of the stupa. The biggest festival of the year, That Xieng Teung Festival, is held here every year during the full moon of the 12th lunar month (usually in late October or early November). The stupa is located 5.5km from the center of town, on the road towards Luang Namtha, situated on top of a hill. A dirt road leads up to it on your right as you're coming from Muang Sing.

That Phoum Pouk (Phoum Pouk Stupa)

The stupa is located near Nam Ngaen village on a hill in the northeast part of the Namtha Valley. The original stupa was constructed in 1628 to demarcate neutral territory between the Kingdoms of Lane Xang (centered in Luang Prabang) and Lane Na (centered in Chiang Mai). In 1966 the old stupa was destroyed when an American plane dropped a bomb on it. The new monument seen besides the older, ruined stupa was constructed in 2003.

Luang Namtha Temple

The Tai Yuan and Tai Lue are devoutly Buddhist. Hence, there are 3-4 Wats (temples) and monasteries in the area. Wat Ban Luang Khon, the most important in the area, is located on the main road next to the airport. Wat Ban Vieng Nuea, Wat Ban Vieng Tai, is also quite beautiful and is located on the main road to airport too.

Luang Namtha Stupa

A long time ago Sy Sod So Tammikarad King of Xieng Sean (Xieng Sean the north of Thailand present) and Naleatafai king of Chanthabouly (Oudomxay present), they were built two Stupa for friendship. The first Phoum Pouk Stupa and the second located on the east of the head of Namtha River, The second Stupa was lost to the forest, but recently rebuilt on 27 December 2004. Now called the Luang Namtha Stupa, it's easy to access from the north end of town.

The Traditional Tai Kalom Style House in Ban Vieng

The house is built according to the traditional style of the Kalom people (Kalom, also known as Tai Yuan), although some modern toilet facilities have been added. The house can be used by the local villagers for meetings, wedding ceremonies and other events. It also serves as a tourist attraction, where local and international tour companies are able to show visitors the traditional customs and food of the Lao people. The villagers of Ban Vieng Neua are very proud to keep their traditional customs and welcome visitors to see it. They are able to offer a range of services, ranging from baci ceremonies, dance performances, lunch or dinner and cooking classes.

The handicraft village Ban Pieng Ngam and the distillery village Ban Nam Ngaen

The handicraft village Ban Pieng Ngam and the distillery village Ban Nam Ngaen have two ethnic groups, the Thai Deang and the Thai Kao. The villages are famous for their many different handicrafts. A small lodge built by the Nam Ha Ecotourism Project, offers accommodation for anybody who is interested to experience the rural Lao lifestyle. Not far, within walking distance from Ban Pieng Ngam is the Lao Lao distillery village Ban Nam Ngaen, where people can see the process of making the famous Lao rice whiskey. You can go by bicycle following the map in this guide book.

Ban Nam Dee (Lanten Village)

Located far from Luang Namtha around 6km, they are Lao Huay (Lanten) that still keeps their traditional culture and way of life and a good place to observe the progress of bamboo papermaking. Behind the village you will see the entrance to the Nam Dee Waterfall. The area around the waterfall offers good facilities, like a small handicraft shop managed by the villagers; toilets and a house for picnics, etc. Now the village they organize home-stay, you can stay 1 night or 2 nights get experience the Lanten culture and tradition, taste local meals, learn how to make paper from bamboo and participate in the day-to-day work of the family depending on the season you can watch or take part.

Luang Namtha Museum

The provincial museum has a variety of artifacts made by Luang Namtha's multi-ethnic people. Of particular interest is the extensive collection of indigenous clothing as well as many agricultural tools and household implements used in daily life. The museum has an excellent collection of Buddha images, bronze drums, ceramics and textiles. Also of interest are the traditional hand-made weapons on display that were once used for hunting and national defense.

Muang Sing Museum

The Muang Sing museum about local culture and history has an excellent collection of historically and religiously significant pieces, located on the top floor. The building was once the royal residence of the Jao Fa (Prince), Phanya Sekong.

Nature

River

Nam Fa

This is arguably the most intense and magnificent rafting trip available in Laos. This journey, loaded with rapids, wildlife and forest, starts in Vieng Phoukha and ends four days and 75km later at the Mekong between Laos and Myanmar.

Nam Ha-Nam Tha

Running near Luang Namtha near the northwestern border, these rivers thread their way through the Nam Ha NPA inhabited by a variety of tribes, making it one of the more colorful and cultural journeys. Rafting and kayaking is available through exciting 2-3 grade rapids.


Waterfall

Nam Dee Waterfall

This waterfall localted in the ethnic Lanten village, Ban Nam Dee. The village is accessible by bicycle and is located just a 6 kilometers outside of Luang Namtha town. Entrance fees benefit local villagers.

Nam Dee is a good place to abserve the process of bamboo papermaking. behind the village you will see the entrance to the Nam Dee waterfall. the area around the waterfall offes good facilities, like the small handicaft shop managed by the villagers; toilets and a Pavilion for picnics, ets.

Nam Keo Waterfall

Enjoy a traditional forest picnic prepared by Akha villagers next to the Nam Keo Waterfall, located deep inside the forests ofMuang Sing district and 2 kilometer from That Xieng Tung stupa and can be visited as part of a guided tour from the Muang Sing Ecoguide Service or while on the Akha Experience.

Pha Yueng Waterfall

Located in Nam Ha National Protected Area in the north of the Luang Namtha Province on the road from Luang Namtha toMuang Sing about 40km, is a good place for refreshing dip. 17 km south of Muang Sing on the road to Luang Namtha. Follow the trail along the river for about 20 minutes to reach the waterfall.


National Protected Area – Nam Ha

Location:
Luang Namtha Province

 

Area:
2,224 sq. km

 

Eco-tourism Activities Available:
Trekking, river rafting, camping, kayaking, bird watching, mountain bike tours, village home stays.

 

Key Species:
Mammals of significance are clouded leopard, leopard, and tiger. There aresmall populations of gaur, Asian elephant, and a possibly unique muntjac species.

 

Habitat:
Most of the area is covered by mixed deciduous forest. A range of mountains runs from "Phou 2094" to the China/Lao border. The top of this range is mainly dry evergreen forest and some grassland. Three large rivers drain southward to the Mekong: the Nam Tha, Nam Fa, and Nam Long.

 

Access:
Easily accessed from Luang Namtha Town, Muang Sing and Vieng Phoukha

Other Natural Sites

Sacred Bor Kung

Directly behind the tourism office is the sacred forest that protects Bor Kung, the shrimp spring. The area is renowned for its clear waters and abundant fish, crabs and of course shrimp. Another nearby spring is Stewpot Spring or Bor Kang. Like a stewpot it is always brimming with water. Bor Kang is the source of the Sai stream which remains clear and cool during all seasons, flowing into the nearby Nam Jook River.

Nam Phae Viewpoint

The Road through the Northern Mountains continues north over the Nam Ngo and Nam Teun Rivers, and begins climbing as it approaches Luang Namtha Province. Near Vieng Phoukha, the route's highest peak rises 2,094 meters, where the Nam Phae Viewpoint presents spectacular southwest vistas over the lush precipitous landscape to the Golden Triangle, Thailand and Myanmar on a clear day. For lunch, the Khoua Nam Fa Restaurant on the Route 3 roadside serves excellent khao soi noodle soup less than a kilometer north of the viewpoint. Ban Nam Phae villagers are known for their high-quality baskets that can take five days to weave, though an experienced producer can turn out four sticky rice baskets in a day. The women also crochet bags from a forest vine called bpiat, similar to hemp. Opportunities to purchase local handicrafts are likely to be encountered here.

Shopping

The Handicraft village Ban Pieng Ngam and The distillery village Ban Nam Ngaen

The handicraft village Ban Pieng Ngam and the distillery village Ban Nam Ngaen have two ethnic groups, the Thai Deang and the Thai Kao. The villages are famous for their many different handicrafts. A small lodge built by the Nam Ha Ecotourism Project, offers accommodation for anybody who is interested to experience the rural Lao lifestyle. Not far, within walking distance from Ban Pieng Ngam is the Lao Lao distillery village Ban Nam Ngaen, where people can see the process of making the famous Lao Rice whiskey. You can go by bicycle following the map in this guide book.

Muang Sing Market

The Muang Sing market is one of the best places to see ethnic groups in northern Lao, as people from Akha, Lue, Hmong, Yao, Tai Dam and Tai Neua villages come to sell their fruits, vegetables, meats, non-timber forest products and crafts. The best time to visit the market is in the early morning. The market is also a great place to get to know local food such as soybean paste, waffles and local sweets ("canome") often made from sticky rice and coconut.

Tai Dam weaving

Tai Dam Weaving and textile production is mainly performed in Ban Nong Boua and Ban Xieng Yun. Look for the large weaving looms located under or beside houses. Don't be shy to sit down and drink a cup of tea if you are invited into someone's home. Just remember: Ask before you take photos and remove your shoes before entering a house. To show your gratitude and support local crafts you may choose to purchase one of their handmade textiles.

Lao Whisky

Ban Koum is known for producing the best Lao whisky (lao lao) in Muang Sing. Lao whisky is distilled in big drums outside. If you decide to try some be careful, as it is extremely strong. Ban Koum is located off the road to Luang Namtha 4 km from the center of town.

Yao Crafts

Ban Nammai is a Yao village, also close Adima lodge. Yao tradition is quite strong here. Every year in November/December you can see the production of bamboo paper-used for making religious ceremonies and books-in this and other nearby Yao villages. The village has developed a small handicrafts cooperative which offers a good selection of traditional Yao textiles.

Main event Schedule

January
  • Akha and Lahu New Year
  • Hmong New Year
  • Seda New Year
  • Lanten and Yao New Year
  • Panna and Tai Neua New year
  • "Spirit of the New Rice Festival" by Khmu and Mon-khmer speaking ethnic groups
February
  • That Phoum Pouk Festival in Namtha District
  • Chinese New Year
  • Tai Dam Festival
April
  • "Kao Ban Festival" by the Akha ethnic group
  • "Pi Mai Lao" Lao New Year
  • "Poi Festival" (means Rocket Festival) in Muang Sing by Tai lue ethnic group
May "Boun Bang Fai" or Rocket Festival in Luang Namtha
June
  • "Feeding the spirit of the City Pillar" Lao Yuan ethnic group
  • "Vor Salee Festival" by Lahu ethnic group
September "Swidden RiceField Festival" by the Lahu ethnic group before the harvest
October Boun Suang Heua (boat races in Namtha District)
December That Luang Namtha Festival in Namtha Province

Luang Namtha is accessible by air, land and river. The most popular overland routes to and from the province start and end at Bokeo Province's Ban Houey Xay and Luang Prabang. There is an international border crossing at Boten (China-Laos) and regular air service from Vientiane on Lao Airlines. For adventuresome travelers, try a journey up the Mekong River from Ban Houay Xay to Xieng Kok in Muang Long, or a 2-day river journey up the Namtha River, which also originates in Ban Houy Xay. Once you reach the province, local transport by tuk tuk, the bus or a song taeow is inexpensive and easy to arrange. For short trips, many people get around by renting bicycles.

Luang Namtha Flight Schedule

Flight No Days Routing Departure Time Arrival Time
QV601 M-W-F VTE-LXG 12:30 13:30
QV602 M-W-F LXG-VTE 14:10 15:10

Luang Namtha Outside Bus Timetable

Destination Distance Departure Time ETA Hours
Luang Namtha-Oudomxay 120 km 08:30
12:30
11:30
15:30
3
Luang Namtha-Luang Prabang 300 km 08:30 16:30 8
Luang Namtha-Vientiane 700 km 08:30 - 22
Luang Namtha-Houay Xay 195 km 08:30
12:30
12:30
16:30
4
Luang Namtha-China (Muangla) 125 km 8:00 10:00 2

Luang Namtha Inside Bus Timetable

Destination Distance Departure Time ETA Hours
Luang Namtha-Muang Sing 60 km 08:00
09:30
11:00
12:00
14:00
15:00
10:00
11:30
13:00
14:00
16:00
17:00
2
Luang Namtha-Muang Long 110 km 8:00 12:00 3.5
Luang Namtha-Vieng Phoukha 60 km 9:00 10:30 1.5
Luang Namtha-Nalae 75 km 9:00 12:00 3
Luang Namtha-Boten 60 km 08:00
09:30
11:00
12:00
09:30
11:00
12:30
13:30
1.5
ETA – Estimated Time of Arrive
Located:
Northwestern Laos (Northern Mountains)
Total area:
9,325 square kilometers.
Population:
164,310
Districts:
  • Namtha
  • Muang Sing
  • Muang Long
  • Vieng Phoukha
  • Nalae
Capital:
Namtha