3 days in Luang Namtha province: villages, nature and smiles
During our trip through Laos, after our misadventure crossing the Vietnam-Laos border, I went to tour Muang Sing by bike. Muang Sing is located in the province of Luang Namtha, north of Laos. This province is almost all occupied by the Nam Ha National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area, where many people come to hike in the mountains and see villages far from civilization.
The first day was spent in the city of Luang Namtha. We rented a motorbike for one and a half euro, but almost without brakes. We spent the whole day walking around the city, seeing surrounding villages, stupas and a small waterfall. It was not bad although it was not spectacular either.
The next day, Sergio, my travel partner, decided to take a tour to do a trekking in the Nam Ha mountains. I had already decided not to take any more tours. Sometimes they are very interesting, but usually they are very touristy and many times they do not fulfill all that they say.
So I decided to go on my own to Muang Sing, a village 60km further north on the border with China. The plan was to go for two days, visit Muang Sing by bike and then return to Luang Namtha to meet Sergio again.
Muang Sing by bike, getting to know the rural life of ethnic minorities
First day biking through Muang Sing
Muang Sing borders Yunnan (China) and is characterized as an area surrounded by small villages, each belonging to a different ethnic minority.
The best thing you can do when you get to Muang Sing is to rent a bicycle and go and see the rural life of the villages and meet their humble people. In my case, the first day was spent pedaling in the company of two French people I met on the bus. We rode around the villages until it got dark.
Second day biking through Muang Sing
The second day I went alone to other villages further away as the boys I had met also went trekking in the mountains. It was a great experience to go through those villages alone. There was one particular village that was so far away that I got a little lost and didn’t know which way to go. The houses were made of bamboo, the streets were dirt and the children played barefoot in the village.
When I arrived everyone looked at me with curiosity. When I wanted to ask what the address was for the next village, in a minute I was surrounded by about ten people. They began to give me directions in Laotian and I more or less interpreted the path. After saying a few words in Laotian, to be liked and to break the ice, I continued on my way so as not to disturb any more.
The villages of Luang Namtha, a humble life
I was also surprised that there were about three ways in which the people in the villages acted:
- Don’t pay attention to you or just look at you.
- Waving to you and coming to ask you to buy things, give out candy or money.
- To say hello very sympathetically (especially to children) without asking anything in return.
After two days I returned to Luang Namtha to meet Sergio again. From Muang Sing I took with me all the smiles received, a nice memory that will accompany me forever.
I could also see how the locals lived in the different villages I visited. They live a very precarious life, without great luxuries or surely big dreams. I don’t know if they are happier than us, but it makes you think that maybe we are the ones who have too much and still want more.
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