Laos - Getting to know Muang La
Characterised by hills and mountains, forests and rivers, deeply-preserved traditions and timeless cultures, this is remote Laos at its most alluring. Packed with opportunities for activities and light adventure, not to mention precious time to simply switch off from the madness of Western life, a trip to Muang La is magical. It’s also an area in which you may very well go about daily life without encountering another tourist.
Just north of the town of Oudomxay (which is served by domestic flights), Muang La occupies a charming spot on the Nam Pak River, deep in the heart of an area typified by lush vegetation, ethnic minority villages, rivers undisturbed by the passing of time, and forests steeped in both beauty and legend. If you really want to get off-the-beaten-path in Laos (which isn’t that difficult anyway), we can think of no better place to do so.
The fact the area sees relatively few tourists is, of course, central to its charm. A superb base in which to simply relax during your holiday in South East Asia, there’s an air of romanticism here that may well delight those on the search for an original, unique honeymoon but, such are its charms, Muang La will enchant anyone with a yearning for paths less trodden.
Getting off the trail in Muang La
- Unlike some other destinations in our programme, you’re already firmly 'off the trail' in Muang La. This area is all about soaking-up the atmosphere of rural, untouched Laos – and key to that is getting out among the landscapes, cultures, experiences and people that are the essence of this corner of South-East Asia.
- See how locals use forest plants and herbs both for food and for healing, sample a glass of rice alcohol (yes, it packs a punch!), venture into Buddhist temples devoid of selfie-snapping tourists, and discover how many of these isolated communities draw on both the spirit world and their origins in Tibet and China’s Yunnan Province to guide a lifestyle fixed in time.
In high season, the sun in Muang La can be strong so come prepared, especially if you plan on doing some trekking. In winter, temperatures can drop, with early mornings and evenings sometimes having a chill to them. And, if trekking or exploring, some small change is always advisable and useful when visiting simple villages.
What to do in Muang La
- Visit the villages of the Hmong, Khmu, Akha and Ikhos peoples. The Khamu village of Huay Ho sees life continue much as it has for generations. It’s a place where animist beliefs, traditions and subsistence farming provide, not just a sense of fiercely guarded tradition, but of tightly-knit, supportive communities.
- A short 45-minute trek away is the village of Ban Phongsavan. At the heart of a beautiful little valley, you can take a narrow trail from the river through the mountains and across rice fields and ankle-deep streams before a well-deserved lunch with the lush countryside of northern Laos as your backdrop.
- The area provides numerous opportunities to see the daily routine of local life, and how religious beliefs and the land influences almost every aspect of it.
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