If you’re looking for challenging trekking and real cultural experiences in Laos, this is the place. You can explore the surrounding countryside and traditional villages on foot or by motorbike or bicycle.
Muang Sing is a district (muang) in Luang Namtha Province, northwestern Laos with historic Muang Sing Town as its administrative and economic center. The town is about 60 km northwest of the town of Luang Namtha and 360 km northwest of Vientiane.
Roughly half of the district lies within the Namtha National Biodiversity Conservation Area, a heavily forested area under national protection which extends much further to the southwest and includes the Pha Yueng Waterfall, about 17 km south of the town of Muang Sing.
Historically, Muang Sing has been a major producer of opium and still has problems with drugs and smuggling, due to its geographical position as it lies very close to the heart of the Golden Triangle, sharing border with Myanmar and Yunnan of China. In the first half of the 20th century, the French capitalized on the location of the town by using it as a weigh station and market to regulate their opium monopoly, Opium Regie, and control production by the Hmong and Mien peoples.
Within the town center live nine distinct groups: Akha, Tai Lue, Tai Nua, Lolo, Hmong, Tai Dam, Khmu, Phu Noi and Yao.
Its landscape is predominantly mountainous with elevation ranging between 540 to 2.094 meters, surrounded by forest and upland swidden farming. Muang Sing has developed a small, low-key tourist scene based around the trekking opportunities in the beautiful surrounding valley. If you’re looking for challenging trekking and real cultural experiences in Laos, this is the place. You can explore the surrounding countryside and traditional villages on foot or by motorbike or bicycle. However, to get the most out of the area, join a one- to three-day trek through the surrounding mountains to remote and unspoiled villages where life has barely changed in centuries. Most of the houses in the district are built in the traditional style with wooden beams, raised off of the ground on stilts and covered with thatched bamboo roofs. The locals, especially the Tam Dao and Tai Lue people, are adept at silk and cotton weaving.
Muang Sing, though small, is fairly spread out; that said, most tourist facilities lie on the main road. On the main road, the tribal museum, a simple but elegant wooden building, houses local textiles, tribal costumes and some Buddha images. There are also 25 temples in the valley. Tucked behind the museum is the town’s principal temple, the ancient-looking Wat Sing Jai which has a wonderfully rustic sim painted in festive hues. If you come in the morning, there are usually a lot of activities, mostly the village ladies coming to pray and make offerings..
The rainy season lasts from May to October. The weather turns cool and dry from November to February with temperatures dropping as low as 5°C at night. In this time winter woolies will be needed in the morning and evening. March and April are the hottest months, with the mercury approaching 40°C.
Note: From December to February be warned that the night time temperatures can be freezing. Though daytime temperatures are pleasant throughout the year, the sun is intense and we’ve learned the hard way that a combination of sunscreen and covering up is the best protection.