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Anybody knows a good route for independent trekking in Northern Laos?

  • vlasov

    Joined Travelfish
    28th December, 2009
    Posts: 2

    Somewhat for 3-5 days with a descent sporting component and in less crowded place

    I would prefer to doint on my own although hiring a competent guide or joining a small group of 2-3 would also work

    Thanks in advance

    #1 Posted: 28/12/2009 - 03:14

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  • christay2009

    Joined Travelfish
    8th February, 2009
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 414
    Total reviews: 4

    Quite hard to trek solo in Laos, well, it depends on your definition of trekking
    but you
    need a permit to enter NPAs and to go to some villages. You can only get these if you are a registered guide as far as I'm aware. You can go on lots of good independant walks and bikerides though but not the same as a rainforest type trek. YOu can easily find places that offer treks in most popular destinations. If you would prefer to go it alone you have to pay more. Check put my post called "muang long". It's not a very big touist centre
    but offer treks, abit less well beaten

    I'm not sure about southern Laos

    #2 Posted: 31/12/2009 - 18:35

  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 564

    I saw this thread when it first went by and wanted to add my two kip, but didn't have time to respond, thanks Christay for the post rescue. I'm sure others will see this while looking back over posts.

    Laos isn't set up for independent treking the way someplace like Nepal is. Villages are just recently emerging from centuries of near isolation from mainstream world culture. The ethnicities living off the roads in Laos have their own beliefs and religions which are unknown to the casual observer and maybe even your Laotian guide. I'ts very easy to cause disharmony or break a rule without even knowing. Breaking a taboo might well bring desease and bad luck to a village for years and require the sacrifice of inumerable cows. I'm sure no one would want to be the cause of infant mortality but that might well be the outcome of a serious breach of traditions. I know we might look upon such things as superstitious but for the locals it might be a very obvious and concrete result.

    Even in the dominant lowland Lao society independent visitors can cause difficulties. Every town or village even the smallest grouping of houses is organised in a web of responsibility. Whether you know it or not someone is always responsible for how you act and what you do, when you stay in a village for the night the headman of the village bears ultimate responsibility to his superiors at the district of "Muang" level for whatever you do. Everything to do with a passing visitor can be looked upon as trouble.

    There is also the language issue. Many or probably most people in small villages speak no Lao language let alone Thai. More common lingua francas are Tai Lu or Phou Noi.

    You can of course walk independently anywhere especially along roads for day hikes, and many people do. At Muang Ngoi Nua there are even some short hikes including overnight stays at the villages above town.

    Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, and to a lesser degree Luang Prabang offer guided walks of a couple of days or longer. By necessity group sizes are often small. It's unusual to have more than a couple of people wanting to go to the same place at the same time. In the winter of 08 / 09 the cost for a single person one day and one night on a multi day walk, seemed to be about $50 inclusive without negotiation. Having more than one person drops the price considerably. Muong Long, Nong Khaew, and Phongsali also have developed trekking programs that are more remote.

    The benefits of a guide are numerous.

    A guide might well know the way and you spend less time wondering where you are and more time walking. A guide can inform you of what you are seeing and hearing because he or she is familiar with it. A guide can ask questions on your behalf and translate the answers for you. A guide provides a reference for all people you meet, you are no longer a stranger but a foreigner guided by someone people know.

    #3 Posted: 31/12/2009 - 20:59

  • christay2009

    Joined Travelfish
    8th February, 2009
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 414
    Total reviews: 4

    as usual somsai you response ticks all the boxes! sorry for my dodgy reply i was on a train using an ipod.

    When i was in Muang Long we were the only tourists there for the duration, the route we took on the trek hadn't been used for 18 months and the village stay was an experience. I imagine the treks offered in Nong Khaew and Phongsali are similar.

    #4 Posted: 31/12/2009 - 21:55

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    "I'm sure no one would want to be the cause of infant mortality but that might well be the outcome of a serious breach of traditions"

    As Jeff Foxworthy would say, you know your culture is fucked up four ways to sunday when someone can inadvertantly come by, and do nothing that causes your infant mortality rate to rise or some other catastrophic impact. Perhaps someone in the Laotian government would like to get these morons out of the stone age. This is ridiculous. I don't care if I appear insensitive or not. I don't doubt that Somsai is correct - I'm just saying that if he's right, something really wrong is going on here, and the government of Laos shouldn't coddle it either. Call something bullshit when it's bullshit - I don't care geograghically where it's taking place. I read this and thought- "how fucked up can people be?"

    #5 Posted: 1/1/2010 - 01:49

  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 564

    I don't know Mac, probably best just to kind of get along.

    If you're really raring to go maybe discuss the rediculousness of a divine monarchy with your neighbors and see how far it gets you. The older I get the more I notice the similarities in cultures. There's certainlly lots of silly superstitions in ours, even amongst the highly educated.

    If I have to avoid touching a village gate or taking a dump amongst the same trees in which peoples granparents are thought to live it's ok with me. Stoneage is technicaly pretty incorect too. In general they aren't much differnt from your neighbors over in Isaan. Ask someone what happens when a pii baa person looks at a pregnant woman.

    #6 Posted: 2/1/2010 - 02:57

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    Somsai
    Like I said, I am happy to raise the bullshit flag wherever I happen to be. It's not geograghically confined.

    When I moved into the house I am living in now there was an old woman from Kamcha-i who went door to door and gave massages. She was very inexpensive (not overhead), and I thought why not give it a whirl. When she was done our neighbor proceeded to tell me that the old woman was a witch, and we should avoid her. To which I responded "Are you people morons? You've been watching too much Thai TV." It's one thing when someones superstitions are harmless. It's another when they are harming someone. So whether I am in Isaan or the US or Germany or Africa - if I see something moronic that is harming someone, you bet I am going to say something. And I don't care who's offended by it. Since your language skills are good, I would hope that when you encouunter this nonsense and it's harmful, you would educate people who are isolated and continue to believe in nonsense that is hurting some of their own.

    And I don't need to ask anyone here what happens when a "pii baa" person looks at a pregnant woman. I already know the answser. Nothing.

    So if they are concerned about black cats or ghosts of old relatives or whatever... that's fine. But when those superstitions start leading to people being hurt or killed (I'm sure you've heard of the Salem witch hunts) then it behooves someone to say "WTF?"

    #7 Posted: 2/1/2010 - 12:13

  • Pecncorn

    Joined Travelfish
    30th January, 2012
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 3

    @ Madmac Hmm. I can hardly think of an apropriate response to a post like yours.

    " Perhaps someone in the Laotian government would like to get these morons out of the stone age. This is ridiculous. I don't care if I appear insensitive or not"


    I can only assume you are certain your culture is superior to all others and you , if you do, pray to the "right god". Personally I am a rabid anti-theist, however I hardly think it my place to rip people that have been living in isolation for thousands of years out of the "stone age" in one fell swoop. Who's to say the village idiot is not the happiest guy in the village he's usually the only one that doesn't know he's an idiot.
    As you seem to be able to read and write I will also assume you've had the advantage of an education .....to some degree.

    I would hope that when you encouunter this nonsense and it's harmful, you would educate people who are isolated and continue to believe in nonsense that is hurting some of their own." (encouunter, your spelling not mine)


    Would you propose to "educate " these people in a day? Or do you reverse thousands of years of believing a myth in a month or two? Maybe you should start by setting the "Abrahamic tribes " right and raising the bullshit flag on them since we're talking about beliefs that do harm, IE one of those tribes left 75 million un-exploded munitions here in Laos where one person per day is still being killed by the gift.

    I can agree with one part of your post,
    " Call something bullshit when it's bullshit - I don't care geograghically where it's taking place. I read this and thought- "how fucked up can people be?"

    It appears they can be really fucked up.

    #8 Posted: 30/1/2012 - 02:47

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    pecncorn
    Not long ago (last month) a Saudi woman was tried for witchcraft, found guilty, and executed. It sounds to me like you are saying "well, those are their customs and we should respect them."

    When customs (even moronic ones) are just quaint and curious no harm, no foul kind of things - that's fine. Like not crossing the path of a black cat. It's nonsense, of course, but hey, it's also harmless. As long as we don't start killing all of the black cats to avoid crossing their paths... no problem.

    But what Somsai indicated here is a bunch of inane beliefs that start causing real human damage.

    And let's not compare warfare and it's consequences, which are an organic part of the human condition (and always have been) with cultural barbarism. If what Somsai is describing here is accurrate, then it's not a happy state of affairs. Like I said, in the US and Europe we had witch burnings. It was barbaric. And we should say so. Just like honor killings in certain Islamic circles are barbaric. When culture starts inciting barbaric behavior, it's time to stand up and say so.

    #9 Posted: 30/1/2012 - 11:12

  • Pecncorn

    Joined Travelfish
    30th January, 2012
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 3

    Yes and they are still burning "witches" in Africa because they believe the passage thou shalt not suffer a witch to live , or something close to that . It is the followers of the desert mythologies doing these things today. I think the Lao tribes are more animist they are not burning witches or killing people over ideology (, to stop the spread of Communism because commies are "godless") You know why it says in god we trust on the dollar bill? The majority of us (Americans , I am assuming you are from the US) believe some pretty stupid ****, talking snakes , virgin births etc.

    Anyway this is not the place for a discussion of this sort , What ever they believe here they invite me into their homes cover me with their blankets and share their meager food supply with me with a smile. Most are illiterate so your "calling bullshit" on their superstitions would need to be accompanied with a lot of education. I felt a need to reply because I think your comments show something much more than insensitivity.

    Sorry to all for posting so far off topic here.

    #10 Posted: 30/1/2012 - 12:35

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    Vlasov posted that in 2009. I think he's OK with us going off topic now.

    Insensitive. Yes, I will never be accussed of being a sensitive, Phil Donahue clone type. You are correct. I am insensitive in this sense. I have lived in 7 countries in my lifetime. I was born in the US (although I left in 1985), and am highly critical of certain aspects of cultural tradition in that country. Just recently I told a very old friend of mine that his views concerning whether or not Newt Gingrich is a good Christian are completely irrelevent to whether or not he'd make a good president and make him sound like a simpleton. Of course he found that offensive, and of course I didn't care.

    I am not indicting the Laos people. I don't indict peoples. Everywhere I've lived, Germany, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Haiti, Bosnia, Thailand... people have been pretty much the same. I've found good and bad everywhere. OK, the Saudis were total assholes. But everywhere else. There is nothing wrong with the Laos people. But when elements of a society are practicing something that is extremely harmful, people should say so. Like infaticide in South Asia. That's just wrong, and I don't care if saying so is "insensitive". Trying to say "Yes, but in America or Europe we do X" doesn't excuse that it's wrong. If both things are wrong, then both are wrong. Because my culture does something stupid and ignorant, does not excuse stupidity and ignorance in other parts of the world. I'm an equal opportunity critic.

    #11 Posted: 30/1/2012 - 21:58

  • Pecncorn

    Joined Travelfish
    30th January, 2012
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 3

    Well Mac one often makes mistakes when assuming too much about another person but if I were a betting man the places you listed are usually associated with a military posting or the oil field. If this is the case , I have done both the military and the oilfield overseas, I hardly had much real contact with the locals in ether capacity and if I did it was usually hostile.

    I am as I said an atheist and a skeptic and will heap ridicule on any who wish to try and defend their belief in such foolishness or impose it on me.But it is a bit different in the case of tribal people they generally don't disseminate their beliefs to others nor have they had the advantage of and education in science to learn what many of us know to be facts about how the natural world works.
    I may have missed something but I don't think anyone was defending infanticide , the last place I lived the believed if a pregnant woman saw an eclipse she would lose the baby or if the child was continually sick it was caused by something the mother saw while pregnant. To try and dissuade them of this notion and get them to understand that the child was sick from a bad diet and dirty living conditions would have been about as easy as getting pat robertson to admit he really doesn't believe in the talking snake.


    Your comments more than being insensitive just seem to not have been to well thought out or demonstrate a lack of understanding how rural hunter gatherer/subsistence farmers live day to day and what their reality is.


    I figured out how to enable the PM , I don't mind a good discussion but rally don't think people looking for travel info want to read our exchanges that are completely off topic feel free to answer me with a PM if you wantif you want.

    #12 Posted: 31/1/2012 - 08:41

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    They don't care here. They'll ignore it or participate if they want.

    I was a soldier, for 27 years. But it did not create hostility in any of the places I was in except with those I was combatting directly. So, for example, I am very fond of the Somalis, though I still feel some rub with the Haber Gedir.

    I worked hard to develop the linguistics of wherever I lived. So I speak German fluently, Somali less well, Thai funcitonally. My Arabic is all but non-existent, and Serbo Croat is an abortion, my Haitian Creole non-existent as well. Can't get em all.

    The natural world is dog eat dog. I got that.

    I don't like the phrase "tribal people." The Germans are tribal people - why do we reserve that phrase for people of other races?

    Like I said, whatever the reality is, when that reality is causing harm, that reality should be confronted. I'm not concerned that they are going to foist their beliefs on me. I'm not concerned Nazis are going to foist their beliefs on me. But they still must be confronted. As I said, when I first moved here I observed foolish beliefs being put into action and saw them hurting an indigenous person. Damn right I'm going to say something. Wrong is wrong - here, there, wherever. What Somsai described here wasn't quaint. Be careful where you go, you might upset the indigenous persons because of nothing and that might lead to... Come on. Not saying Somsai isn't right - I'll bet he is. I am saying it doesn't reflect well on the "tribal peoples" or the government that represents them.

    #13 Posted: 31/1/2012 - 09:08

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    'OK, the Saudis were total assholes.'
    Yep, all except the bedou.
    I lke this argument so I want to throw my threepennith in. I live in Cambodia and am told to respect local culture.
    It seems like lack of hygiene is part of that culture.When I suggested on another thread that a TV hygiene campaign might be beneficial I was torn to shreds by the PC brigade.The people here sit in the dirt then feed babies with their filthy hands, handle raw meat then eat rice etc.It's OK for a man to take his dick out here and piss in front of the whole world, (the place stinks of urine and faeces) but it's a terrible sin for a man and woman to hold hands. A man can get drunk, smoke and go out and have a good time but only 'bad' women smoke and drink. Yeh, I feel pretty superior to this BS.

    #14 Posted: 1/2/2012 - 01:04

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    Anybody knows a good route for independent trekking in Northern Laos?

    #15 Posted: 5/3/2012 - 08:47

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