As tourist numbers have fallen, so too have the number of agencies and operators offering treks in Muang Sing.
It’s a pity because if you are looking for a trek in Laos with rich nature, remote hill tribes and the option for challenging hiking, Muang Sing is the real deal.
An organised trek can reward you with insight and access to harder to reach villages, tribes and waterfalls. For example, Xieng Khaeng and the Upper Mekong bordering Burma and China remains largely unexplored by foreign travellers and is truly a frontier land. And remember, some of the money you spend goes to the local community and helps keep the tourism infrastructure afloat.
The best time to go trekking in Muang Sing is in the cool-dry season from November until February. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, the air is clear and the nights are cold.
You can book one- to four-day treks at the Tourism Office on the main street. They have brochures, large maps, itineraries and information about the different ethnic groups. It’s a good idea to research which tribes you are interested in to help you choose your trek. The staff speak English but some are more enthusiastic about helping than others. Prices work on a sliding scale depending on the number of days and people. Sample cost: a three-day trek, 800,000 kip per person based on two people. The office is open Monday to Friday, 08:00–12:00, 13:30–16:30. It’s supposed to be open year round but when we went to Muang Sing one time during the monsoon, the office was closed.
One of the few remaining agencies offering treks is Phou Iu II. They offer homestays, treks and biking tours. All the information is professionally displayed on laminated cards and Mr Sisomphone speaks English, giving you a feeling of confidence that you will get the trip that you explain you want. A three-day, two-night “Akha Experience” trek, which includes the Nam Keo waterfall, is $250/person based on two people. Yes, it's expensive, but everything in Laos is, relative to many other places in Southeast Asia – and in general you should expect to pay at least $100 per day per person for trekking anywhere in the country. And be warned that because tourist numbers are so low to Muang Sing, you won't usually find others to add to your group and reduce the price.
Tigerman Treks, located across from the Tourism Office, offers one-day tuk tuk tours, jungle treks, homestays or biking/trekking combinations. The owner Mr Tong Mua speaks English.
Phou Iu II: T: (020) 5598 5557. http://www.muangsingtravel.com
Tigerman Treks: T: (020) 5546 7833; (030) 526 4881. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tourism Office: T: (086) 213 021;(020) 578 6824. http://www.luangnamtha-tourism-laos.org
By Cindy Fan.