Foreigners rarely visit these villages and they are delighted to welcome strangers with true Lao hospitality.
A range of ethnic groups live in the area -- Khamu, Akha, Tai Dam -- but not nearly as many as live further north in Phongsali or to the west in Muang Sing and Luang Nam Tha.
Muang Khua has a tourism organisation that can arrange treks, but to get the very best experience from the most knowledgeable guide in town, you need to speak to a guide who is a teacher at the local school. His name is Boun Ma and he can take visitors on local trekking trips for two or three days. During the school holidays from June to August he is free to take trips at any time, but during the school year, he is only available on weekends. He has great English and is very informative and good company.
He can design a trip around whatever you might find interesting and your trekking abilities. Most possible routes are described as 'moderate' standard, but this is very hard to judge. You can go for either two or three days, although it is possible to go for longer during the holiday period. Generally the trips involve several hours of trekking each day, visits to local ethnic hilltribe villages and possibly the sighting of some wildlife.
Accommodation is at the village headman's house, and food is all bought in the villages. Although a chicken will be bought and killed for the meal, vegetarians can be catered for. Vegetables are often scarce in small villages.
Contact Boun Ma through the Nam Ou Guesthouse or by telephone - T: 5802 1794. He usually comes to meet any guests and potential trekkers in the evenings at the restaurant.
Boun Ma is also available for hire through the Tourism Office, but since this newly created office brought in many newer, less experienced guides, it's a lottery as to which guide you will eventually end up getting. The tourism office also adds on extra expenses such as transport costs, so it's more economical to engage Boun Ma directly. Highly recommended.
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