The North of Laos


Global Mark : 14.37 (up)    Top Five : No4

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


5 4 1 2 5 5 4 3 3 14.22

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
21 100% (20) 67% (14) 100% (20) 12 to 19 14.52

Description :
One-street-village near the Chinese border full of opium, westerners and minority villages around.

Comments : The place itself is a bit annoying but the surroundings are great on a bike.

What to do ? As soon as off the bus, say "no thank you" at the salesgirls. Keep repeating it during the duration of your stay / Give up and buy them a bracelet / Then, insist that you want to buy them only one bracelet ! / Make photos at the colorful small market / Rent a bike and escape in the countryside / Visit minorities villages : Akha, Hmong, Lao Huay, Mien, Lolo, Yunnanese,... / Check out the Chinese border, about 9km away (Akha & Mien villages just before) / Do a trek (but ask fellow travelers to recommend an agency before as there was reports of badly organized ones) / Go to bed early /  

What you may not like ? The very aggressive salesgirls / Being offered opium every 2 minutes / Seeing nearly more westerners & salesgirls than locals / Electricity from 6 to 9pm only / No HW shower in guesthouses (in thermos only) / Having to pay more for a local beer (B30) than a local opium pipe (B5) / Finding out too late that drug consumption is strictly prohibited in Laos / Having more traditional relaxed places in Northern Laos

How long ? Couple of days for the exploration of the surroundings.

Where to stay ? 

- The best places are behind the market (quieter than in the main street) :

  • Singsai Guesthouse, turn right after the market & bus stop, straight ahead / Nice rooms or bungalows w. shower B75 / Go there for the central location yet good isolation in the countryside / What you may not like : the location of the rooms on the GF
  • Siang Savang Guesthouse, continue on the right / Room (1 big or 2 small beds) w. shower B75 / Go there for the big, clean & nice upstairs rooms and the relative isolation
  • Champadaeng Guesthouse, just behind the market, before the above two / OK rooms w. shower B75 / Go there for the private outside access to the rooms (most GH closes their door at 9pm)

- On the main street, from the bus stop, going down to the north-east :

  • Sengkhatiyavong GH, the first on the right / Basic yet OK rooms without shower B50(1), B70(2) or B100(3)
  • Viengxay GH, on the right / Basic & not so clean rooms B100 w. shower, B75 without / Expensive
  • Viengphone GH, on the right / Not so clean basic rooms with fan B75 w. shower, B50 without
  • Tailu GH, on the right / Small clean rooms w. big bathroom B75
  • Muangsing GH, on the left, opposite the above, a bit off the street / OK rooms without shower B75 / Some rooms with view on the temple.
  • Singthong GH / Not so clean basic rooms without shower B75 / Expensive
  • Sengdeuane GH, about 300m on the left after the bridge / Basic big rooms for 1, 2 or 3 people B50, much better rooms w. shower in nice house B150 or 200 / Go there for the cheapest bed in town if 3 people

- Outside of town :

  • Adima GH, 8km away, in a beautiful area near villages / Yao & Ikho style bungalows with thatched roof, balcony & shower B150 to B200 / Inquire about rooms availability at Viengxai GH or Amousome Restaurant / Transport at 9 & 15 for B10 / Go there for the most relaxing setting & the nice bungalows / What you may not like : being well outside town which means inflated prices.

Where to eat ? Plenty of restaurants for travelers. Amousome Restaurant was recommended as the best of all. It was nice indeed but I did not tested all the dishes nor all the restaurants... 

Map ? 500m after the bridge, B30 for a basic color map of the area

Bike ? B20 per day at  two places near the bridge

Bank ? Just south of the market, Monday to Friday 8:30 to 15:30 / TC against US$1 commission / Another bank near Viengxay GH. 

Backpacker's Tips : Chayut Pihakaendr, Thailand (Jan 04)
« For me I didn’t like this town very much the road is full with plastic bag but the town is great on bike anyway .
I rode the bike to Adima GH over there there are some Laos girl offer you a trekking trip which is very cheap ( 50000 Kip ) for three hilltribe villages as the same trip in Muang Sing tourist office it costs 12 USD for 6 people so go there and find some small guide.
In Laos – Chinese border is really nothing special to see they are not allowing you to take a picture so I think there is not any reason to go there . The tuk – t uk to border costs 5000 K per person
Updated bus schedules in Muang Sing ( Dec 2003 )
Muang Sing – Nam Tha ( 12000 k ) leave at 8 / 9.30 / 11.00/ 13.00/14.00 / 15.00
Muang Sing – Muang Long ( 10000 K) leave ar 9.30 / 11.00 / 13.00 from Muang Long you can take the bus to Chiang Kok
The bus station official name : Mr. Som
Siang Savang Gh is out of business now so I think the best to stay is Intanon Gh / good room/ clean/ new / quite / 20 mn walk to the way to border should take tuk- tuk / inside bathroom and chinese toilet / 30000Kip /double room /
Adima Gh ‘s price is changed it costed 40000 –60000 K for double room depending on the kind of room you want free transportation from Viengxai Gh. From you can buy or copy trekking map nice place to stay .
There is one Indian called Hasina Indian Restaurant the food is good but the price absolutely more expensive
You should exchange your money in Nam Tha because there is only one bank here with very very bad rate.

Backpacker's Tips : Hans & Greet, Belgium (Nov 02)
« In Adima GH you can buy a map (7.000 Kip) with a hiking-routes to surrounding hill tribes. Looks Ok, but the building of this GH has become a real culture disaster for the villages…. Don’t give pens to the children, keep your camera in your pocket and “keep smiling” »

Backpacker's Tips : Tam Chiwai, Hong Kong (Sept 00)
 There seen to be a lot of traveler going to Muang Xing just to smoke opium. And that's not very good. So, please, don't encourage the opium business there. I felt sad when a 5 years old kid come to ask me if I wanted to smoke opium.»  Note : I support Tam 200% on that one !  Beside, it is dangerous to buy anything there as the sellers often go straight to the police to report their sales. A lucrative business indeed  : the sellers will get their shit back and the police will get money from the travelers... 

 << Discover the market sights

Leaving Muang Xin ? 
To Huay Xai, you have the choice of either to take the bus from Luang Nam Tha (road permitting, usually OK, 8 to 12 hours depending on weather, around B300, departure early morning) or a speed boat from Xieng Kok (3 to 4 hours, B800, departure when people show up). See Huay Xai for more info about those trips. Travelers go to Xieng Kok daily to try to catch a Chinese slow cargo to Huay Xai. I did not get any report of any success...  Did you ?

Bus Schedules : 

To Price Road Duration Time Nb Freq.
Luang Nam Tha B40 ok 2.5 8,9,10,11,12 5 na
Xieng Kok B65 ok 2 9,11 2 na

Note : To Xieng Kok via Muang Long Village (B45)

The trip to Luang Nam Tha :
SSS / L&R / B40 / 2.5 hrs / Truck
Somebody had been told that the truck would leave at 7am. I had been told it would leave at 8am. It left at 8:50, after 14 passengers (incl. 9 foreigners) were counted at the back of the truck. This wasn't the best ride of my life : the view was obstructed by plastic on each side of the truck (it had been raining a lot recently) and by trees on each side of the road. Also, my ears enjoyed a Dolby surround symphony of foreign languages. There was however a great moment : a local pointed at the red hair, big nose and big ears of one of the westerner and just could not stop laughing for 5mn. He must actually have felt in love as he later on fell asleep on his shoulder...

See also the trip from Huay Xai