LUANG NAMTHA Famous for trekking and ecotourism opportunities in the Nam Ha National Protected Area and home to over 30 distinct ethnic groups, Luang Namtha is perhaps the most diverse province in the entire country. Akha villages are located in the hills and some are easily accessible. If you are interested in kayaking and rafting, 1-3 day trips can be arranged when you get there or by advance booking through a travel agent. Motorized boat trips on the Namtha River are a popular activity, as is simply renting a bicycle to explore the lush countryside and rice fields surrounding the town. At Nam Ngaen Village, climb the hill to Phoum Phouk Stupa for an amazing view of the Namtha Valley. In Vieng Phoukha, halfway between Luang Namtha and Chiang Rai in northern Thailand you can visit the abandoned 16th century settlement known as the Khou Vieng Ruins. For cave exploration, don’t miss the Phou Prasat and Nam Eng Caves in Vieng Phoukha.
In Namtha Town, visit Tai Dam Villages to see sericulture and purchase hand-made silk textiles. If you are interested in watching paper made by hand, stop at one of the Lantaen Villages outside of the main town. Because of its concentration of Khmu Villages. Namtha is a great place to purchase bamboo and rattan basketry–the Khmu are legendary basket-weavers. Here the bamboo and rattan are used for both handicrafts and food. Bitter bamboo-shoot soup and rattan-heart salad are two delicious local dishes. If you like rice noodles, the “khao soi” in Muang Sing is a must.