The small district of Muang Sing has become one of Laos’ top off-the-beaten-path tourist attraction mainly because of its unique features and experiences offered to tourists.
If you’re searching for trekking adventures and a total indulgence to a place’s culture, Muang Sing is the place. Located near an open valley, Muang Sing’s surrounding landscape is nothing short of photogenic — verdant green trees are abundant, rice paddies are everywhere, and the rows of mountains and hills seem to serve as the district’s fortress. Diversity is also evident in Muang Sing — a total of 12 ethnic groups live in the district’s area.
If you’re going to start exploring Muang Sing, begin with discovering the district’s rich history and culture by taking a tour inside Muang Sing Museum, a site that holds some of the most significant artifacts, and visiting the various ethnic villages where mingling and living among locals for several days is an experience one should not miss. Religion is strong in Muang Sing and this is evidenced by 27 temples and the revered Xieng Tung Stupa — religious places where tourists can learn more about Lao beliefs. For nature and adventure buffs, Muang Sing’s topography presents guests with lots of options — visitors can hike Xieng Khaeng Mountains, take a boat trip down the Mekong River, brave the dirt road to the famous Nam Keo Waterfall, or simply take a bicycle trip to see more of the place.
Fly from Vientiane to Luang Namtha via Lao Airlines. Flights are available 3-4 times a week. From Luang Namtha, small buses near the Lao Airline office depart to Muang Sing several times a day. The four-hour trip costs LAK 25,000 ( USD 3).
Another option is by renting a motorcycle or scooter bike. Travel time from Luang Namtha to Muang Sing under this option is 2.5 hours.
Laotian Kip (LAK), the official currency accepted in Muang Sing establishments, is available in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000. There are ATMs and banks but no money changers so make sure you bring enough kip during your trip. Make sure to consume all your kip since they are no longer convertible to USD.
Due to its mountainous location, the weather in Muang Sing is cooler than the rest of Laos. Even during the hottest months, March to April, the temperature still does not exceed 30 degrees Celsius. In the colder months of December to January, temperatures can drop to as low as 0 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit is from June to November.
Muang Sing has no public transportation but tourists can hire a motorbike in Tigerman Treks and Phou Iu Guesthouse for LAK 80,000 (USD 9.60) per day and basic bicycles for LAK 25,000 (USD 3) for an entire day. These two establishments can also arrange for minivans and pick-up trucks for LAK 70,000 (USD 8.40) a day.
Located close to the Chinese border, most restaurants in Muang Sing have Chinese influence on them, but local Lao cuisines still stand out the most. Have a hearty bowl of Khao Soi soup — a tasty comfort food made from locally made rice noodles — in Thai Lu restaurant. Satisfy your taste buds with a bite of fermented soybean jeow — a sweet and sour delicacy bursting with garlic and ginger flavors– available at The Veranda Restaurant, and Qiaotou Restaurant.
Muang Sing is an exciting blend of diversity, culture, and history — a characteristic you may notice immediately. Despite it being quaint in a lot of ways, visiting Muang Sing will give you a brand new perspective about the country. Take the time to talk to the guides and the locals you associate with — they are great sources of interesting information.