Luang Namtha is a mountainous province in the northwestern part of the country bordering Myanmar to the northwest, China to the north, Bokeo province to the southwest and Odomxay to the east. The province has a total area of 9,325 sq km and consist of five districts – the capital city Luang Namtha, Nalae, Long, Sing and Vieng Phoukha.
In 2005, the province’s total population was about 152 285 with majority of its population living in rural areas. Luang Namtha is an ethnically diverse province with more than 20 ethnic groups residing here making it the most diverse province in the country. The villagers’ primary employment activity is agriculture.
To navigate Luang Namtha local transport such as tuk-tuks, minibuses are easily hire and not too expensive. Short trips can be navigated by foot, bicycle as well as motorbikes. Maps can be access in the guesthouses or can be purchase at shops within the city.
Luang Namtha’s tourism has expanded over the past years due to the large response of tourists toward the province’s cultural, ecological, and adventure tourism. Luang Namtha Museum is a good place to get oriented to the province’s rich culture and natural resources before exploring the place. The museum exhibits a significant collection of indigenous clothing and artifacts, currency from colonial times, religious artifacts, agricultural tools, weapons as well as Khmu bronze drums.
There are numerous handicrafts stores within the area. Handicrafts cooperatives exist to provide livelihood to the villagers. The Black Tai village is known for their production and weaving of silks while Akha women produce traditional silver jewelry, beaded necklaces and bracelets, the Hmong women sell embroidery, bags and clothing the and Lanten ethnic group produces bamboo paper, indigo clothing and carved objects.
There are a number of temples as well as ruin within the area. Vat Luang Korn is one of the largest temples constructed in 1892, it is situated 7km from the city center.
Within the old town of the Namtha are the remains of the ancient city and temple of Khou Vieng and Vat Mahapot. Visiting the place will give an insight about the little known history of a civilization inhabited Vieng Phoukha in early 15th century. That Phoum Phouk was the most famous and respected pagoda in Namtha District that was built in 1628. However, this structure was destroyed during the Second Indochina War and in 2003 a new stupa was constructed beside the ruins of the old.
The caves in the area are also worth seeing. A few meters away from the road of Luang Namtha and 12 km north of Vieng Phoukha is Nam Aeng Cave. Within the cave is a small stream runs from the mouth of the cave. Sam Hee See Nom Cave once kept a sacred Buddha which has now been despoiled, the cave served as a hide-out and meeting place during the revolution. In Phou Prasat is a labyrinth of caves filled with bats. Kao Rao Cave is a stunning tunnel-like formation near Nam Eng Village in Vieng Phoukha.
Visiting the Ethnic Villages is main reason why Luang Namtha tourism expands. Each district in Luang Namtha has distinctive ethnic composition. Some ethnic groups residing in Luang Namtha are Tai Da (Black Tai), Tai Yuan (Kalom), Tai Deng (Red Tai), White Tai, Tai Leu, Khmu, Oo, Lao Bit, Lanten, Mien, Hmong, Akha, Lahu, Phou Noi and Samtao. Ethnic villages usually home to about thirty families. The most visited ethnic groups are Akha, Khmu, Yao and Lanten. When visiting a village courtesy should be shown. A friendly gesture and genuine concern can make ones experience enjoyable and unforgettable. It is impolite to openly refuse the thing being offered by the host. Touching religious and spiritual significance is inappropriate unless suggested by the hosts.
Nam Ha Ecotourism Project is another main attraction in the province of Luang Namtha. Founded by the New Zealand government and UNESCO, the project attracts tourists and direct them to activities that are culturally and environmentally sensitive. Nam Ha National Protected Area (NPA) covers about 2 230 sq km or 24% of the province of Luang Namtha. The Nam Ha NPA is a home to about 37 species of mammals and 65 species of fish and about 300 species of birds. The boat trips down the protected area offer a remarkable bird watching opportunity. Wildlife trekking, hiking, kayaking, biking are some of the activities within the NPA.