Dramatic mountain scenery, untouched forests, rich birdlife, 28 different ethnic hill tribes and 400 year-old tea plantations await ecotourists.
What to Experience?
At the crossroads between Chinese and Southeast Asian culture, Phongsaly Province is one of the least populated, least visited and most densely forested provinces in the country. First, visit the provincial capital Phongsaly, at an altitude of 1400 metres, and its ancient wooden Yunnan architecture, now difficult to find. Then dare to take the rare opportunity to trek trails where few have gone before you in remote villages around Boun Neua, Muang Khua, Boun Ta and the Nam Lan Conservation Area.
Phongsali Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) can arrange 2 to 4-day treks with English speaking guides to protected areas, encountering the most traditional ethnic hill tribes (Phunoi, Hor, Akha Pixo, or the Akha Nuquie ) you will meet anywhere in Laos.
In the Boun Tai three-day trek through the dense forests of the Nam Lan Conservation Area where birdlife abounds, you will stay in a Tai Yang village in the river valley, then with the Akha people higher up in the mountains. Along the way you will visit a 19th century temple and the remains of a French colonial outpost. Longer adventurous journeys take you up the Nam Ou River by boat into the remote Phou Din Daen National Protected Area, where you can camp. If you have the extra time, consider returning to Luang Prabang by small boat.
Otherwise, you can go for an excursion to meet women harvesting tea leaves in a 400-year old plantation or cruise the Nam Ou River between Ban Hatsa or Muang Khua to Luang Prabang. Soon, a visit to the Museum of ethnic groups in Phongsaly (2012) will explain all the subtleties you have not yet grasped about the indigenous customs.
How does it help?
Phongsaly and its secrets deserve to be explored. It is a fantastic trekking destination in the making. The Provincial Tourism Office received support and training to establish a trekking programme with an English-speaking guide service, which is founded on the principles of ecotourism by GIZ the German Development agency. Trekking routes have been developed in cooperation with local authorities, communities and the private sector. Local communities are involved in all the treks and earn income directly through providing lodging, food, transport and guiding services. Villagers are briefed about tourists and their habits, while the cultural rules to respect are explained to tourists.
Trekking helps in sustaining and diffusing responsible tourism while spreading fair benefits within the local communities, thanks to your contribution to a village fund, while encouraging nature conservation. Buying local handicraft perpetuates craft skills while increasing revenue and confidence. Your visit will help in spreading the word, and place Phongsaly on the map of travellers willing to experience a genuine experience.
Phongsali Provincial Tourism Office
Phongsaly, near the market, Tel: +856 (0)88 210 098
For information on trekking visit http://ecotourismlaos.com/phongsaly.htm
District Tourism Offices
– In Boun Neua (at the bus station). 020 55787399 or 020 56989005
– In Muang Khua (opposite Sernalli Hotel) 020 22848020
– A new tourism office is planned to open in BounTai soon and in Muang Mai