Today, though opium is still produced in Muang Sing, in the decades following Laos’ independence, the town has become equally prominent as a destination for Buddhist pilgrimages and an attractive stop for international travellers, making their way to the border. During December and January, Laos’ coldest months, temperatures can reach lows of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, with monsoons arriving between May and October.
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One of Muang Sing’s most striking features is its natural beauty, from the mists of the Phou Mountains looming in the distance, to the churn of the Pha Yueng waterfall, just 10 miles south of town. Most of Northwest Laos’ is part of the Nam Ha National Biodiversity Conservation Area, a designated ASEAN Heritage Park, which protects the region’s deciduous and evergreen forests from deforestation, persevering a habitat for tigers, clouded leopards, Malaysian sun bears, Asian elephants, and local tribes who rely on the natural resources, provided by the forest.
While In Muang Sing, visit one of the vibrant local markets, where you will find handicrafts created and sold by members of local tribes. Laos is especially known for its tradition of handmade textiles. From the Tai Dam’s finely woven silks to the Yao’s meticulous needlework, each garment carries with it the expertise of centuries of refinement as well as the individual care and creativity imbued by a single craftsperson.
Visit local hill tribes and see first hand how these ancient cultures bridge the gaps between the their time-honored ethnic traditions and the seductive conveniences of modernity. While the Akha comprise almost half of all the hill tribe people, travelers may also visit Hmong, Yao, Tai Neua, Tai Lue, Tai Dam, Lolo, and Phunoi villages and experience the vast range of ethnic diversity throughout Northern Laos.
Muang Sing’s signature dish is Khao soi, a noodle created by cooking rice dough on a cloth above boiling water and cutting the resulting “pancake” into thin strips. This ubiquitous regional specialty is typically washed down with Lao Lao, a rice wine, distilled in large steel barrels and served in bottles as well as clay pots with bamboo straws. Both can be found at the market, offered by street vendors, as well as in local restaurants.
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