Hire a bike and head out on the Luang Namtha Valley Route. Two options are available: the Full Route (35km or 2 – 4hrs) or Short Route (8km or 1 – 2hrs). This self-guided bike ride is a great way to ‘soak up the valley’ by passing through ethnic villages, meandering through beautiful rice fields and stopping at Buddhist temples and stupa. Get a brochure, hire your bike, follow the signs and go!
Hire a bike or tuktuk and head 5.5km out of town to the Lanten ethnic village of Ban Nam Dee (meaning: good water). Explore Lanten culture in the village museum, go for a short waterfall walk or the 1hr hike through the community-protected forest, crossing a swing-bridge above the waterfall.
Along the Nam Dee River, you may see women making traditional paper during the dry season. Men record religious texts, rituals and legends on the bamboo paper. Lanten people are master-dyers using local indigo. Beautiful fabric is available for sale in the village.
The newly renovated night market is located in the centre of Luang Namtha Town, where local villagers from many different ethnic minorities offer handicrafts for sale.
The handicraft village Ban Phieng Ngam and the distillery village of Ban Nam Ngaen have two ethnic groups – Tai Daeng and Tai Kao. The villages are famous for their many different handicrafts and locally made rice whisky. Hire a bike, get your brochure and head out there.
In the middle of town, this museum has an extensive collection of indigenous clothing, agricultural tools and household implements used in daily life. It also has an excellent collection of Buddha images, bronze drums, ceramics and textiles. Also of interest are the traditional hand-made weapons on display that were once used for hunting and national defence.
The Tai Yuan and Tai Lue are devoutly Buddhist. Their temples (vat) are well worth a visit while in the Luang Namtha Valley. Beautiful Vat Luang Khon, Vat Ban Vieng Nuea and Vat Ban Vieng Tai can be seen and accessed from the main road to the airport.
A long time ago, Sy Sod So Tammikarad (a king from northern Thailand) and Naleatafai (a king from modern-day Oudomxay Province, Laos), built two stupas to symbolize their friendship. One of these is the Luang Namtha Stupa. Once lost to the forest at the eastern head of the Namtha River, it was rebuilt in December 2004.
The other stupa is Phoum Pouk, located at Nam Ngaen Village in the northeast part of the Namtha Valley. The original stupa was constructed in 1628 and destroyed in 1966 by American war planes. A new stupa built in 2003 can be seen beside the older, ruined stupa on the hill above Nam Ngaen Village.