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Akha Woman

Muang Sing

We took the first bus in the morning to Muang Sing. Here we would look into trekking in the surrounding hills. Right away, though, we didn't like the atmosphere. There seemed to be plenty of grungy, hip-looking people around. Costumed hilltribe ladies in the streets were openly offering us opium. The ecotourism center that organizes treks looked like a good outfit, but we were really looking for something less commercial. We didn't want to go on a trek and arrive in a village as a just another paying foreigner. Our style was to look for something more off the beaten track, to visit places that rarely had visitors. We decided to try our luck in Muang Long, a few hours down the road. At first sight it seemed like a good place - there were only a couple of guesthouses and restaurants. A local guide approached us and offered to take us trekking. His prices, though, were outrageous, more than the organized ecotourism outfit in Muang Sing. We tried our most diplomatic bargaining skills, but he wouldn't budge, so we decided to take a hike on our own. We spent a day walking up a road in the forest, saw insects, butterflies, lizards and snakes, even leeches, and were satisfied. The atmosphere in town was strange. Not many foreigners came to this place, but people in town seemed suspicious of us. Nobody wanted to talk to us, or have much to do with us. We decided to continue down the “Akha Road” to the Mekong . Here we spent a night on the banks of the river before going back to Luang Nam Tha. The highway was great for scenery. We passed dusty bamboo villages and bare-breasted Akha women in colorful costumes carrying firewood.