Sounds to remember: Akha Hill Tribe man singing folk songs to his children at night next to my hut; people calling to each other while working in the rice fields; the water trickling from the stream that goes through the field below my balcony.
Scenes to remember: Man walking his buffalo to the fields with his children riding one each; men and women harvesting the rice in the fields and carrying huge bags of it into the pick-ups on the road; the sun setting behind the fields and the mountains.
It’s a beautiful place here, but at the same time it’s got a strange undertone – if you know about the opium trade here you could easily equate it to greed, addiction, and resentment towards foreigners. In the guidebook it says there are over 1500 opium addicts in Muang Sing and that’s a lot considering it’s a very small town.
Everywhere you go people are saying “Sabaidee” and then whispering under their breath, “opium, opium, opium?” It’s really weird, and a bit unsettling. I wish I had realized what this area was all about because I probably wouldn’t have bothered with it. But you don’t really understand fully it until you see it for yourself. Women with brown-stained teeth (classic sign of a heavy opium smoker) trying to sell you a bracelet (and them some drugs) are everywhere.
I did some interesting things here though. The first afternoon I walked 2 km to the Lao-Chinese border just to have a look. It was after 5 pm so no one was really working there on the Lao side to ask about border passes, but I’ve heard that they don’t allow passes into China anyway. The people who were there did let me take some photos though which was cool. It’s the 2nd time on this trip that i’ve been so close to China (first time in Sapa, Vietnam).
The following day I decided to head into Muang Sing mostly just to check out the town and see about trekking options. It’s 8 km from the place I’m staying into town. I started walking under the cooler shade of the clouds protecting me from the sun thinking I’d try to get a pick-up, but then I was enjoying the walk so much that I decided to keep going. It was interesting watching everyone working so hard in the fields to harvest their rice.
At one stage a bunch of farmers on a mini jeep/pick-up pulled over and offered me a ride, and I said what the hell and hopped on, not having any idea how far they’d take me. Turned out to be only 1 km because they then turned off the main road and let me off again, but it was a nice break from the walking and an interesting cultural experience.
Not much to see at all in the town of Muang SIng, and the trekking options turned out to be too expensive ($20 for a day trip) so in the end I had lunch at a nice restaurant overlooking the rice fields, rested up for a bit, and then set out back to the guesthouse.
Going back I only walked half-way and then caught a pick-up for the last 4 km. The walk to and from was definitely the most interesting part of the day.
Back at the guesthouse I played cards with my roomate, neighbors, an Australian couple, and an Israeli couple (a rather mean game of UNO). Didn’t have much to do with my roomie or his friend and the Canadian girl – they were either smoking or eating opium all day and night and were the kind of people who thought they were WAY cooler than they ever actually were, acting like they just knew EVERYTHING about Asia. Whatever. Saved me the price of a full room and that’s it. I was happy to see them go this morning.
Today I am heading back to Luang Nam Tha and then tomorrow I’ll be working my way to the Lao-Thai border.
A few steps further and Id be in China
The hills are alive, with the sounds of Muang Sing
More Muang Sing song
Add comment October 27th, 2002