Phou Iu Travel
Community Based Tourism & Adventure Specialist in Northern of Laos
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3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience (ID: NT-TK-09)
 
What is The Akha Experience
The Akha Experience is an experiential tour which will take you on a 3-day learning experience into the culture and daily life of the Akha in Muang Sing. You will have personal interactions with the villagers and have the opportunity to experience first hand from the Akha themselves the Akha culture and way of life.
 
This three-day, two-night trekking tour is about cultural exchange, about gaining knowledge about Akha life – trekking in remote jungle areas is not the prime focus of the tour.
3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
The tour is led by two Akha guides, assisted by a national guide, who introduce you to their home villages and their customs. You will stay overnight in an Akha style house. The sleeping area is dormitory style, with comfortable mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets.
 
A toilet and a solar-powered hot water shower are added for your comfort.
 
All meals served on the trip consist of local food. This includes vegetables collected in the forest like bamboo shoots and mushrooms; fruits, chicken or other meat, eggs, all depending on season and availability. All meals are served with tasty upland rice.
 
Special in the set-up of this tour is that except one national guide all people involved in the tour are villagers of the eight visited villages. These villagers own and operate the tour on their own. They have received trainings and gained new knowledge so that they are able to make all decisions concerning their tour by themselves. The tour is sold by the villagers on a contractual basis to the tour operator, ensuring a fair price for the services that they provide and preventing the leakage of money out of the area.
3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
The Program
Day 1- Muang Sing- Nam Keo Noi Waterfall- Ban Lao Khao (approx. 6 hours trekking)
The Tour departs from That Xieng Tueng, Muang Sings most sacred Bhuddist site. For the first hour the tour follows the old French road which was cut through the jungle in colonial times. You can still witness some remains of a soldier camp.  The trail goes up and down, reaching about 1100 m altitude.
 
After three hours trekking through primary and secondary forest, lunch is prepared by the villagers of Lao Khao at the beautiful Nam Keo Noi waterfall. Food is cooked in the traditional Akha way using local products, forest vegetables and ancient techniques.
 
After lunch, carry on together with the villagers of Lao Khao to the old village site and walk through pine forest and old growth forest before descending to their village.
 
On the trail the guides have a forest activity such as bird watching, collecting bamboo shoots and medicinal plants, depending on season and villagers suggestions.
 
Stay overnight at the lodge in Ban Lao Khao.
 
While waiting for dinner, visit the village with the Ban Lao Khao hosts.  Walk around the village, observe how the villagers feed their husbandry and prepare for the day ending.
 
Listen to traditional musical instruments, stories and legends while watching the preparation of the evening meal. You could also ask about  traditional Akha architecture.
 
After dinner you will receive a massage which traditionally is given to guests staying overnight in the village. You can go off listening to the courting songs of the youth at the courting grounds.
 
This first day is a moderate to strenuous walk. It is the most exhausting of the three days trekking.
3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
Day 2 – Ban Lao Khao- Ban Phou Yae- Ban Houeinagang- Ban Eu La- Ban Tamee (approx. 5 hours trekking)
After breakfast start walking to Ban Phou Yae. The trail passes through old secondary forest. During the trek, the village guides can tell you about old trees inhabited by spirits and show you the place where wild animals come for drinking water. The forest also provides an abundance of wild fruits.
 
Arrive in Ban Phou Yae where you will be the guest of a family for lunch.
 
After lunch continue to Ban Houeinagang. Stop for an afternoon bite or some tea in Ban Houeinagang and do a village activity such as cotton spinning, making and playing with children’s toys, or pounding rice.
 
Continue to Ban Eula. Along the way you can learn about upland rice cultivation and during planting season try it yourself.  You will also learn about the new cash crop being planted in the area: Rubber. The forest is quickly disappearing to rubber production – find out why the villagers engage in this new activity. (And through your presence help to protect the forest.)
 
Continue on to Ban Tamee where you will stay overnight.
 
After a nice hot shower tour the village and learn about home life and marriage customs. Dare riding on a buffalo!
 
Enjoy the traditional massage before listening to the villagers playing traditional instruments. They will invite you to sing along or try out the instruments. This is also a good time to try Lao Lao, the Lao rice liquor, in case you have not done this before.
3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
Day 3- Ban Tamee- Ban Nam Hoo- Ban Phiyer (approx. 3 hours trekking)
After breakfast, do an activity with the Akha women such as cotton spinning, pounding rice or feeding the pigs. They will appreciate your attention and willingness to learn about the Akha daily life. Spend some time with the children, they will enjoy new games or you can learn theirs.
 
Depart for Ban Nam Hoo. Along the way share some of the agricultural activities with locals. Learn and experience paddy rice farming and realize just how much work has to be done before you can eat your rice!
 
Stop for a break in Ban Nam Hoo, where there is time for another village activity.
 
 
The Akha Experience
Map of 3 Days Trek-The Akha Experience
Afterwards, walk through the forest to see a magnificent view of Muang Sing. Do a forest activity with the villagers.
 
Lunch is served in Ban Mona, where you eat with one of the families.
 
Visit the village handicraft store in Ban Piyer and take the opportunity to buy some handicrafts. You will be supporting the local economy and can have a beautiful souvenir or present for friends and relatives.
Take the truck back to Muang Sing around 2 o’clock. End Tour
 
 
Climate, Terrain
Muang Sing lies on a plain at about 600m elevation, which means that the temperatures do not rise as high as in lowland areas, the maximum being around 33 degrees. The months of April to June are the hottest during the year.
Starting in May there are the first rain showers, announcing the rainy season, which will last until late September. During this time there usually are daily heavy rain showers followed by some sunshine, creating a very humid climate. It is rare to have whole days of rain. It is possible to go on The Akha Experience during this time, you should however be aware that you might get completely soaked. Another problem are the muddy trails. There is a lot of clay in the soil, causing the mud to stick to your shoes, making your feet very heavy. Just be prepared to go slowly…
The rainy season is followed by the cold season, lasting roughly from October to February. On the plain this means that the temperature drops down to about 8 degrees Celsius at night. The mornings are very foggy and chilly until the sun gets stronger and stronger and makes the fog disappear around lunch time. The afternoons are a perfect 20-25 degrees.
The villages visited on the trek all nestle in the foothills surrounding Muang Sing plain. This means they are higher in altitude, thus the weather gets colder there. Be prepared with some warm clothes.
The tour as a whole could be categorized as a moderately difficult trek. On the first day the trail does go up and down quite a bit, starting at  800 m altitude, going up to almost 1400 m and ending the evening at around 850 m. Most of the day is spend in the forest, shading you from the heat of the day.
The second and third day are a mixture of climbing up the mountains and walking close to the plain through some fields. Here you need good sun protection.
What to bring
  • Bring sturdy shoes, especially in the rainy season (May to September).
  • Absolutely essential are sun protection (sun lotion as well as a sun hat.) and mosquito repellent. Mosquito nets are provided in the lodges.
  • Rain coat during rainy season (May to September)
  • Warm sweater or pullover during the cold season (October/November to February)
  • Flash light
  • For women a sarong if you wish to shower at the waterfall.
  • Sweets or snacks for your own consumption if you wish.
  • Special medication, if needed. The guides are equipped with a basic first aid kit.
What you don’t need
  • You don’t need to bring a towel, they are provided in the lodges.
  • Blankets are provided, so there is no need to bring a sleeping bag.
  • Mosquito nets are provided.
Benefits for the villagers
There are different ways in which the villagers benefit from this tour.
The villagers gained and gain new knowledge and skills.
  • e.g. there are now 12 Akha villagers who have basic knowledge in English language, continuing to receive language training.
  • some villagers gained basic skills in management
  • there have been trainings in hospitality, cooking, hygiene, first aid, housekeeping and handicraft production and selling.
  • villagers can learn from you about the world through conversations.
The tour helps to preserve Akha culture.
Many young Akha people don’t value their old traditions any more, they want to live the same way as lowland people and not be considered “stupid mountain people” any more. But now the 8 villages are beginning to understand that tourists come especially because of their culture and traditions and some young people, especially our guides,  have gone back to their village elders to find out about some old stories and histories and songs. Some people were very surprised that tourists come to their village because of these old stories and their way of life and they have told us that they are now proud of their culture. In this way your being here will not spare this culture from change but it will give the young people an incentive to at least gain the knowledge of their ancestors and to be proud of it.
The tour helps to preserve nature.
Since the villagers receive an income through tourism they will hopefully recognize that it is important to preserve nature. That is why we hope they will at least try to protect the forest which the trails go through. There is a high pressure to get involved in planting rubber since Chinese traders are trying to persuade villagers to grow these trees, promising them that they will earn a lot of money from rubber. So giving them an alternative income from the forest (tourists don’t want to only walk through rubber plantations) is one way of preserving nature.
The tour generates income on village and on household level.
There are many villagers earning money through this tour. This includes
  • the guides
  • the housekeepers
  • the cooks
  • the managers
  • the villagers leading the activities
  • the villagers producing your ‘village gift’
  • the people providing the food (vegetables, chicken, rice, …)
  • the women massaging you
Development Fund
In addition to this income on household level each village receives a fee for its development fund, which the whole village uses for activities concerning the development of the village. This includes the building of schools, roads, trails, toilets…
The Donation Box
Money donated by tourists will be divided among the eight villages. Villagers decided to use this money partly for their ceremonies and partly for the village development fund, because in that way everyone in the village can profit from tourists.
Handicraft Store in Ban Eula and Ban Phiyer
The handicrafts in these little stores are produced by the women of the eight villages. Through the sale of these, women have the opportunity to earn some money.
For your consideration
Please do not bring any gifts like pencils or sweets to hand out to the children. This way they learn that tourists bring gifts and will ask the next visitors for these – and thus they will be perceived as beggars.
If you would like to further assist the villagers, you might give these pencils or books to the school teacher who can then distribute them, you could bring toothbrushes and toothpaste, also to give it to the teacher or the village health volunteer.
The best way to help probably is through the donation box which you can find in either lodge. The money contributed there will be split among the eight visited villages and be put in the villages developing funds. Villagers use this money for community projects (like building latrines) or for community ceremonies. In this way the villagers can do with the money what they most need. 
   
 
 
 
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