MUANG LONG is an up-and-coming Tai Leu town surrounded by Akha and Hmong villages. If you’re looking for good trekking in unspoilt areas and don’t mind basic food and facilities, then this is the place for you.

In town itself there are a few “sights”. At dawn a parade of tribal peoples comes down from the hills to trade at the makeshift market. Besides the usual basketloads of peppers, tubers and gourds, villagers bring pieces of rare eaglewood which they gather from the dense forest. This resinous wood, used in Middle Eastern countries in the manufacture of perfumes and incense, is warehoused here before being shipped off to Bangkok, where it fetches astonishingly high prices at shops in the small Arab quarter off Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Road. There’s also a diminutive Tai Leu stupa resembling those found in China’s Xishuangbanna region, which stands a few metres off Muang Long’s main road. If you look closely at concrete tablets built into the stupa, you’ll see examples of the Tai Leu script, which differs greatly from written Lao.

Buses going in both directions stop on the main road in the morning before noon. There are a few decent guesthouses in Muang Long, including Ouseng (40,000K and under), near the market, and Jony (40,000K and under); both have basic rooms, and the latter is attached to a decent restaurant.

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