Phongsaly's Top Attractions
The Green Tea Pavilion & Plantation
Take a trip 18 km from Phongsaly Town to Ban Komaen’s Green Tea Pavilion and its 400-year-old tea plantation, which some say has the oldest tea trees in the world. You’ll learn how the trees’ far-reaching root systems extend deep into the mineral-rich soil, which gives Phongsaly Tea its distinct aroma and taste. You’ll see the oldest trees standing 6 metres high and 20 cm in diameter.
The Tea Pavilion’s exhibition offers insight into the world of tea, from its legendary beginnings to its production and consumption by the Phou Noi. Displays explain how the tea is picked and processed by the villagers into “tea cigars”. A 1-hour stroll through the ancient plantation leads to the top of the tea mountain for a stunning view of Phongsaly and the village temple with its big-eared Buddha statue.
To reach Ban Komaen, rent a mountain bike, tuk tuk, or motorbike in Phongsaly Town.
Green Tea Whiskey Village
Everyone knows that drinking a daily cup of green tea keeps the body in good health, reduces fat, and preserves a clear mind. But for a fuzzy mind, try green tea whiskey (lao khao). Tourists know about clear and potent lao khao rice liquor, but Phongsaly’s distilling adds a final stage that turns it green. How do the Phou Noi villagers in Kounsouk Village do it? During the final stage of the distillation process this rice whisky runs over freshly picked raspberry leaves to absorb the green colour.
To visit the distillery from Phongsaly Town, take the flat road at Phu Fa Hotel and travel 4.5 km to Kounsouk Village. You can rent a bike or motorcycle to get there.
The Phongsaly Ethnic Museum, launched in 2013, presents the province and its people, their origin, and way of life. It includes information and exhibits about different aspects of the ethnic groups’ daily life, clothes, music, agriculture, housing, social organization, and rituals and ceremonies
The museum is located in the centre of Phongsaly town, next to the Agriculture Promotion Bank and Lao Telecom, and is open Monday through Friday.
Ethnic Handicraft Shops
When on a village visit, you can often purchase ethnic handicrafts. But, for a one-stop-shop, visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) and the Akhabildjo! Association in Phongsaly Town. Most crafts such as Oma bags, dolls, and embroideries, are made by Akha women. The Phou Noi sell bamboo hats and baskets to steam rice. You can also find handicrafts in Boun Neua and Muang Khua.
The Nam Ou River
The Nam Ou River, Laos’ longest besides the Mekong, starts near the Chinese border and cuts its way through the Phou Den Din National Protected Area (NPA). A ride along this remote river reveals spectacular karsts formations and a natural landscape with barely a soul in sight. It’s possible to cruise up the Nam Ou from Nong Khiaw in Luang Prabang to Phongsaly Town, but rides further upriver place you in the unknown. You can stop on its sandy shores and camp in pure wilderness.
Phou Fa Mountain
Phou Fa stands 1.625 metres above Phongsaly Town. A 45-minute hike to the top leads to its stupa, Buddha statue, and unrivalled views of the town and the mountains in far distance.
Phou Den Din NPA
The 2,220 km2 Phou Den Din NPA sits in a very remote, undisturbed corner of Phongsaly at the Vietnam border, and is accessible after a short drive to Ban Hatsa, and a then a half-day boat cruise on the Nam Ou and Nam Khang or a 2-day walk. The mostly evergreen-tree NPA is home to elephants, gibbons, and fish eagles. You’ll need a guide and camping equipment for a night or two on its trails.
Nam Lan Conservation Area (NLCA)
The NLCA covers 22,000 hectares of dense forest coating very steep terrain between 600 and 1,850 metres in elevation. The area is lined with timeless villages growing rice in lowland irrigated paddy fields. Ecotourism lodges are available in a few of these villages as well as its gateway, Boun Tai Town.