In the mountain village of Phongsaly modern times haven’t penetrated yet and life continues in all its primitive charm.
One can fly to Phongsaly; there is a small airport a little over an hour’s drive outside town. But the best way to get there is by boat, travelling the Nam Ou, one of the most beautiful river trips one can make.
Phongsaly itself is a small town. Until the late 1800s Phongsaly was linked to Xishuangbanna, a small state-let under the influence of Chinese-administered Yunnan, now still a province of China. The French wrestled if from the Chinese and added it to their Laos protectorate in 1895, and subsequently reinforced the town, which is probably the only reason it is somewhat larger than the surrounding villages. Chinese influence is still – or again? – very strong.
The most attractive part is the old village, the town’s centre of a few cobbled streets lined with wooden houses. This is where Laotian life continues undisturbed by 21st century progress, old women still chopping fire wood, food still drying in the sun, pigeons still dominating long-distance communication. Not far away from here the hill tribes still dress in traditional cloths, and mountain villages are still dominated by thatched roofs. For those who want to see Laos as it once was.
Accommodation is basic, and in restaurants you need to point out what you want to eat – tourism hasn’t penetrated here yet, which is why the place is such a gem.