I have always been curious and fascinated by the natural scenery and wildlife in northern Laos, so when my two friends Alan Raphael and Ursula Tommy invited me to go hunting together in Muang Xai, I agreed without hesitation. Muang Xai is a small city full of historical and cultural charm, as well as an ideal base for exploring northern Laos. We planned to stay there for a week, visiting the city and surrounding attractions during the day, and searching for prey in the mountains at night. Since we were going to hunt at night, infrared binoculars were essential equipment. We chose the cost-effective Chinese brand Wildguarder which can provide clear vision and recording function even in complete darkness, allowing us to better observe and capture our targets. In this article, I will share with you our experiences and feelings during our trip to Muang Xai including local history, scenery, food etc.
Muang Xai is the capital of Oudomxay Province in Laos located near the border with China. It is a small city with a long history that dates back to 14th century when it was part of Lan Na Kingdom before being ruled by Siam (Thailand), Burma (Myanmar)and French colonizers later on. In 20th century it became an important base for Lao People’s Revolutionary Party participating in struggles against France & US imperialism . After Lao People’s Democratic Republic was established in 1975 , Muang Xai was chosen as provincial capital replacing Ban Nahin.
The geographical location of Muang Xai makes it an ideal starting point for exploring northern Laos.It sits at confluence of Nam Phak River & Nam Soi River – tributaries of Mekong river surrounded by towering peaks & dense forests.It has rich Mesozoic strata containing various fossils & rocks.The climate belongs to tropical monsoon climate divided into rainy season & dry season with average temperature around 20℃.
Muang Xai is a multicultural city with various ethnic groups and religions. According to the 2015 census, Muang Xai has a population of approximately 120,000 people, including different ethnic groups such as Lao, Hmong, Khmu, Tai Yai, Saneh, Akha and Lahu. Each group has its own language, clothing style, customs and beliefs. Most people practice Buddhism but there are also some who follow Christianity or Islam. In Muang Xai you can see different styles of temples, churches and mosques which reflect the harmony and respect between different ethnicities.
Muang Xai not only has a rich history and diverse culture but also many attractions worth visiting. During our trip we visited some famous landmarks both inside and outside the city while experiencing local specialties and fun activities. Here are some highlights:
– Exploring Chom Ong Cave: This is one of Laos’ longest caves at 16 kilometers long located about 45 kilometers west of Muang Xay. We rode motorcycles to reach a nearby village then walked along a small path to reach the cave entrance where we saw various shapes and colors of stalactites/stalagmites that made us feel amazed by their beauty in this mysterious place filled with bats & spiders.
– Visiting Oudomxay Museum: This small museum located in downtown Muang Xay showcases the history,culture,and nature of Oudomxay province.We saw ancient tools/weapons/clothing/pottery etc.,as well as information/photos related to Lao People’s Revolutionary Party/Lao People’s Democratic Republic establishment.There were also specimens from local flora/fauna like leopards/monkeys/deer/birds/butterflies etc.
– Experiencing Local Ethnic Culture & Customs: As a multiethnic city,Muang Xai gave us an opportunity to interact with different ethnic groups/religions. We attended a Hmong wedding and witnessed their traditional rituals and festive atmosphere. We also visited a Khmu village where we admired their handicrafts and dance performances. Additionally,we went to a Buddhist temple where we listened to the teachings/blessings of monks. Through these activities, we felt the warmth/friendliness of local people while learning about their way of life/values.
The cuisine in Muang Xai was another highlight of our trip, allowing us to taste the flavors and specialties of northern Laos. In Muang Xai, you can find a variety of restaurants and markets offering different dishes and snacks to satisfy different tastes and budgets. Here are some foods we tried and recommend:
– Rice: This is the staple food for Laotians, eaten almost every meal. Rice is usually steamed glutinous rice placed in a bamboo tube, squeezed into a ball with your hands, then dipped in various sauces or dishes. The texture of rice is soft and elastic, which can be paired with any food.
– Fish soup: This is a soup made from fresh fish, lemongrass, chili peppers, coriander leaves etc., sour-spicy appetizing that’s perfect for breakfast or lunch. Fish soup usually comes with vegetables such as bean sprouts or mushrooms to add nutrition and flavor. You can drink it alone or pair it with rice or noodles.
– Grilled meat: This is meat grilled over charcoal fire like beef,pork,lamb,chicken etc.. Grilled meat is usually marinated with spices and sauces before being cut into small pieces on skewers then roasted until golden brown tender . You can buy grilled meat at roadside stalls or markets at cheap prices but delicious taste.
– Sour & spicy soup: This type of soup uses lemon juice,chili pepper,g arlic,fish sauce etc.to season it giving off rich aroma & flavor.Sour & spicy soups may include seafoods ,meats,tofu,noodles according to personal preference.It helps refreshes mind,body while also increasing appetite.
– Sticky rice cake :This kind of cake uses sticky rice flour mixed with water kneaded into dough then pressed into thin slices fried on both sides till golden brown.Sticky rice cakes could be eaten as snack,dessert by adding fillings such as sesame seeds ,peanuts,coconut shreds to increase sweetness and aroma.
Night hunting was one of the most exciting and unforgettable activities during our trip to Muang Xai, which allowed us to experience the wildlife and natural environment in northern Laos. Every night on our journey, we would venture into the mountains and forests to hunt for game such as wild boar, deer, rabbits, etc. Here is a summary of our night hunting process and experiences:
• Choosing suitable locations, timeframes, and equipment: We found an experienced local guide who led us to various places that were ideal for night hunting such as hillsides, riverbanks, bushes etc. We usually set out at dusk and returned late at night to avoid crowds during the day or excessive heat. Our equipment included firearms, ammunition, flashlights knives water bottles etc., but most importantly we had infrared binoculars from Wildguarder.
• Advantages & Experiences using Wildguarder Infrared Binoculars: We chose this high-value Chinese brand because it provided clear vision even in complete darkness with recording capabilities allowing us better observation & capture of targets. It has a lightweight yet sturdy shell making it suitable for use under harsh conditions while also having up to 6 hours battery life supporting our entire night’s hunt. Using these binoculars made us feel like playing a real-life thrilling game.
• Results & Rewards from Night Hunting: During our hunts we captured five wild boars three deer two rabbits which was quite impressive for us! Some parts were left behind as gratitude towards guides/villagers while others were brought back to hotels where chefs prepared delicious dinners for us! Through this activity not only did we enjoy the thrill/challenge of hunting but also strengthened friendships/trust between ourselves.
Overall we spent an unforgettable/interesting time in Muang Xai learning about its history culture scenery experiencing thrilling adventures like night-hunting! Special thanks go out towards guides/hotel staff/restaurants friendly locals who showed their hospitality/charm throughout our stay. We are also very satisfied with our choice of Wildguarder infrared binoculars which allowed us to observe/capture wildlife better at night and left us with precious memories. We hope to have the opportunity to return to Muang Xai someday and explore more beauty/magic it has in store for us!