Boten Duty-Free Mall
The modern Boten Duty-Free Mall sits just off Highway 13 at the southern end of the Central Business District (CBD), and offers three stories of traditional duty-free products and some you wouldn’t expect. The 15,000 sqm retail complex opened in February 2015, to serve both locals and international travelers. In its first year, the mall served more than 800,000 customers.
Shops in the mall feature top brand names covering a range of products. The first floor features perfumes, cosmetics and skin-care products. Moving upstairs, you’ll find showcases with watches, jewelry, and sunglasses, along with electronics, racks displaying the latest fashions, and luggage. The third floor presents shelves of Chinese and foreign liquor, wine, and cigarettes. You can also purchase toys, chocolates, and candy, and check out an assortment of herbal remedies, health products and supplements, and traditional Chinese medicines.
Boten Eccelente Cabaret
The Boten Eccelente Cabaret is currently the only show in Boten…and it’s a beauty. Transgender women, mostly from Thailand, parade on stage in a pageant, while dressed in large flowery, feathery costumes. The performers draw in the crowd, who occasionally become part of the show. The women lure them on stage to dance, or the ladies step into the audience to mingle with the crowd.
The professional on-stage production topped by great lighting and music is as much of the show as the women. And the Eccelente attracts all kinds of crowds: business and tourism groups, curious couples, and just a bunch of friends out for a fun and entertaining evening. The cabaret can cater to celebrations like birthdays and promotions, and put the spotlight on the person of the night. The women will coax them onto the dance floor to guarantee a laugh.
The Boten Eccelente Cabaret’s entrance is on Highway 13 across from the southeastern corner of the CBD. A small forest along the highway separates the fun from traffic, and is a perfect backdrop for outside performances, dining, and dancing.
The Luang Namtha Circuit
For a taste of nature and culture, drive 55 km south of Boten on Highway 13 to Highway 3 and Luang Namtha Town. Here, you’ll find a 20-km paved circuit to ethnic villages, a waterfall, and historic stupa. The route can be navigated by car, motorbike, tuk-tuk, or bicycle.
Start at the Luang Namtha Museum’s display of Buddha images, hand-crafted weapons, bronze drums, and farm tools. Then head northeast across the Nam Tha Bridge to Thong Chai Village and the road to Ban Nam Dee (Good Water Village), a small ethnic Lanten community. The five-minute walk to the falls zigzags across a brook on stone steps and wooden planks to a path that runs along a ridge. At the falls, you’ll find a picnic pavilion and natural swimming pools. Be sure to stop at the village handicraft shop.
Return to Lao Route 3 and head south for 3 km to Vieng Neua Village, home of ethnic Tai, who have a distinct community house for hosting visitors. Book village visits with baci ceremonies, cultural performances, meals, and cooking classes at the Tourist Information Center.
Continue south and take a right onto the road at the airport entrance for the 15-minute drive to the hilltop That Phoum Pouk Stupa. Built in 1628 to demarcate the Lane Xang and Lanna Kingdoms, the original stupa was tumbled by American bombers in 1966, but a new one was built next to the ruins in 2003.
Nearby Nam Ngaen Village presents Tai Dam villagers producing potent Lao Lao rice alcohol. Walk to their Tai Daeng neighbors and observe women weave intricately patterned cloth on a two-level loom.
For those spending the night, wind up your stay at the Luang Namtha Night Market, an evening gathering point to eat, drink and shop. Tables fill the brick plaza, and wooden kiosks around the perimeter sell local dishes and desserts. The food stalls offer familiar dishes – fish, chicken, duck, spring rolls, noodles, soups, vegetables and fresh fruit – and more interesting choices: boiled chicken feet, fried fish heads, toasted frogs and[CE1] bowls of peculiar-smelling dips.
The market starts up at around 17:00 for families and friends to enjoy a meal and workers to drink a few Beer Laos, but by 20:00, motorcycles line the street as the Lao youth move in. The Night Market is located between the BCEL Bank and post office on the southern end of Luang Namtha’s main street.