From Oudomxai to Muang La is about 1.5 hours drive at a leisurely pace. This Tai Lü village sits at the confluence of the Nam La and Nam Phak Rivers. Muang La is a small quiet town with a number of palm trees. The key attraction is the classically styled temple that hosts one of northern Laos’ most revered Buddha statues, the Pra Singkham Buddha.
Outside the temple is a row of outdoor restaurants. Walk past these for sweeping views of Muang La District from a small building with a viewing platform. There are toilets here as well if you need a pit stop.
Walk back top the restaurants for delicious noodle soup. The owners were super friendly and helpful and the soup was superb.
Nearby is the luxurious Muang La Lodge – a sanctuary for travelers who are fascinated with nature and truly unique cultures. The lodges’ beautifully appointed rooms display a mix of traditional Lao and colonial French influences. We highly recommend a stay at Muang La Lodge.
It would be lovely to stay here but when we went during the COVID-19 lockdown the lodge was closed. If you are just passing through you must stop at the temple to see the Buddha and enjoy lunch. We continued onto our destination of Muang Khua.
Above is our route. From Muang La to Muang Khua took 2.5 hours driving a minivan. You can see how far north of Luang Prabang we are. Muang Khua is in a different province, Phonsali Province, the northernmost province which borders China to the north and west and Vietnam to the east.
The roads were good and the road above is typical of the drive. We passed a village making whisky as seen above right.
Muang Khua (Above) is a small town used for transit mainly because a bus between Muang Khua and Dien Bien Phu departs here. The best way to get to or from the village from other parts of the country is by boat over the Nam Ou river.
Travelling by Bus
To the west, lies the transit hub of Muang Xay. Buses travel fairly frequently throughout the day, and cost 40,000 Kip. Travel time is between 2-3 hours. The Muang Khua bust station is 2km from Muang Khua itself in a village called Ban Dan Neua. Tuk-tuks can take you from the station to the village for 10,000 Kip.
In the east, the road connects Muang Khua to the northernmost border crossing with Vietnam, near the Vietnamese city of Dien Bien Phu. Buses are supposed to leave daily now from Dien Bien Phu’s bus station early in the morning. Travel time should be around 4-5 hours. The road is good quality to the Vietnamese border but it is still a bit of a bumpy journey from there to Dien Bien Phu.
Travelling by Boat
Muang Khua is about halfway between in the north Phongsali and the backpacker-popular village of Muang Ngoi Neua, with connections further south to Luang Prabang. A boat from Muang Ngoi Neua upstream costs between 120,000 and 150,000 Kip depending on the numbers, and from Nong Khiaw costs 120,000 Kip. During high season, boats typically run daily. In low season boats may only run when there are enough tourists to make it worth the drivers’ while, so you may have to wait a few days.
When in town, the two main sights are the suspended footbridge and market. Above the night market is a large, wide concrete road that leads up the hill past houses and a school which can be incorporated into a walk. We walked from the temple in town, through the market, up the conctete road to the top of the hill, back down and over the suspension bridge.
We stopped at a cute little bar for a Beerlao with amazing views up and down the river. There is another more modern concrete bridge you can cross back to town, creating an easy walking loop, easily done in one afternoon or evening.
We stayed at the New Chaleunsouk guesthouse which was extremely clean (one of the cleanest we have ever seen in Laos), friendly host and they have a wide selection of rooms. As people do we were heading to Muang Ngoi the next morning by boat on the Nam Ou river so watch out for our next post.