Oudomxai (referred to as Muang Xai in Laos) is about 5 hours from Luang Prabang in Northern Laos and is an important intersection between China and Vietnam. It’s also the place to go for ethnic tribes and culture, particularly the Khmu. It is the largest city in Northern Laos. In 2022 the new railway will connect Oudomxay and the new road that now connects Vientiane to Vang Vieng will be extended and pass through Oudomxai so future access will be much easier.
Most people stop at the Pak Mong bus station for lunch where there are a number of lunch shops. We’d recommend the noodle soup. It is fast, tasty and safe.
The views from the road are stunning. We went in July which is the start of the rainy season, often the best time to travel as there are fewer people on the road and tourists. The landscape is lush and green and often you have many days without any rain. The green season in Laos can be a great time to travel especially where your destinations are served by tarsealed roads. It’s best to stay away from dirt roads if you prefer to play it safe, however see our upcoming post as we travelled on dirt roads for a few days in July without any problem (in a minivan).
On the way we stopped at the Muang Tai waterfall. From the road it is a short 5-minute walk. It is not the most spectacular waterfall but a great place for a rest stop. A small shop where you park on the road stocks drinks and the entrance fee is 5,000 kip.
We arrived Oudomxai in the afternoon, it was a relaxing drive. The town is cute and easily discoverable. Most people bypass Oudomxai but we recommend you spent a night here and discover a few things you probably didn’t know existed.
We stayed at the Leoseumsack guesthouse, which was comfortable and clean. Beside the guesthouse is a path that leads up to Wat Phu That. Take an afternoon walk up here to get your bearings and great views of Muang Xai.
We continued to walk up the main street. On the left of an information board with tips worth checking out, this map was posted there with good points of interest. You can walk round the main areas of Oudomxai in a few hours including the night market. The night market was a little quite due to it being domestic travel through COVID.
For dinner Mrs Kayna restaurant is easy for find, serves good food and large portions, don’t order too much.
Most people head directly to Nam Kay Yorla Pa, a stunning resort just out of Oudomxai however we recommend spending a few hours looking around Oudomxai. We decided to stay one night to take in a typical Laos regional town and discover a few less popular attractions in the morning before heading to Nam Kay Yorla Pa.
The Oudomxao Provincial Museum is usually bypassed but well worth a visit. It is on the top of Phou Sebey hill which gives fantastic views, in a colonial building.
The ground floor displays communist figures, war artifacts, and many photographs depicting the life of Lao children, workers, officials, and criminals. Oudomxay’s high regard for its ethnic tribes and villages is evident in the museum’s second floor which houses a display of costumes, household materials, and well-preserved artifacts. We were very impressed and later learned the TAEC in Luang Prabang assisted with this. For the 5,000 kip entry fee it is totally worthwhile and one of the best ethnic exhibits we have seen in Laos.
As you exit the Oudonxai Museum down opposite on the other side of the hill is Wat Banjeng, not to be missed. This temple is so easy to walk to or go by car and is one of the most important monasteries in the Oudomxai region. The temple has an imaginative and magnificent “tree of life”. You will spend ages spotting the many and varied animals in the tree! This is surely the largest tree of life in Laos. The temple grounds also house a small Buddhist Secondary school.
Staying one night in Oudomxai was well worth it. I have passed many times through the regional hub of Oudomxai and please this time I stopped to look around the town and the various simple but interesting attractions on offer. If you are heading north, perhaps to Nam Kat Yorla Pa, spend a night or at least an afternoon in Oudomxai.
Top 3 Highlights in Ooudomxai:
- Wat Phu That – views of city North
- Wat Banjeng – views of airport to East and Tree of Life
- Ousonxao Provincial Museum – Ethnic tribe info and costumes, communist artifacts