Muang Xay (Oudomxay or Udomxai) is the northern crossroads of Laos serving as an important trade hub between China and Vietnam.
The capital of Oudomxay Province since 1987, Muang Xay is an ethnically diverse city with a large population of Chinese and Vietnamese citizens, as well as a number of people from the Hmong and Khmu ethnic groups. The verdant mountains, rolling hills, and gushing rivers of the province are the main draw for travelers, but the town’s lazy pace of life is infectious, and travelers often find themselves overstaying their plans in this charming, traditional town where Buddhist monks clad in orange robes performing their morning alms rituals are still a common sight.
The Oudomxay Museum in town is small, but has some excellent displays of local artifacts. Wat Phu That set atop a small hill near the center of town, and its golden stupa, a modern reconstruction of a 14th century shrine destroyed during the Vietnam War, is one of the town’s most iconic monuments, and a visit to the carefully tended Buddhist icon is worth the short climb up the hill. The 50-foot-high golden Buddha statue that overlooks the town is a recent addition to the temple grounds. Banjeng Temple is the city’s principal Buddhist monastery, and the intriguing Tree of Life statue in its courtyard is worth a look.
Outside of Muang Xay there are a number of spectacular natural sights that make for excellent day trips. The Chom Ong Caves were only recently discovered, and the seven miles of natural caverns are the largest and deepest running cave network in Northern Laos. The Nam Kad Waterfall is nestled in a thick forest about 10 miles outside of the city, and the chilly waters below the falls are an excellent place to cool off during the middle of the day.
The best weather in Northern Laos for sightseeing and trekking falls between November and May when the weather is cooler and generally dry. Due to the higher elevation in the mountains, Oudomxay Province is generally cooler than the rest of the Laos, but temperatures begin to steadily rise in June and the warmer weather lasts into October.
Maung Xay is the capital of Oudomxay Province in Northern Laos. It’s possible to reach the city overland in a private vehicle from Luang Prabang to the south, but a direct flight to Oudomxay airport from Vientiane or Luang Prabang is the most expedient option.
Maung Xay’s vibrant mixture of Southeast Asian cultures and stunning natural scenery make it an excellent destination for any luxury tour of Laos.
Appropriate Attire :
Muang La is developing rapidly, but it’s still a very traditional town in many ways. Western-style apparel choices are generally fine in town, but if you’re planning to visit any Buddhist religious sites, including Wat Phu That, it’s important to dress modestly in clothing that covers shoulders to thighs.