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Muang Xay (Oudomxay, Udomxai etc) is the capital of the multiethnic province of Oudomxay Province, located in the Nam Ko River Basin and surrounded by scenic mountains. It's the largest city in Northern Laos and, if you're travelling by land, you'll probably end up here at some point.
The town is formed by small villages at an important intersection between China and Vietnam, and the city has a unique multicultural atmosphere.
A free city map can be obtained in the bus station, with basic information and "things to do".
An online version you can get on the website of the Provincial Tourism Department.
Lao Airlines has three flights a week to/from Vientiane (1 hr, full fare US$98). The local ticket reseller is located in Litthavixay Guesthouse in the town center on the main street.
Buses from/to Luang Namtha cost 28,000 kip takes up to 3.5 hours. Departures from Muang Xay are at 08:30, 11:30 and 15:00.
Buses from/to Luang Prabang leave once a day and take about 5 hours.
Further daily buses come from/go to Vientiane, Phongsali, Pak Beng, Muang Khua, and Bokeo. Buses to China can also be reached.
Scale the endless steps, climb the radio mast platform and enjoy the panorama view over Oudomxay: Perfect photo scenery. Unless in the Museum there are just few items to look at, the view you have from the top of "Phou Sebey" mountain is stunning. The name of the mountain comes drom the French army camp that was situated there. The French army called the mountain "C.B." - the French pronounciation of this abbreviation further on transferred into today's Lao name "Sebey".
Go there early in the morning, when the sun is still low - you may watch the town center waking up and enjoy the morning light as it starts caressing the roofs before the day gets too hot.
Just opposite of the stairs to the museum there are similar stairs to climb, leading to an 18 meters high golden Stupa. The stupa was built in 14th century to allow all people of the region to come together, to celebrate religious festivals and tradition (give alms to the monks, purify themselves, do merits to ancestors, etc.). When the French came to control the land the area of the stupa was made into a war camp, until independence from France. During the first Vietnamese war the stupa was destroyed and only bricks werde left. Reconstruction started om 1994, finally concluded in 1997.
Every full moon day, religious celebrations are held at the stupa.
Go there to have a sundowner, enjoy the view over the town and see the golden stupa shining in the sunset.
The local Provincial Tourist Office (in Oudomxay City, or Muang Xay) has been offering since November 2006 some very nice hiking including nightstays in khamu family houses (not guest houses, as in other more touristy hike places, which makes the experience very special and intimate). Although not as colorful as other ethnic groups of Laos, the khamu people are very nice and happy to have foreigners visiting their villages.
There are three banks and one post office offering change for cash and travellers' cheques, BCEL , about 1 km north of the bus station change travellers for 3% commission (minimum of US$3). It might be worth checking Lao Development Bank (which might offer a better value).
BCEL provides an ATM, accepting international cards (BCEL charges 20,000Kip, be aware of charges of your own bank).
Luxay market is the market building located opposite the Tourism Office. In this market you can find all sorts of products including international ones, mostly from China and Thailand. Upstairs is the clothing and shoes section. Get your daily necessity stuff at the market and please do some bargain when you buying from them. Luxay market closes at 5 pm.
Around Luxay Market chinese clothing- food- and houseware shops can be found. In contrast to the Lao shops, most of the chinese market shops are open until late at night.
Go for a stroll there and be stunned by the great range of perceptions you will get: Rare animals are offered to eat, unknown smells fill the air and you will get to know the real everyday life of people of the province.
Oudomxay has three fresh food markets: Tin market, Nonmengda Market and Phoukhaiw Market. All these markets are an excellent place to discover the variety of unique foods that Oudomxay has to offer. Oudomxay has many food items and forest products that are either not available or in scarce supply in other parts of the country. The markets are open every day, however they are particularly colorful on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. At all the markets you will find products of different ethnic groups. The markets close at 6pm.
Quite a few restaurant practice dual pricing, often with ridiculously high "foreigner" prices. Check the menu first and just walk away.
On the Tourism Office's town map all restaurants are shown.
There are a number of decent guesthouses in town. Basic rooms with showers and hot water should cost around 40,000 kip. General room prices in the town center including TV are around 60,000-70,000 Kip.
The town has two laundromats (one just a few meters south of the bus station) which charge per item which makes the service very expensive.
There are three Internet shops in the city (one located in the bus station), all charging 400 kip/minute, as also one wireless internet acces at Lithavixay Guesthous, which is quite cheap if you bring your own notebook.