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Muang Xay

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Northern Laos : Muang Xay
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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.

Understand

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.

Get in

By plane

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.

By bus

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.

Schedules: online

See

Oudomxay Museum

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.

Phuuthat-Stupa

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.


Waterfall Kilometer 11 ("Lak Sip-Et")

This waterfall is near the road (50m) to Luang Prabang, on eleven Kilometers from Muang Xay town. It is a popular excursion and picnic place for Lao people on weekends and holidays. You can visit the waterfall by using a Tuk-Tuk or rent a bike to go there (bike rental at Litthavixay Guesthouse or Samlaan Cycling). As you arrive there by bike you can take a nice shower in the waterfall!

Do

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.

Buy

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). There's a maximum of 700,000Kip per transaction.


Luxay Market

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.


Chinese Market

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.


Food Markets

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.

Eat

Quite a few restaurant practice dual pricing, often with ridiculously high "foreigner" prices. Check the menu first and just walk away.

  • A broad range of fresh Lao, European and vegetarian dishes are offered by Souphailin's Restauraunt. Once you had to be patient with cooking times, now she prepares nearly everything in just a couple of minutes. Portions are big, quality excellent and prices low. Especially the banana-coconut icecoffee and the curry rice with pineapple and banana are really worth a try!
  • The "Siso Bakery" (on the street opposite the bus station) offers great sandwiches, homemade breads, cookies and - people say - the best hamburgers ("Oudomburger") in whole Laos (if you want a veggie burger with egg instead of meat just order an "Oudom-Khai"!). Try out the delicious breakfast there - they even have homemade strawberry jam.
  • International dishes and cocktails you can get in the nice garden atmosphere at Muang Neua Restaurant in the town center. Prices are a bit higher than usual and portions a bit smaller.
  • Sinphet restaurant (700m north of the bus just after the second gas station) has a restaurant offering food for reasonable prices, but nothing special. The lady owner named Ah Sin is very friendly and her husband is well verse in English, Mandarin and French.
  • Just about 1 km from the bus station (road to Luang Namtha), there is one steamboat restaurant offering good Lao's style Korean BBQ.



On the Tourism Office's town map all restaurants are shown.

Sleep

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.

  • Vivanh Guesthous is just over the central bridge near the market building and has very nice and clean rooms. 60.000 kip.
  • Lithavixay Guesthouse offers, besides real good rooms, free wireless internet access, bicycle rental and flight ticket bookings.
  • Phanmixay Guesthouse - inside the bus station compound. Has clean and nice rooms. US$4 for a double room with shower, hot water and cable TV).


A complete list of guesthouses can be found on the website of the tourism department.

Cope

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.

Contact

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.

Get out

  • There is a province bus station here in the town offering many bus services to Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw, Pak Beng, Meuang La, Phongsaly, Vientiane.
  • Beside that, just opposite the Sinphet restaurant, there are international bus from China plying the route from Kunming to Luang Prabang and Luang Prabang to Kunming. Time is around 12.00 p.m. The international bus will stop around 15 minutes for lunch at the Chinese restaurant just opposite Sinphet restaurant.



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