To the first time traveler, arriving in Oudomxay feels like you came in the wrong place -- riddled with old buildings and dusty construction roads, the place looks more of a highway bus stop than a tourist attraction.
Beyond the quaintness of the place is a province with breathtaking sights — attractions ranging from mysterious caves, interesting villages, and pristine forests and falls — and fascinating local stories that made Oudomxay popular to backpackers. Experiencing the place and knowing the people — who consider everyone as guests — will help visitors understand why Oudomxay is called “the heart of northern Laos.”
Chom Ong Cave, a popular tourist attraction located 45 kilometres from the town of Muang Xay, is a destination adventure buffs won’t be able to resist — apart from its breathtaking interior, most of the cave’s 16-kilometre stretch is unexplored, so going there is always an adventure. Learn more about the different ethnic groups in Oudomxay, their interesting village life, and their unique culture by visiting Chom Ong Village and Nam Heeng Village. If you’re looking for a place to relax, don’t miss the trip to Nam Kad Waterfall, a hidden waterfall located at the heart of the forest that’s perfect for anyone who wants to unwind and meditate.
Visitors can access Oudomxay via bus and plane. Thrice-a-week flights from Vientiane to Oudomxay are offered by Lao Airlines for a full fare of USD 98.
If you’re coming from Luang Namtha or Nong Khiaw, you can avail of bus services for LAK 40,000- 45,000 (USD 4.80 to USD 5.50), Travel duration is 4-4.5 hours.
Those traveling from Luang Prabang and Pak Beng can also access the region via a 4to 5-hour bus ride that costs LAK 40,000 (USD 4.80).
Bus services coming from Vientiane, Bokeo, Muang Khua, and Phoung Sali are also available daily.
The official currency used in Oudomxay is the Laotian Kip (LAK) that is available in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000 and 50000. Oudomxay has good banking facilities, money exchange shops are many, and several ATMs are already in the town center. Although some restaurants and hotels accept credit cards, most establishments only accept LAK. Always remember to spend remaining LAK since it can longer be reconverted to dollars once you leave the country.
Compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, Laos’ weather is fairly predictable. All year long the country experiences dry season which starts late March and wet season during May. The hottest month is in June and the coolest month is February. If you’re making a trip to Oudomxay, schedule it between October and January.
Oudomxay’s main attractions are walking distance from one another. The free map provided by the Provincial Tourism Office gives helpful directions to all tourist destinations. Tourists can hire bikes for LAK 50,000 (USD 6) and motorcycles for LAK 100,000 (USD 12) a day.
As northern Laos’ main terminal, Oudomxay’s dishes are noticeably influenced by Thai, Chinese, and even Korean flavors. Dine in at Souphailin’s Restaurant where you can have extra large servings of Lao and European vegetable dishes. A famous bakery named Siso, which is conveniently located across the bus station, is famous for their bread, cookies, and their Oudumburger which many tourists call as “The Best Burger in Laos.” For cheap options, head over to the main road where you can find barbecue stalls selling Lao-style chicken and sausage barbecue for LAK 5,000 (USD 0.60).
Oudomxay may not have the glitz and glamour of Vientiane and Luang Prabang but it offers unique experiences that will make your travel worth remembering. Seeing the different side of Laos through Oudomxay will make you realize why Laos is a backpacker’s favorite. Want to give back to Laos? While at Oudomxay, you can purchase locally made bags, woven crafts, and silk to support the region’s cultural heritage.