Buddha Statue over Muang Xay / Oudomxay by Asienreisender

A tall, new Buddha statue is overlooking Muang Xay town/Oudomxay from the temple mountain. Image by Asienreisender, 2010

On the Bus to Oudumxay by Asienreisender

On the bus from Luang Prabang to Oudomxay. Image by Asienreisender, 2010

A Noodle Soup in Muang Xay / Oudomxay by Asienreisender

In one of the restaurants behind the bus station: noodle soup is one of the favourites. Rice noodles with plenty of vegetables make a good breakfast. Being on the search for the 'perfect noodle soup' it's rather recommendable to go to Thailand, though. The best noodle soup restaurant I know is on the fresh market of Chiang Khong. Image by Asienreisender, 2010

Unidentified Fried Animal in a Foodstall by Asienreisender Strange Animal for Food on Muang La's Market by Asienreisender

What ever it is, also such animals are part of the diet and often so see on rural markets or in restaurants. Images by Asienreisender, 2010

Tiny Apple in Muang La by Asienreisender

A really tiny apple on the market in Muang La. Image by Asienreisender, 2010

A Young Pig in Muang La by Asienreisender

Livestock is part of the local economy and running around free everywhere. Here a young pig in Muang La. Image by Asienreisender, 2010

Army or Policeman watching the Traffic in Muang La by Asienreisender

Army officer or policeman? However, the young man is watching the traffic on Muang La's only road. Image by Asienreisender, 2010

Oudomxay / Muang Xay by Asienreisender

Another view on Muang Xay / Oudomxay. Image by Asienreisender, 2011

Oudomxay / Laos



Province of Oudomxay

Northern Laos is coined by mountainous surroundings with elevations between 300m and 1,800m above sea level. Rich in waterways, there are about sixty rivers leading through Oudomxay Province. The local population consists traditionally mostly of tribal people (Khmu, Lao Loum, Hmong and many others). In the last years more and more Chinese traders came into Laos and started businesses and settled down. So, a strong Chinese influence is also to see in Oudomxay/Muang Xay.

Oudomxay / Muang Xay Town by Asienreisender

Muang Xay, the provincial capital, also frequently called Oudomxay, seen from the temple mountain. Image by Asienreisender, 2010

The province of Oudomxay lies in central north Laos, and it's province capital Muang Xay (also frequently called 'Oudomxay') is the main traffic hub for the north. Any traveller who comes from Luang Prabang and is heading further northwards can hardly avoid Muang Xay / Oudomxay, at least when travelling by busses. The northern places as Luang Namtha, Phongsali or even Huayxai (Bokeo Province) are accessable via Oudomxay. Also a road to Ban Pak Beng, which is going to be linked by a bridge to continue southwards to the border point of Muang Ngeun to Thailand's Nan Province starts in Oudomxay.

A Laotian Bus from outside and from inside with Passengers by Asienreisender

A typical Laotian bus (Made in China) from outside and from inside. That's all not looking too bad, for the bus is not yet overcrowded. On the way the vehicle stops multiple times and picks more new passengers up than others leave. They bring goods and animals with them and it gets more and more crammed...

Images and photocomposition by Asienreisender, 2010/2014

Nevertheless, few tourists or travellers stay here for a night or more, except they have to wait for a bus connection next morning. Others might come here to do mountain trekking, for the tourist industries started recently to offer guided tours, labelled as 'ecotourism'. Tourism is increasingly promoted in the last years by the Laotian authorities.

This whole part of Laos is very interesting and fascinating for Westerners from developed countries because it's just the opposite of what we know: it's pretty undeveloped. A great number of people here live like they did in previous centuries: in simple housings without electricity and supermarkets, in an agricultural subsistence economy. Many of the province's remote villages are isolated and have no road access. The traditional way to move around here was since the oldest times the waterways on the many rivers. Once a week some villagers come down to the valleys and sell their goods on local marketplaces, of whom Muang Xay is only one out of many.


The main agricultural product of the local economy is dry rice, mostly grown in the traditional way of slash-and-burn jungle slopes. Wet rice cultivation requires plains with an irrigation system. Oudomxay is not rich in such plains as the regions along the Mekong River are. The dry rice paddies usually have no irrigation system; they depend on rain.

Inside a Street Restaurant in Muang La by Asienreisender

Inside a street restaurant in Muang La. Dough is fried on an open fire, burned with coal or firewood from the surrounding forests. The baked pieces are pretty fat respectively oily. Sometimes they are filled with fruits or anything else, but normally not. The paste is made of rice flour. Images and photocomposition by Asienreisender, 2010/2014

Apart from rice there is corn, soy, vegetables, fruits, maniok, coffee, sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, tea and peanuts produced in Oudomxay's soil. Some of the products are merely cultivated as cash crops for the export industries. Oh, one shouldn't forget the traditional poppy cultivation. Oudomxay is part of the greater Golden Triangle and therefore famous for opium (and later heroin) production.

As everywhere in rural Laos water buffalos, pigs, cattle, chicken, ducks and other livestock is kept. Together with river fish it makes part of the local economy and particularly provides the protein sources for the people.

Gathering and hunting in the forests is still common here. Though, of the riches of the natural habitats are only estimated 12% of the forests still primary rainforest, while 48% are secondary forest. Another part is plantation economy, means monocultures of teakwood, rubber and other timber.

However, Laos lacks the industries for processing the agricultural products. That leads to a dependency to foreign, namely Chinese industries, who buy the products and refine them. The ready-products might be reimported then partially.

The mountains of Oudomxay also provide a number of minerals.

By the way: the village Ban Pak Beng, actually a stopover at the banks of the Mekong River, is also situated in Oudomxay Province.

Rice Corns in the Sun for Drying by Asienreisender

Rice corns exposed to the sun for drying. Rice is the food basic in all the Southeast Asian countries as it is wheat in the west. A great part of the people are rice farmers. Alledgedly there are some 4,000 different kinds of rice cultivated in Laos. In Oudomxay Province it's mostly dry rice.

Image by Asienreisender, 2010


Muang Xay

Oudomxay's province capital Muang Xay is, according to certain historical records, founded in the time around 1260 CE, when a group of nomads from south China settled down here. It became the province capital only in 1987, succeeding Ban Nahin as such.

Oudomxay, Foodstalls at the Bus Station by Asienreisender

Foodstalls behind Muang Xay's/Oudomxay's bus station. Image by Asienreisender, 2010

Connected with Luang Prabang, the cultural center of north Laos, Muang Xay also has a small national airport not far outside town.

The town is coined by tribal people, but also by many Chinese immigrants. It's a market place for the surrounding villagers and their products as well as a place where many of the people in the surrounding villages send their children to school.

There are two hills in Muang Xay. On the peak of one is a Buddhist temple with a Buddhist stupa. On the top of the other one is the 'Museum of Oudomxay' placed.

The subtropical climate here is still dominated by the annual monsoon winds. However, due to the mountainous altitudes and that the place is situated relatively northern it's not only hot but, in winter time, can become quite chilly in the evenings, nights and mornings. Not seldom there is a thick layer of clouds, often lowering down as fog, over the town. Nevertheless, air pollution is rampant here particularly due to the annual burning of the remaining forests. In the time from February on the air is polluted with smog until the southwest monsoon brings cleaning rain and does not allow big fires anymore.

The little river which is passing Muang Xai and which get's heavily polluted here is the Nam Kor.

For the travellers there is quite a good choice of accommodations and restaurants in the town. Presumably the most guests in the hotels and guesthouses here are travelling businessmen (mostly Chinese).


Muang La

One of the many tribal villages in north Laos is Muang La, a Tai Lue place on the road from Muang Xay/Oudomxay up to Boun Neua and Phongsali. It is not much more than a stripe along the road 25km north of the capital town, with an old Buddhist temple on a hilltop and some hot springs. The temple is the destination for Buddhist pilgrims. The green, hilly surroundings and the Nam Phak and Nam La rivers shape a picturesque landscape, inviting a traveller for smaller or longer hikes.

Muang La by Asienreisender

Muang La in the picturesque mountains of Oudomxay Province.

Image by Asienreisender, 2010

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Published on June 5th, 2014