Adventurers are still exploring Oudomxay’s hidden crannies. They recently revealed Cham Ong, one of Asia’s 10 longest caves, and Nam Kat Waterfall, and amazing natural wonder buried in the forest. The province’s ethnic residents continue their traditional lives, and their ancient religious sites strike awe.
Explore one of Southeast Asia’s 10 longest caves at more than 13 km in length. The province’s main attraction, Chom Ong Cave, presents a multi-corridor labyrinth, and it takes some 5 hours to navigate the 25×30-metre passageways. You’ll find well-lit overlapping fossil and water tunnels on the way to a massive chamber. Though Chom Ong is best known for its size, the parallel troughs present rare geological wonders. The caves are 45 km from Muang Xay, and can be reached by motorbike or on an organized tour.
A trail leads through pristine old-growth jungle and limestone outcrops to Nam Kat Waterfall and Nature Park, one of Oudomxay’s top attractions. The series of 20-metre-high cascades with a final 10-metre leap into a poolis just a 23-km ride southeast from Xay Town on the Nga District road. The park features a zip-line, rock climbing, trekking, biking, a tree canopy cable bridge, elephants, swimming, and a tree house.
A short 11-km tuk tuk, cycle, or motorbike ride from Muang Xay Town reaches appropriately named “Lak Sipet” (11 Km) Waterfall. Located in the Phou Hiphi Provincial Protected Area, the falls and picnic area is a popular retreat for locals on weekends and holidays, and a nice daytrip for visitors.
The Luang Cave, at Ban Tanongpo on the road to Muang La, is not yet open for exploration. However, the Khmu village is a popular trekking stop and homestay, and locals can take you on the 4-km hike to the cave’s entrance.
Picture a 600-metre waterfall crashing into seven levels on its way to it base surrounded by pristine forest with “candle trees”. Talea Waterfall delivers this spectacle about 42 km from Muang Houn Town in Ban Talae. The falls are at their best during Green Season in July through October.
On the way, stop at Namhaeng Waterfall at Ban Katangya Village. You can swim in the pool at its base hidden in a lush green landscape. The falls are popular among locals for picnics.
Pakbeng, in the province’s far south, opens the door to Kamtan Buddha Cave. You can reach the cave by taking a tuk tuk or 30-minute Mekong boat to Pak Ngeuy Village. Along the way, you’ll stop at two temples and watch locals panning for gold, before taking a 15-minute walk to the cave.
Standing on the riverside Phouxay hill in Muang Xay Town, Cheng Temple is the province’s most notable monastery, with an intriguing past. A district prince broke ground on the original wooden “Vat Ban Chang” in 1850. His son inherited the unfinished temple in 1900, and completed the re-named Vat Xaisimaharam. War damaged the temple in 1954, and locals rebuilt and extended it in 1997, with a “Tree of Life”.
Muang Xay’s most notable religious site, Phou That Stupa (Xaymoungkhoun Latanamingmeuang) sits on a hilltop in the centre of town. Historians believe the 18-metre-tall stupa, with an 18mx18m base, was built by the Tai Lue in the 14th century during the reign of Lane Xang King Xaysethathirath.
While on the road from Muang Xay Town to Nam Kat Waterfall, examine three sacred Buddha footprints on Paradise Mountain. Discovered by locals, the sacred footprints have been enshrined in a place of decorated worship. The site is located about 200 metres from Ban Long Ya Village, one of Oudomxay’s oldest Tai Lue villages.
On the drive from Muang Xay Town to Muang La, stop at Km 28 and inspect the 2,000-year-old Phachao Singkham Temple. While there, view the sizeable gold-plated reclining Buddha and the 400-year-old Saymoungkhoune Rattana Stupa, said to hold supernatural powers.
While staying in Muang Xay, head to Phou Sebey, the French colonial, hilltop army camp, which now houses the Oudomxay Museum. Go there early in the morning and catch the town coming to life under the first rays of light and while the temperature is still cool.
Not far from Phou Sebey, the Nongmengda Market hits full swing in the morning, but remains open all day. On display are fresh foods including forest products, regional ingredients, and a broad mushroom selection. You can buy meats and herbs packaged in bamboo tubes.
The PMC presents a one-stop-shop for local handicrafts in Muang Xay. Officially called “The Productivity and Marketing Centre”, this village enterprise offers specialty goods from the province. You’ll find sesame oils, essence oils, posa-bamboo and banana paper products, embroidery, cotton textile products, and grass brooms. Aside from sales, the centre provides production and marketing training.
Just down the road in Pasak Village, the Tai Lue Cotton Handicraft displays beautiful samples and a variety of dyed cotton handicraft products. The entrance is a hidden garden gate to a private house, but do not hesitate to enter.
The Oudomxay Night Market opened in 2016, near the Kaysone Phomvihan Monument in the centre of Meuang Xay. Food, drinks, handicrafts, and other items are available. The market is open from 04:30 to 23:30.
Travel 57 km south of Muang Xay on Route 2W to Beng District and the Ban Yor Handicraft Village specializing in pottery and weaving. The Tai Lue and Khmu village offers workshops that teach you where to find and how to distinguish various types of clay, and how they prepare it. You’ll also discover how to identify different styles of pottery and bowls. The course culminates in throwing and decorating your own pot.
Those curious about cotton can participate in three separate workshops, where eager weavers learn to yearn, naturally dye, and weave cotton. The end result is a piece of handmade cotton cloth you can call your own.
During a visit, you’ll hear about the village’s history that locals claim dates back to the 10th century, when the Tai Lue migrated from China in search of a better climate and soil for agriculture. While there, take a steam bath and sauna using traditional herbs.