Mostly hugging the main road in a longish stretch between Udomxai and Phongsali, Muang La is a very picturesque town. The lush green vegetation and houses made of wood and bamboo are met by two rushing rivers: the Nam Phak and the smaller Nam La. Aside of its general beauty, and attractive, ancient wat, the main reason for foreigners to visit this town is the hot springs.
The gorgeous town is perfect for a day trip out of Udomxai, or as an overnight stay if you arrive late into Udomxai and don't want to be caught there overnight (a good idea). There are a couple of small guesthouses in Muang La along with a flash resort (which only accepts groups) and a couple of restaurants that serve fish from the Nam Phak, which is locally famed for being delicious.
In the dry season it is possible to detour to Ban Longya where there is a wat with a large stone which is claimed to be imprinted with Buddha's footprint. To get there, turn off 18 kilometres out of Udomxai, and follow an unpaved track for 8km. Just in case you're considering it, you can't take this route during the rainy season as the unpaved track is flooded. Though, for those who simply must see the large stone with Buddha's footprint, there is an alternative road out of Udomxai that also leads to Ban Longya (and the stone).
When we first visited Muang La a local guide (who is hopefully doing something other than guiding now) led us on a complete wild goose chase for half a day to see a cave and a river source. He led us through thicket and thorns and plants with incredibly itching leaves that made your legs almost catch on fire (really). We did find the river source, but the cave we never saw. Just be sure to check with your guide that he does actually know where he is going before you embark on any bushwhacking trips ... and wear long pants!
Muang La is located about half an hour by private vehicle or up to one hour by public transport from Udomxai.
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Text and/or map last updated on 15th May, 2010.
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