Northern Laos' biggest town, Udomxai (also referred to as Muang Xai) has developed into a major travel hub, primarily due to its size and location rather than its charm -- it has about the same level of charm as a major bus station.
While the distances in northern Laos are not huge, the roads in many places are still in quite bad condition. Heavily-laden buses sometimes make their journeys at a slow pace, especially in the wetter months and on our most recent visit, the road between Pak Mong and Udomxai was an excruciating four-hour slog along a road more akin to the surface of the moon -- a far cry from previous visits.
In itself, the town is not very attractive: square concrete blocks of buildings, dusty roads and few places of immediate interest to the average tourist. But if you have the time and inclination to look, Udomxai is home to a range of activities, particularly in its surrounding areas.
A few years back, the provincial tourism office brought in a foreign consultant to help develop the area's potential. This has definitely paid dividends and the surrounding area is flourishing with new tourist attractions which are becoming more and more attractively packaged. The office is also working hard to improve services in the region, and trekking trips are now available, making visits to the many interesting local villages and other sights worth seeing.
A thriving cycling scene is developing in and around the town, with two bike touring companies offering various trips around the area. The cycling is becoming increasingly popular due to the varied terrain on offer. There are hills, flats and rough terrain all within a few kilometres of town. Most of the major highlights can also be visited by bicycle.
Good banking facilities are available in town with currency exchange and ATMs. There is also a large post office with holding and forwarding facilities. Udomxai holds all the regional administration offices, which have helped to bolster the townâ€™s growth and population.
The town also boasts an airport, located virtually in the town centre. This airport is one of the few we have come across which you can walk to from the centre of town.
Fast internet is available in many guesthouses in town and if you are using Unitel or ETL 3G, the coverage is great and the speeds very fast.
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Text and/or map last updated on 28th October, 2012.
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