To and from Oudomxai
Oudomxai, also spelled as Udomxai, is the capital of the far northern areas. Although it's location doesn't really suggest it, the town is a sort of border town. At least that's the feel I every time I come get.
This is because much on the market are Chinese products. There's quite a few Chinese people in town too. Some of the trucks come from China too. And to make the story complete, China is only a mere 100 km away.
Oudomxai has quite a few hotels and guesthouses available. The Vivan Guesthouse, in the middle of town next to the bridge is brand new and very good. For only a few dollars you have a wonderful bed, 24 hours hot water and cable TV. This guesthouse, although located on the main road, is my preference because it is so much better and cleaner than the ones opposite on a small side street which are more quiet, but also less comfortable.
If you can't digest Lao food, there's a few reasonable good restaurants serving good local and western styled food and fresh baquets, French long breads.
On this page you will find described:
Pak Mong to Oudomxai
The first I can say about this road nowadays is that it's a fine road to cycle. The road condition is in general very good and very scenic. It's 85 km and it's good to do in one day. There are no hotels in between, only small villages, where you may try your luck.
An easy day cycling? From both ways, there's a few difficulties to overcome. Cycling out of Pakmong on your way to Oudomxai the first that will happen is a long climb up to just over 1200 meter. The first few kilometers are not too difficult but after about 8 km, the road starts to ascent more serious.
The first part goes through a nice sort of gorge but soon you'll follow the mountain slope to the villages on the top.
Don't be fooled, there are a few villages on the way and some seem to be at the highest point after you will descent a bit. This is only to find out you have to do a bit climbing after.
Once you have reached the top, you're in a slightly bigger village. If you're lucky you're there at market day when all the surrounding villagers come here to do some shopping. Obviously when I was there it was market day. Only my camera at the time was broken.
After the top it goes down for about 12 km. However, the climbs are not over though none is as difficult as the first one. Before you arrive in Oudomxai there about 4 more much lighter climbs to do. The last few kilometers to Oudomxai are in the valley and nicely flat.
Going the other way is easier (I think) though the big climb of the day is preserved for last. This climb is from the west easier and there's less altitude difference to cover.
Oudomxai to the Chinese border
As said before, Oudomxai has that border town feel. The Chinese border is only 104 km away. When you leave Oudomxai north, you will find the road in partly bad condition.
For sure it is no fun to cycle on a road which every 100-200 meters is extremely bad. But the bad parts are also short. The first 12 km are like this. Some excellent pieces of asphalt are exchanged with pieces of dirt road where the stones lie just on your path. And the road goes slightly up and down.
After the bad part the first and only serious climb is waiting for you. The highest point is just over 1000 meter.
This suggest it's a long and hard climb. In fact, it is a pleasant and more or less easy climb (actually from both sides). As long as you're in the valley the views are quite nice though never spectacular.
Once up, you have a view over the border mountain range with China. There's little traffic and most of the time you'll be able to cycle in the middle of the road. Here and there is a village. Some of the hill slopes are badly damaged by lumberjacking. The road stays in excellent condition until a the last kilometer before Nateui.
There's a few little restaurants here but I haven't seen any hotel or guesthouse. If China is your next destination, the border at Boten is 20 km away and the road goes mostly up, though not very hard. The Chinese are building an expressway from Jing Hong to Mohan and Boten. (see my review about that part of the journey) and the Japanese are building a road that will connect the Boten-Mohan border to Thailand through Luang Nam Tha.
Mohan is completely revamped (see my story about Mohan). It is your best bet for very good (and cheap) accommodation. The old village of Boten doesn't exist anymore. Apart of the customs itself, the original village with a few little guesthouses is vanished because the connecting expressway will be build on that exact spot.
Most of the road between Nateui and Boten is finished and you'll enjoy an excellent road condition. The distance between Oudomxai and Nateui is about 75 km, from Nateui to Mohan, around 20. Oudomxai-Mohan can be easily done in one day.
If your road goes further to Luang Namtha and Muang Sing, please click here for that part of the journey.
Other pages about Laos:
Map of Laos
Luang Nam Tha and Muang Sing
Although Nam Tha is not special, many tourist stay here at least a night to take the road to Muang Sing. With more then 20 minorities in the area that borders South China, more then worth a visit