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Explore northern Laos's largest labyrinth, journey to a cave that used a wartime hideout, join a hands-on handicraft workshop, trek to Nam Kat waterfall, and select from four natural and cultural excursions in Muang La.
Creep around Chom Ong Cave
Hundreds of grottoes dot Laos’ mountains, but few compare to the Chom Ong Cave system located some 45 kilometres from Xay Town. Spelunkers have investigated 13.5 kilometre of the roomy underground maze with overlaying halls, which run along a 4 kilometres long mountain ridge. Several side corridors remain unexplored, though one that was rediscovered ends in an 18 metres drop to the Nam Kaang River, which flows through the lower areas of the cave system. An hour-plus hike leads to the stream inlet in the north, and a full exploration with equipment can take eight hours before exiting at the river’s southern end.
Happening Handicrafts in Ban Yor
Handicraft hounds heading to Oudomxay can strike the mother load 57 kilometres south of Xay Town in the ethnic Tai Lue and Khmu village of Ban Yor. A hands-on pottery workshop shows you where villagers find the clay, how they gather and prepare it, and how to distinguish various types of clay and the 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, dye, and weave cotton. The end result is a piece of handmade cotton cloth you can call your own.
Buddha’s Protective Shield
Those stopping overnight at Pakbeng on a Mekong cruise have a great reason to spend a full trekking to Khamtan Buddha Cave. Half and full-day tours take you to the hidden haven for locals during the Indochina War. Prayers to Buddha asking for protection from the bombings led to its name, “Phachao (Buddha) Khamtan (Valuable Protective Shield)”. The tour depart from Pakbeng by tuk-tuk to Pak Ngeuy and its two temples before a short boat ride and walk along the Mekong to Phachao Khamtan Cave. The full-day tour follows the same itinerary before trekkers embark on a 5-6 hours march through nature.
Hike to Hidden Nam Kat Waterfall
You can follow to local guide on the high or low path from Ban Faen village, but both one-day treks lead to Nam Kat waterfall buried in old-growth jungle in the limestone outcrops east of Oudomxay Town. Massive boulders surround Nam Kat’s 20 metres cascade, and create a series of smaller cataracts. The easier 13 kilometres path follows the stream, along which you can see a large variety of colourful small fish. The rough 13,5 kilometres route, with a 500 metres ascent over Phou Pha Daeng Mountain, presents far-reaching views before descending to the falls and a dip in its pool. Back in Ban Faen, shop for quality bamboo handicraft.
Meander to Muang La
Muang La, 28 kilometres from Xay Town, offers four tour packages with English-speaking guides that take you into the district’s mountains and cultural diversity. A one-day tour visits ethnic villages and Singkham Temple with its 400 years-old Buddha images, hot springs, Nam Kai Waterfall, and Phachao Singkham Buddha Cave. Other day tours head to Phavi Village and a Khmu ethnic experience before trekking to Houay Kai waterfall, and No village to uncover the ethnic Akha’s way of life. A two-night, community-based tour focuses on the ethnic Khmu with overnight stays in two villages and treks to Phachao Singkham Buddha Cave and Houay Kai Waterfall.
Old Tai Lue Village
Old Tai Lue village in Oudomxay Province is one of Lao’s the hidden treasures in the north.