Huay Xai, also known as Ban Houayxay, is the capital of the Bokeo province in Laos. Huay Xai lies on the border of Thailand by the side of the great Mekong river. It is mainly a stopover city for tourists travelling between Laos and Thailand by land.
There is nothing much to do in the town for tourists in terms of attractions, but it is worth spending a day or two to admire the laidback life by the Mekong river and enjoy the green, lush Laotian countryside.
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Morning Market: Visit the morning market where locals gather to sell and buy for their daily needs. The market is located in the suburb of Ban Muang Keo. It is best to visit the market in the early morning when it is less crowded. To get there, you can hire a motorbike and drive on the main road towards south just parallel to the Mekong.
Fort Carnot: Located on a hill right in the middle of the town is the Fort Carnot. The fort which is a legacy of French colonial-era now lies in ruins.
Tip: For a magnificent sweeping view of the city climb up on one of the towers. You can combine the visit with the Muang Keo market which lies on the foothill of the hill. The place is particularly suitable for spectacular sunrise and sunset views.
Visit Daauw Village: Located right in the centre of the city is the Daauw Village. Daauw Village makes for a perfect visit for those looking to understand the Lao culture and want to get a slice of everyday Lao life. In the evenings, you can sit around the campfire lit by the locals and enjoy the traditional foods. If you want to contribute, try teaching English during the afternoon session to the local community. Furthermore, you can also participate in workshops conducted by locals.
Visit the sauna: The Sauna is run by the Red Cross and employs the local people. The ticket price is quite low and is undoubtedly an excellent way to spend a relaxing day. The sauna also includes massage service, and you can try one of the herbal teas.
Sunset over the Mekong: There's nothing like seeing a sunset over the mighty Mekong river. Take a bite of delicious local food in one of the many restaurants along the river and enjoy the golden rays of the setting Sun. There are private and group boat tours that last for about 1 to 2 hours and cost around 50 to 80 USD per person, which can be directly booked with the boat operators.
Day 1: Visit Daauw Village and in the evening, book a sunset tour in the Mekong. End the day by having a relaxing dinner by one of the riverside restaurants.
Day 2: Visit the morning market and then after breakfast, head to Fort Carnot. Book a sauna tour later and finish off your Huay Xai trip on a relaxing note.
If you are tired of visiting crowded temples and want to get away from tourists, Huay Xai provides an opportunity to explore the slower, calmer side of Laos. The city offers an authentic local experience allowing you to get a glimpse of the local life up close. The hike in the mountains allows you a perfect chance to relax and cool off.
Houay Xai is not one of the destinations with attractions to see, so if you are looking for things to do, it might not be the place for you. It's remote location also means that the city is not feasible to visit if you are short on time.
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