Capital of Bokeo province and northern gateway to Laos, Huay Xai is a popular entry point to Laos from northern Thailand. Officially called the Chiang Khong/Huay Xai crossing, the two towns face each other across the Mekong’s waters, with travelers crossing between the two countries by boat. Huay Xai allows for the start/finish of river cruises to/from Luang Prabang. While there’s not much to see or do here, Huay Xai highlights the leisurely and relaxed Lao way of life. Have a Beerlao on the banks of the Mekong, idly watching the river flow. The lifeblood of South East Asia, the Mekong originates from the Tibetan Plateau, weaving its way to the Mekong delta in Vietnam. Briefly forming the border of Laos with Thailand, it brings life to lush rice fields, creating scenic vistas en route. It provides livelihood, transport and water to millions of people in the towns between. The Luang Say cruise is an ideal way to view green fields dotted with hilltribe villages and intertwined by canals and rivulets. Observe self-sustaining rural river life and see minorities sell their wares along the Nam Ou River. The cruise stops at Tam Thing ‘Caves of a Thousand Buddhas’ and a hill-tribe village (weather permitting) to watch the traditional process of Lao whiskey production.
Take a one-night Luangsay Cruise ‘downriver’ to Houeisay-Pakbeng-Pak Ou-Luang Prabang. From Houeisay pier, head downriver on the Mekong to Pakbeng. Observe local life of river tribes; after lunch arrive at Luangsay Lodge by evening for the night. Dine on the Lodge terrace overlooking the Mekong. Next morning after breakfast on the Lodge terrace, explore Pakbeng’s morning market; observe villagers and hill tribes exchange/buy wares. Depart on the next part of the cruise; halt at Ban Baw to observe traditional rice-alcohol processing. Lunch back aboard. Arrive at Pak Ou village – at the mouth of the Nam Ou River; visit Tam Ting or ‘Caves of a Thousand Buddha