What to Do in Bokeo
After paying a visit to the attractions along the Mekong River and town, it's best to explore the surrounding areas or join the economic tourism program. The Gibbon Experience is one of Bokeo's highlights. A trek into the wild provides an opportunity to see its habitants like bears, tigers, birds, and the rare gibbons that were once thought extinct.
Bokeo also represents the region's famous stopover spot, a perfect start before heading south to Luang Phabang, or northward to Xieng Kok, a border between Laos and Myanmar. Alternatively, catch a pick-up truck from the taxi stand at Huay Xai's main morning market to Luang Namtha.
Luang Phabang by Boat
If you enter Laos through Huay Xai, it is best to take a slow boat along the Mekong to Luang Phabang. This is a good chance for you to spend a couple of nights on a boat. The first stopover is Pakbeng and there is another night at a village along the river. Speedboats are also available, and the trip by speedboat usually takes approximately seven hours. Either way, therre are stunning trees, virgin forest, and even wild elephants bathing to ogle at along both sides of the Mekong River.
Head up north from Huay Xai, approximately a five- to six-hour drive on rough roads, passing through several different kinds of scenery - from river plain to high mountains. Luang Namtha is a small and peaceful town surrounded by rice fields and deforested mountains. It is best to jump on a bike or bicycle to visit villages in the surrounding areas while the Chinese boarder is within reach. One day or several night camp trips in the forest are on offer, travellers are recommended to visit the Namtha Tourism Centre on the main street.
The Gibbon Experience
This is Bokeo's most delightful thing to do and is strongly recommended to nature lovers. It is approximately a three-hour drive from Huay Xai and a few hours trek through the beautiful bamboo forest to reach to the canopy infrastructure. All the tree houses are built on giant trees over 40 meters high. To access the houses and observe the wild habitants below, one glides on zip lines (cable networks), which is the main means of transportation for the rest of the trip.
The black crested gibbon was once thought extinct but 400 individuals were discovered living at Bokeo Nature Reserve. The trip usually lasts for three days and two nights while the number of visitors is limited. Trips can be arranged and booked in advance at The Gibbon Experience Office on the main street in Huay Xai.
If visitors are strongly impressed by the community they can donate some money or discreet gifts to the headman. Such gifts will be used for the village school. A reminder: Visitors are recommended to check-in with the village headman (phuu nyai baan) first.
Wandering Around Huay Xai
You can take in all of Huay Xai in one day. This small and unique town offers several tourist attractions. Situated on top of the hill not far from the ferry pier, Jom Khao Manilat temple offers a breathtaking view of the Mekong River and the town below.
Bokeo also has plenty of villages inviting guests to visit and experience each village's specialist products and surprising creations as found in Ban Yong Hin (mobile houses sitting on stone), Ban Tom Lao (brewing), and Ban Khao Pun (rice vermicelli or 'kanom jeen'.) Attractive sites located along the Mekong River can easily explored on foot, or by rented bicycle.